Visual Arts Faculty

Laurel Schwulst

Laurel Schwulst headshot

Photo by Jason Fulford


Laurel Schwulst (born 1988) is an American artist, educator, and writer. Schwulst is recognized for her internet art, her interactive design work, her websites, her writing about the internet, and her innovative teaching methods. Most recently, she is working towards a “PBS of the internet.”

Schwulst was born in Normal, Illinois. As a child, she became interested in “animals, art, and computers.” Her first formative experiences online, which lead to creating her first websites, were activated by Pastel Club — a private Yahoo! Group that discussed the customization of model horses with novel techniques.

Schwulst graduated from RISD in 2010. Following school, Schwulst worked as designer and front-end programmer at Linked by Air, a design and technology studio in New York. Schwulst's approach to web design is rooted in the studio's tenet that a website should change and grow over time.

In 2016, Yancey Strickler and Brandon Stosuy hired Schwulst as creative director of The Creative Independent, a web-based arts publication run by Kickstarter, PBC, which is dedicated to being a resource of emotional and practical guidance for creative people.

Since 2017, Schwulst has been working independently with various collaborators. She created web identities for gallery T Space Rhinebeck (begun by architect Steven Holl), artist Sara Cwynar, and historic New York City-based arts institution Artists Space.

Schwulst is interested in world-building. This is one reason she likes the medium of websites, as they “allow the author to create not only works (the ‘objects’) but also the world (the rooms, the arrangement of rooms, the architecture!). Ideally, the two would inform each other in a virtuous, self-perfecting loop.” She explored possible spatial metaphors for personal websites in her essay on The Creative Independent, “My website is a house next to a river of knowledge. What could yours be?” which is frequently cited by designers, technologists, and educators around the world.

Schwulst frequently collaborates with and studies other artists. Since 2013, Schwulst has collaborated with artist Sydney Shen on a perfume review project called Perfume Area. Each review is a “prose pocket world,” lyrical and written in second person, like a tour through an imagined landscape. On February 19, 2019, Schwulst released an ambient travel app called Flight Simulator, published by Soft Works (a small software company run by Dan Brewster). The app is described as “an ode to airplane mode.” Users put their phone in airplane mode for the duration of a real flight in order to “travel” to this location and earn pins for each airport visited. And on January 1, 2020, with designers Laura Coombs and Mindy Seu, Schwulst announced their strategic consultancy and research alliance, “CSS.”

Schwulst began her teaching career in 2013 at Yale School of Art. Schwulst has an inventive approach to pedagogy. Her courses and exercises, such as her “Coding from Life” workshop, are frequently reproduced and cited. At Yale, she also created and developed syllabi for entirely new classes, including “Interactive Concrete Poetry” and “Writing as Metadata.” In 2018, Schwulst was awarded an Inspiring Yale award for her work as a designer and teacher. In 2020, Schwulst co-founded Fruitful School with designer and programmer John Provencher. Fruitful School is an independent web workshop that explores publishing to the web as an artistic practice, encouraging students to gradually grow their ideas as they learn new tools, methodologies, and histories. In addition to Yale and Fruitful School, Schwulst has also taught design courses at Princeton, California College of the Arts, Rutgers, and has given lectures and workshops internationally.


Learn more about Laurel’s work at her artists’ websites: