Week 12: Critical Reflective Journal

Susanna Edwards in conversation with Maziar Raein

How equipped am I? Arghh! I experienced doubt in myself listening to the first part. How much do I know about the history of design to really be able to express it in a new and original way: you have to know the rules in order to break them.

Raein referred to the history of the design industry, saying that previously the tension between commercial and self-initiated work for designers used to be greater, and that created very interesting work, whereas now designers focus on brands and topics that interest them and they feel are making the world better. I wonder if this shift occurred due to the rise of individualism, and people wanting to have a more authentic connect with brands. As connections between designer and brands become more transparent on the internet, the audience expects the designer to follow the creed they design for.

The lecture moved onto craft, and what it now means. To Raein and Edwards, craft has shifted from maintaining tradition to new ways of creating depth of understanding and detail and finding novel uses for the materials around you. By doing this, you can still maintain a respect for the tradition of crafts such as letterpress, but by using it in a new way you can create a shift in understanding.

Raein suggests creating sketchbooks and personal libraries so that a designer is creating constraints on their references and forming their own frameworks. I’ve previously written about sketchbooks and how I need to start compiling one in order to “discover my own sensibilities”. From there, I will hopefully be able to start detecting the edges, as Raein describes, and others’ too.

To look into:

  • Ryan Gander: Loose Associations
  • Bishopsgate Institute
  • John Burgess: Shape of a Pocket

Case Studies

What are the potential future definitions of design practice?

Returning to our case studies! These have been an amazing part of the course because of the range of practitioners being shown and they have different responses, showing the spectrum of the industry.

Manchipp said that the scope of designers is becoming wider, and that we should find exciting starting points rather than getting stuck down too early in decisions as typefaces. This is something I’m really trying to take to heart because my day-to-day job is so detail-orientated, as is my mind, that to zoom out (like in Power of 10) to consider the bigger image first.

In contrast, Winston feels that design is going to focus more on what problems are we as a society going to have, and where is culture going? With the advent of two-hundred-and-eighty character tweets, images, multiple outlets for media and news, our attention is being constantly split. Should designers utilise this and create small bites of design or design projects that consciously go against this and capture more of our audience’s attention?

Regular Practice has found success in ranging across many disciplines from graphic to product design as they see design as becoming much vaguer than before. The ubiquitous use of the internet means that ideas and designs can be transmitted internationally. However, in order to stand out, design has also become more individual for each market and clients appreciate beautiful pieces of well-crafted print that are as much about the process and design as the content.

The overall message from these answers is that we need to diversify our skills, because clients expect us to be multi-talented.

What are the sectors that might change, or need to change?

Each designer answered with a different nuance, but I think it is fair to sum up the responses with the following points:

  • No matter how the design will be released to an audience, it always comes down to connecting with people
  • Through history, it is the ideas that have endured, not the mode: for example, Picasso’s Guernica
  • The expectation is that creatives have many skills and are able to apply them across different media and that they are able to collaborate with many others
  • The industry can create pockets (or silos, or categories) but it is necessary to disrupt these. In doing so, different pockets might be created, so smash those too
  • Clients sometimes listen more because they don’t know either, so treating them like human (? Intro) is essential (of course it is).

Dunne, A. Raby, F., (2013) Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. Cambridge MA: MIT.

I wanted to look at this book, but couldn’t find a free online source, and the book costs £35 before payday.

TED (2017) Anab Jain: Why We Need to Imagine Different Futures.

What really struck me about Jain’s talk was her decision to not let the future happen her: she wants to make the future. She asks the audience how much do we push decisions to the future, both as individuals and as a society? She is being an active participant in the future by creating tools to bring aspects of possible futures to life.

The first example she used was how she and her company built drones based on how they felt there could be used in the future. For example, the Nightwatchman drone was able to fly over areas and use facial recognition to see who was there, and another was displayed information and advertising. By creating drones, they were able to experiment with how it felt to work alongside them and what it would mean for society: do we want this? Sometimes, the drones and technology went wrong, but this created and answered more questions.

The second example was an apparatus to show air quality in potential future cities so that people could breathe the future air, which was disgusting, and make decisions about the policies we want to enact for the future. A few days before I had been introduced to an AR possibility in a news app, and I thought it could be used to show people the lack of visibility in the air. This takes it to a whole new sensory level!

She’s found that facts are the starting point, but to really engage people a designer needs to create experiences that allow them to connect with the tangible outcomes of their decisions.

Connected projects

Whilst I looking into this week, I found the project called The Game: The Game. Angela Washko created a game to demonstrate the effect that tactics used by so-called pick-up-artists have on women, and how ubiquitous it is to the female experience. Many pick-up-artists use strategies based on video-game strategies, such as perseverance and ‘wearing-down’, and so to use the format as a way to highlight the problem is a stroke of genius. Ultimately, it is supposed to raise awareness of how female-identifying people are approached and targetted by people using such tactics, and how this makes people feel. Joe also pointed out the work by Frederikke Frydenlund at the RCA, which works on a similar level.

Things I want to do in the break

  • Coding and digital languages: I think it’s really important to stay on top of new technologies and languages, especially with coding being taught in schools. People not that much younger than me will have a solid foundation that I need to build up myself to remain innovative and competitive. I’ve been refreshing my CSS skills throughout this module so that I can layout this blog how I want, and once hand-in is completed I want to expand to Java to create kinetic type …
  • Kinetic type: I enjoy typography so I want to make some projects where the type moves to add another element to the project
  • Data visualisation: somewhat connected to the coding skills, and a way to expand my skillset (note to self: start here)
  • After-Effects and Premiere Pro: Get a solid base in the programmes so that I can use them in the future
  • Break things and distort images and type: because in a lot of projects that I admire, the designer has used novel ways to deconstruct and reconstruct elements.

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