This was definitely a challenging course with a lot of content. I found myself spending 3+ hours watching a 1 hour lecture as I would constantly pause to take notes and screenshot pictures I wanted to stick into my notes. I wanted all my notes to look perfect and be organised by weeks so it would be easy to look back and find things I needed. Each week in my blog posts I found myself getting more and more comfortable with the content, therefore i naturally began to write more and more and actually really enjoy it.
In Week #9, we watched some of the best Video Presentations that aim to answer the question ‘What is Design.’ Sadly, my video didn’t make it, but I could see why. I took a lot away from analysing and reviewing other people’s presentations. I learnt that the assignment definitely was not a strong point of mine, as I had no skill in animating. I found that the animated videos were super engaging, whereas my presentation was quite stagnant.
This course gave me a lot of clarity as to what kind of designer I want to be when I graduate. I want to design and work for brands that are non-bs, just 100% ethical, responsible, and inclusive. I want to design things that make a difference in the world, not things that will end up in landfill and leave people feeling empty and wanting more. I want to be apart of a world of people who normalise a ‘cradle to cradle’ way of living and consuming. I want to make people happy with my designs and leave the world in a better place than how I found it!
I enjoyed reading Tonkinwise’s ‘The Magic that is Design’ in Week #1. I do believe that products, services, buildings, plans etc are designed to make our lives easier, better, more efficient and more enjoyable, so much so that these things we rely on on a daily basis can often slip our minds and be taken for granted! It’s not until these things are taken away from us or stop working that we realise their worth and their magic.
In Week #2 we learnt that design is quite a tricky term to define, because it is really quite close to just having common sense. Design has huge potential in optimising our lives, and shortcuts in design thinking and poorly planned holistic an lead to long-term and intergenerational problems!
Modernism changed the world and how it operated, and designers follow suit. Products went from being custom produced and embellished to being simple, functional and mass produced. We learnt in Week #3 that The Bauhaus was a design school that very influential during this time. This school promoted a design aesthetic which was based on simple forms, clean lines, rationality and, of course, functionality.
Week #4 was one of the hardest weeks to grasp in my opinion. All of these discussions on ‘field’ and ‘habitus’ got my head spinning. I did really enjoy though trying to understand the term ‘design thinking.’ Each person exists within their own personal habitus, therefore they see and interact with the world different to the person sitting next to them. Meaning that there cannot be a I ‘one size fits all’ way of designing something.
I loved Week #5! The content made so much sense. We learnt about the importance of visual semiotics when it comes to visual communication design. Different visual signs and symbols can be used to persuade or manipulate viewers to feel something/do something/purchase something that we want them to.
What is Post-Digital? This was the topic for Week #6. New technology is not as exciting as it used to be and we are no longer defaulting to the newest technologies but rather using whatever technology is right for us and the job we are doing at the time.
Week #7 was quite confronting and a little depressing tbh. We were given the perspective that graphic design is becoming obsolete, which I personally disagree with. There will always be something that threatens another thing, Spotify vs CDs and vinyl, Netflix vs movie theatres, Fast food chains and Uber Eats vs high end restaurants. This doesn’t mean that the latter will become irrelevant, it just has to rethink and possible redesign itself.
In Week #8, we learnt what it meant to ‘decolonise’ design. Recent movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked public outcry on brands that do not promote diversity and have gotten away with using racial stereotypes for many years. Decolonising design means designing for a future which puts equality at the forefront of everything.
Video Presentation #1: Coates - What is Design? Answers from Eric Spiekerman and The Bauhaus
Wow! This video presentation was so strong! The supporting visuals were always relevant to what he was talking about, and when a quote appeared on the screen he would read the quote to reinforce the message rather than talk about something else. I also loved how the quotes would be white writing on a black screen (this contrast is bold and it really gets the message across). The moving visuals were my favourite. The short video clips of people as well as the little animations were fun and interesting to watch. Altogether I cannot fault this presentation. He spoke clearly, the information was logical and professional, the visuals were engaging, the reference list was amazing and most importantly he answered the question. This presentation definitely made me question my own presentation. I do think I could have made my presentation move like Coates’, in order to be more visually engaging, but I am yet to acquire those sort of skills.
Video Presentation #2: Bronner - What is Design? Branding and Visual Identity
There was a lot of things I loved about this presentation, as well as a lot of things I think could be improved. I think the overall layout of each slide was amazing. Every element on each slide was always balanced and the information was clear and easy to understand. Bronner spoke the information really well too. I also loved how the slides would transition too. On the other hand, the amount of time spent on the ‘graphic design key dates’ slide could have been significantly shorter as it is not super relevant to the presentation topic. Bronner definitely explored design through the lens of graphic design yet I am unsure whether she answered the question ‘What is design?’
Video Presentation #3: Sarv - What is Design? Aaron Draplin’s Perspective
Holy moly! I loved how engaging this presentation was - it did not lose my attention once. Sarv was confident and enthuastic when speaking to the camera about Aaron Draplin. He seemed to be really passionate about the topic and know a lot about this graphic designer. I loved how pictures would pop up on the screen and short clips of Draplin were also used to break up the video. It was also great that Sarv even had Draplin’s book so that he could hold it up to the camera and show different things as he spoke. I think when Sarv would say quotes by Draplin or other people, the message would come across clearer if he displayed the quote on the screen for the viewers to read.
Before starting this weeks lesson, I had to first fully understand what these terms mean in order to understand all of the other concepts.
Meta-modernism is a term used to describe a set of developments in philosophy and culture. Meta-modernism isn’t one side of the other, it is a fluid term that oscillates between both modernist and post-modernism ways of thinking. What Ari said in the lecture about meta-modernism stood out to me, “It oscillates between a modern enthusiasm and a post-modern irony, between hope and melancholy, between totality and fragmentation.”
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Kohn 2011) defines colonialism as “a broad concept that refers to the project of European political domination from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries…” (Tunstall 2013, pg 233). In 1770, Captain James Cook landed in Australia and claimed the land as British territory. The process of colonisation began shortly after in 1788. From then on, Indigenous peoples experienced severe oppression as Western ideals were embedded within society. So what does it mean to ‘decolonise’ design? It means to change the way we think and therefore design.
There is a deeply ingrained hierarchical mindset in Western society (and in design practise) that Western knowledge and ideals are more advanced than those of other cultures. This has sadly stemmed from many generations of colonisation, demonisation and slavery. In addition, predominantly European and American male designers had set the standards for what is deemed “good” or “bad” design. “The authority of the canon has undermined the work produced by non-Western cultures and those from poorer backgrounds so that Ghanaian textiles, for example, get cast as craft rather than design.” (Khandwala 2019)
I found this quote from this weeks reading interesting and relevant to this discussion, “Soon I realised that force-feeding Africans design principles born in Europe, principles that were the product of the European experience, just doesn’t work… Africans have their own palettes that have no kinship with the principles of colour devised by such schools of thought as the Bauhaus” (Tunstall 2013).I believe there should be no such hierarchy where one culture’s ideals dominate the rest. We cannot continue to show blatant disrespect and disregard for the experiences and values of other people. Instead we must welcome, embrace and celebrate diversity in design and creativity and show respectful engagement and acknowledgement to the design histories and beliefs of all people.
Week #8 Reading: Tunstall, E., 2013. Decolonizing design innovation: Design anthropology, critical anthropology, and indigenous knowledge. Design anthropology: theory and practice, pp.232-250.
The technical skills and the mediums in which we work will always be changing. The downward pressure on our disciplines by those seeking to commodify what we do will continue. But the need for the skills designers bring to the world will always be needed.‘ - Holly Robbins
GRAPHIC DESIGN IS NOT DEAD, IT IS CHANGING AND EVOLVING LIKE ANYTHING DOES
Therefore graphic designers must adjust accordingly to the changed within their field, in order to avoid becoming obsolete. Graphic designs must be able to be fluid within their industry and multi-faceted in their capabilities. “The difference is that now “designers” also have to be project managers, accountants, animators, archivists, recording engineers, photographers, and more.” - Prescott Perez-Fox.
Yes, there are many challenges being faced within the graphic design industry today. Many believe this industry is under threat of becoming irrelevant today with the rise of technology. Buckley quotes in his article ‘The Death of Graphic Design,’ ‘Gone are the days of needing visually compelling advertisements and appealing campaigns to achieve business goals. Instead, we can hit target audiences through advanced digital marketing and technology-related strategies.’
I was introduced to “do-it-yourself” design in Year 11 Business Class. I was apart of the marketing team for a coffee business the class had invented. My job as a marketer was to SELL the product. How was I to do that? Create great, eye-catching marketing material that communicated the right message to persuade consumers to purchase the product. What was I told to use to do this? Canva. Canva is a businesses that “provides pre-made templates of websites, social media ads, logos, and the list goes on.” (Buckley, 2019)
Did I find Canva fascinating and easy to use? Yes. Did I want to use it to market the product? I don’t know, it was what I was told to do. Gone was any fascination of the student’s capabilities of designing something from scratch onto a piece of paper or onto Photoshop. As far as my teacher, or my state’s curriculum knows, I am not a designer. Therefore Canva is the most appropriate tool. It advertises itself as ‘online design made easy.’
These “do-it-yourself” design platforms decrease the value of the graphic designer. They make design available to everybody, possibly putting trained and educated designers out of work. It can be thought that these platforms are turning ‘what was once considered a unique personalised experience into a cookie-cutter service.’ (Buckley, 2019)
But it’s not all bad. Not all companies will lean towards short-cut softwares such as Wix or Canva in order to design their product/business. Yes, graphic design has become commoditised due to the technology and the internet, but ‘for as long as their are businesses that take themselves seriously, there will always be graphic design.’ - Robert Smith
“Graphic design is a brand’s voice. A great headline in the wrong typeface can dramatically change the meaning and resonance of the headline. Imagine if you show up for a job interview in ripped jean shorts and a beer-stained tank top. Even if you have the most impressive resume, portfolio and experience, chances are you’re not getting that job.” - Ryan McCullah
What is post-digital? Post-digital is: “The state of being in which you assume the digital instead of marvelling in it.” - Fraser Speirs
We live in a world today where the digital is so accepted that we forget it’s actually there. That’s the magic and yet the scariness of it. The ‘post’ in ‘post-digital’ does not have the same meaning as the ‘post’ in other terms such as ‘post-modern’ or ‘post-histoire.’ It does not mean we are moving past digital, because digital is definitely here to stay whether we like it or not. The term ‘post-digital’ really means we are moving beyond digital - the digital we already know.
We live in a post-digital age, where the digital is no longer exciting and new, but so interwoven into our lives that it is boring, yet ironically, we could not live with out it. It is estimated that the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes, yet we are rarely AMAZED by this device. We subconsciously assume it has existed forever because of the power it wields over our everyday lives.
Some are even repelled by it, and just wish they could throw it away. All of today’s infants and youth will grow up in a Post-Digital era. Raised in front of iPads or have their childhood documented on social media. It is both wonderful and daunting… as we are yet to learn the long-term effects of this kind of digital exposure.
One thing ‘post-digital’ does is call into question the common assumption that the ‘newest’ technology is the best technology for the job. Just because cars exist, doesn’t mean a bike is any less useful or valuable. It just depends on a person’s preferences and how they want to get the job done. Different mediums have recently resurrected as post-digital devices. Think about how popular record players are now as well as polaroid cameras. Some people today like to experiment with older media in order to enjoy its restrictions and distinctive visual quirks and qualities. It may offer something new to them, their business or their client. It is also common for people to mix ‘old’ and ‘new’ media to achieve their own material aesthetic qualities. Kenneth Goldsmith notes that his students “Mix oil paint while Photoshopping and scour flea markets for vintage vinyl while listening to their iPods.” (Cramer 2014, pg 12).
Week #6 Reading: Cramer, F., 2015. What is ‘Post-digital’?. In Postdigital aesthetics (pp. 12-26). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
My personal symbol describes me as an introvert, an extrovert and a spiritual being. My middle name is Rae, and my friends and family often describe me as a ‘ray of sunshine.’ In situations when I am comfortable, I thrive and give off positive energy. This is represented by the sun radiating on the right side of my symbol. On the other hand, I can also be quite introverted. I love the comfort of my own home and the stability of a routine. This is represented by the barrier on the left hand side of the sun. I am also quite a spiritual person. My star sign is Capricorn and I believe that the qualities of this sign represent the person I am. The symbol of Capricorn is placed in the middle of the sun in the colour pink as pink is my favourite colour.
This week we learnt about the importance of visual semiotics when it comes to visual communication design. Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) was a philosopher responsible for creating the “we only think in signs” concept. This concept revolved around the idea that anything is a sign if someone interprets it as meaning other than itself. Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) was a linguist responsible for creating the sign/signifier/signified concept. The ‘signifier’ being the form the sign takes and the ‘signified’ being the concept it shows.
My favourite example from the lecture was the red rose. Famously used on ‘The Bachelor’, the red rose is handed out to a lady whom The Bachelor has formed ‘a connection’ with and wants to romantically pursue. The ‘signifier’ is the form the red rose takes (its physical existence) and what is being ‘signified’ (in this particular context of the Bachelor) is attraction. The ‘signified’ aspect may change from context to context. Think of what is being ‘signified’ by an apple when the context is changed from Adam and Eve, to Snow White and to now in the digital age of technology and branding.
Therefore as designers, we must be aware of visual semiotics. Different visual signs and symbols can be used to persuade or manipulate viewers to do something that we want them to do. Many designers before and during WWI created posters in an effort to persuade young men to enlist in the war. The poster below, designed by James Montgomery Flagg, is one of the most iconic posters in American history. The poster depicts Uncle Sam’s burning gaze and accusing finger. These things are powerful symbols strategically designed to create a feeling of guilt and confrontation within those young men who had not yet enlisted - therefore persuading them to do so.
Week #5 Reading: Berger, J. (1990), “7” Chapter 7: Ways of Seeing
The main concept I gained from this week’s content was that design is duplicitous. There is no single definition. Design can be an ‘action’ (a process/method of thinking to get to an end result) or a ‘thing’ (the look and function of an object, a decorative pattern).
An idea that came up several times across the lecture and tutorial was the term ‘design thinking.’ What is the design thinking? Is it necessary to have a specific process of thinking when it comes designing something? Is design thinking different from just regular human ‘thinking’? Does it need to have its own term? - it’s own pedestal?
I believe that ‘design thinking’ is just as broad and as slippery (quoting Chloe - a bar of soap) as the concept of ‘design.’ There is no ‘one size fits all’ way of designing something. Every person has their own way of thinking about the world, researching, developing ideas, processing information and then designing. There are no particular steps that every one can take to get to the perfect end result. Someones design thinking process may be ‘cyclical’ (through experimentation, repetition and refinement) whilst another’s may be a black and white step by step horizontal process.
I do think that design thinking is different to regular thinking. Regular everyday thinking may involve things like, “What shall i eat for breakfast?’ or ‘How am i going to get all my study done?” Of course, depending on your social and cultural context, the things you think about will change. Although design thinking i believe, taps into a different part of the brain. The creative and/or problem solving part which requires deeper thought - an understanding of the client and their needs, an understanding of the social and cultural context, an understanding of what steps need to be taken to achieve the desired end result, an understanding of any constraints and implications, as well as many other slippery concepts and areas of thought.
Week #4 Reading: Crouch, C. and Pearce, J., 2013. Doing research in design. Bloomsbury Publishing. - Chapter 1’ Positioning the Designer’ (1-14)
My understanding of modernism was developed in Year 12 Advanced English Class. We studied T.S Eliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’ amongst his other modernist poetry. My view of the modern world was a sad and lonely one, where people had suffered through war, the great depression, repressive regimes, famine and loneliness.
On the flip side, modernism sparked creative people to seek out new ways of expressing the world around them. Modernist poets began to make their own rules on how they wanted to write their poetry and artists began to explore and experiment with different ideas, materials and processes of creating art.
Design followed suit. The industrial revolution made it possible to combine design with technology, enabling mass production for the first time ever. Therefore moving away from traditional and classical forms of design (custom produced and ornamentally decorated products). There was a growing belief that “products which both disguised their modes of construction through ornamental embellishment and were out of tune with the ‘spirit of the age’ were exemplars of ‘bad’ design.” (Woodham 1997, pg 35).
The Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius and operated between 1919 and 1933. It was a design school that adopted the idea that an object’s design should be determined by its functionality. The Bauhaus’ design aesthetic was based on simple forms, clean lines, rationality and, of course, functionality.
“Trash is always abundantly decorated; the luxury object is well-made, neat and clean, pure and healthy.” (Woodham 1997, pg 33). Function began to be at the forefront of design. The modern colour palette was often limited to black, white and shades in-between and products were made to be bare and minimalistic - ultimately revealing the industrial nature and quality of manufacture.
Week #3 Reading: Twentieth Century Design. Oxford New York. Jonathan M. Woodham. 1997.
There are many definitions, meanings and theories on what design is. “After all there is a fine line between design and common sense, and just about any activity which involves originality and forethought can, in theory, be described as design.” (Alice Rawsthorn 2013, pg 17).
Ying Zheng became king of Qin in 246 BC. His sophisticated understanding of design was an asset of his, yet what would the term ‘design’ even have meant in the third century BC. Rawsthorn says, “Probably nothing.” Yet all the weaponry that contributed to Ying Zheng’s military triumphs were exceptionally designed under his command. Excelling in size, shape, choice of material and method of production ensuring each weapon was optimised.
These techniques are echoed in contemporary design society. I mentioned in my last post that companies like Apple have dedicated design teams who strive to make their products lighter, sleeker, faster, cheaper and therefore more seamless and usable for the consumer.
“Traditionally, design was valued chiefly for the things it produced, whether they were tangible, such as objects, spaces, images or intangible like software.” (Rawsthorn 2013, pg 16). We need to be aware that design entails so much more! The typography used in airports to allow maximum legibility for people in a hurry to catch their flight, the planning and delivery of more efficient ways of dealing with social problems, or “the skills that designers develop, often without realising, in analysing problems, using lateral thinking to identify smart solutions, and persuading other people to embrace the outcome.” (David Kelley). Design can also be concealed within the meaning of other words. Things such as engineering, programming, styling and corporate strategy all entail different aspects and elements of design. Without design these things can not exist.
Rawsthorn suggests that in order to ‘embrace a more eclectic understanding of design,we must consider the danger of continuing to ignore its potential.’ Why is it dangerous to ignore the potential of a design? Shortcuts in design thinking and poorly planned holistic an lead to long-term and intergenerational problems. My example was single-use plastic. When it was first invented in the mid 1950s, plastic challenged traditional materials and won. It changed the way we stored food, made furniture and built cars. The short lived use of plastic today, its inability to break down and its careless disposal poses endless environmental concerns.
Design has indeed because a slippery and ambiguous word with a long history. It was been defined as both a verb, a noun and an etymological tangle (my favourite), “Design is to design a design to produce a design.” (John Heskett).
I do believe that design is quite magical. I have been asked countless times by friends and family, ‘What do you want to BE when you are older. What do you want to do?’ When i reply and say that i’d love to be a designer, or more specifically a graphic designer, they ask, ‘What does that mean?’ and ‘What do they do?”
“Design then seems to have the power to conceal itself.” (Tonkinwise 2017, pg 6). When something is designed successfully, it falls seamlessly into the users life. Then going unnoticed and soon taken for granted. For example, when is the last time you realised, acknowledged and appreciate the man-made objects surrounding you, the objects that perform services for you everyday, the objects that have been designed specifically for your convenience? Once the design fails, breaks or no longer does its job, that’s when we notice it and all of a sudden the magic disappears. Once the magic is gone the product ends up in the bin. And that is the product lifecycle/consumerism.
Designers hold the magic as they speak through their products. “The designer’s magic involves being able to translate empathy into material form, to convert feelings into things - which means being able to magically speak with things.” (Tonkinwise 2017, pg 11). Take an iPhone for example, the first ever touch screen phone to enter the market. At the beginning, it’s capabilities were great but still very limited. Over time the iPhone has evolved to be faster, thinner, more efficient, lighter, more durable, with more advanced technology, clearer cameras, voice control, shortcuts, facial recognition etc. Because ultimately these factors make a design have a greater capability of fitting more seamlessly into the users life and therefore concealing it’s magic.
It’s quite surprising how little people even know about design - it’s origin, the huge role in plays in our every day lives, and the power it holds in our society today and into the future.
“Now that we can do anything, what will we do?” (Mau 2004)
Starting semester 2 and learning that I will be studying theory honestly made my stomach a little queasy. In high school i always wondered why i had to study art theory as 50% of my course. I just wanted to paint and draw, was that so hard to ask! But i am now learning that theory is quite important.
Massimo Vignelli once said, “A designer with no sense of history is worth nothing. If you don’t have theory you don’t know where you stand..” This made me realise that what has happened in the past in terms of design has ultimately driven and shaped how we perceive design TODAY and how we will go about designing for the future. A better future.
As Robert L. Peter says, “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” I absolutely agree with this. The way we design things (the thinking process behind it, the materials we use, the message we wish to share, the lifespan of our design, etc) shapes OUR values as humans and what we deem as important. For example, as humans in a developed world with discretionary income and the influence of the media, we do tend to place immense value on wearing on-trend clothing in order to validate ourselves and our self worth. This has developed a whole industry known as ‘fast fashion,’ which has become apart of our culture and will indeed negatively impact our future in terms of continuing labour issues, the gap between the rich and poor and the strain on sustainability.
Knowing where an issue or idea stemmed from and how it grew into what it is today therefore holds the upmost importance. We can then use this vital knowledge to move FORWARD, solve important issues and design our future into a better world than what it is today. We must know our past and take lessons from it to do so.