Not that, but this; or, I See What You Did There: Propositions for Type, Image, and the Arena: Nathan Young

How can a graphic designer get some truth through the noise of public discourse, when by most accounts that discourse is “post-truth?”

This thesis, drawing from my abiding interest in performance, contends that if all the world’s a stage, graphic designers should look the audience in the eye and tell them as such. It is in this spirit of metatheatre (and its advocates) that I propose the following three tactics of this thesis:

Breaking the fourth wall, or meta-reference, is a convention in the theatre in which an actor addresses the audience directly. It has also become shorthand for any meta-reference to what a thing is, how it was made, or received. I put self-awareness under this umbrella as well — awareness of oneself as a performer, awareness of the audience, or an awareness of conventions and tropes.

The second tactic is Defamiliarization, which simply means to make the familiar feel unfamiliar.

Third: I see what you did there. If a thing is made by people, then that thing can be changed. Therefore, design that provokes “ISWYDT” reminds us of our agency to change the world around us. In this tactic, the process to make the thing (and the material it is made of) should be clearly understood.

The gist, dear reader, is this: I am for a design practice that acknowledges itself to the audience, uncovers magic in the familiar, and makes my role, process, and choices apparent — not that, but this. With any luck, you will see what I did there.

RISD MFA Graphic Design 2019

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