Tag Archives: Methodology

graphic design revisited | wk5_1

graph·ic (gra-fik)

Relates to a written or pictorial representation, described in vivid detail, realting to graphic arts, or a pictorial device used  to convey a message.

Shelly Evenson in her presentation for the New Contexts, New Practices Symposium discusses some of the changes int eh industry today.  Among other changes she wondered if the word “graphic” was still relevant today.  Once one gets past the immediate questions, you begin to see that what Evenson is proposing makes sense .  She recognizes that many designers would go through a crisis of identity.  (Evenson) Yet lately as someone trained in interior design and tangentially in graphic design, find that I do not need to put any qualifiers in front of designer. The term designer alludes to some one who is capable of laying out a pleasing organized system of something; words on the page, rooms in a building, the interior trim of a vehicle, pages on the internet.  Much of this change of thinking has to do with a student who is required to take typography while studying architecture.  I am constantly trying to relate typography to her in terms of architecture.  Periods of design, classifications of typefaces. This could easily be periods of architectural design or classification of building structures. While there are distinct difference the principles of design are the same as is the ability to put things together skillfully.

Why pigeon hole someone with multiple aptitudes? 

If we look at the definition of graphic in the most related sense, a graphic designer would be someone who creates a pictorial device to illustrate a message.  This seems rather simplistic. In todays industry the designer needs to be able to create artifacts at the lowest end of the spectrum.  While the other end has the designer creating systems  that not only communicate a message, also incorporate social and environmental concerns, with the highest end recreating to bring positive change to the world.

Can a designer do all that alone?  While possible what’s more probable is the role collaboration will play in the process. This is were people with multiple aptitudes come together to effect change.

If not graphic design, what then?

Emergent.  Systems. Design for good. Communications. Multi-media. Film maker. Web builder. Animator. Book builder. Typeface designer. Illustrator. Researcher. Organizer. Designer thinker. Presenter. Ideator. Mentor. Collaborator. Software aficionado.


Evenson, Shelly. Provocation #1, New Contexts, New Practices. NC State University. AIGA. 2011. <http://vimeo.com/15694389>

Leadership | wk2_1

First came across Jessica Helfand in an earlier design class which focused on design thinking and theory.  Her essay, Dematerialization of Screen Space  really got me thinking about in the internet and media. Helfand states in reference to the amazing capabilities of the internet, “But we are also prisoners: trapped in a medium in which visual expression must filter through a protocol of uncompromising programming scripts…” [1]  As someone who always professed to not understand anything related to math (misguided self thinking), and  pre-computer-in-every-classroom designer, the web terrified me.

In the essay from 2007 Helfand speaks to the dichotomy of instant authorship that goes out to an infinite number of people. She is curious about the quality of information and design on the web. Does the experience leave us with lasting impressions.  Are we using the web to its fullest capabilities.  Helfand is convinced that now is the time for a new Avant-Garde in New Media. Yet we are help back by a two-dimensional approach to the web.  She states, “…the illusion that Internet space is made up of pages, of words, of flat screens. Why is it that design thinking remains so brainwashed by this notion.”  She continues by adding that internet space is its own galaxy, emphatically that this galaxy is “by no means flat.” [1]

This particular essay found in Graphic Design Theory, Reading from the Field, was my introduction to Helfand, a pioneer in the field of design for the internet. Excited about the possibilities Helfand is encouraging in the design world, I began reading up about her work. Her studio Winterhouse, is home base for her and her partner William Drentell.  In this secluded space the couple are able to focus less on clients and more on self lead design projects.

In August of 2011, Winterhouse and Hotchkiss School of Connecticut, held a design symposium on education and social change. The four gaols of the symposium were to study effective design projects for social change in academic institutions, transforming curricula to match the projects, explore ways in which design centers of research can be  come part of institutions and building relationships with outside partners. [2]

Helfand and her partner began Winterhouse Institute, Design for  Social Impact and Innovation. In this capacity Winterhouse hopes to extend the ideas of design thinking and good design for good causes initiative.  [3]

This idea of bringing social change together with design is exciting and could change the way the design is viewed. There is room for those who want to continue to focus on artifact yet there is also room for others who want to do more socially.  This allows for a natural continuum for designers to stay fresh and keep reinventing themselves and thier practices. Jessica Helfand is certainly a designer who has demonstrated leadership in the field of design.

[1] Armstrong, Helen. Graphic Design Theory, Readings From The Field. New York: Princeton Architectural Pr, 2009. Print. p. 119-123

[2] http://winterhouse.com/symposium_2011/index.html

[3] http://winterhouse.com/institute/index.html



GFx defined | wk1_1

Once upon a time I wrote an essay on my interpretation of graphic design. Who knew at the time that the essay would take me down some pretty dark paths in the weeks that followed,  learning much about myself and facing some hard truths along the way.  One thing gleaned was that if there is a less complex route, you won’t find me taking it.  In the months that follow I will aim for clarity and less complication in my thinking and methodology.

This is a simplified version of my thoughts on graphic design.

Graphic design is a term for a much larger field of jobs and skill sets. These jobs and skill sets depend on the outcome desired or the talent of the individual. This leads me to the statement that graphic design is a field in which a variety of creative types visually communicate a message.  Designers provide a service.

Many factors plague and bless the field today which is causing great change. We are emerging and colliding through technology and a shared global voice. The field of graphic design is evolving in exciting new ways which include a return to traditional methods, embracing new technologies, clear communication and design ethos.

As an educator, this conversation has great meaning and depth. As someone also learning and growing in the field I am in the thick of design. It is more than a job, it is a passion that most of us share. We get off on creating.

Graphic designers might build web pages, create and animate characters, speed paint scenery for a movie, render a 3D walk through, edit and create videos, write blogs, draw out story boards, layout publications, design typefaces, run a press – if lucky a tabletop platen, design packaging, create illustrations, develop environmental signage, shoot pictures, or develop a new game or app.  Sometimes courses are under communications and new media or multimedia. Emergent design and conversion are often words spouted in a conversation.

Essentially a designer is someone who likes to create, who adapts to changing technologies and keeps an eye on trends. This person has a level of talent based on the ability to use the fundamentals of design to create an aesthetic output. The field is wide open and we as an industry are only breaking the surface.

However this field is also evolving beyond what has been traditional thought to be design. It is becoming a new field that takes design and blends it with thinking. The process of design is developing to consider all aspects of the intended artifact. It will become about what happens, before, what happens when, and is this really the best way to approach the solution. We will be called on to educate the client in the decision process and lead the discussion on being responsible, socially, environmentally and ethically.