I might as well talk in 🔺▪️🔶🔳⬛️◽️🔸🔻because
the rest just doesn’t really get through*
A new medium
It is near impossible to explain the significance of language since we are simply unable to comprehend the vast pool of purposes that it is used for by people, a pool that is only expanding throughout the course of time. Unfortunately, the structural and systematic approach that we are traditionally taught to perceive and use language with is, at times, unable to fully reflect all of the psychological and sociological needs we have in the process of our communication (ed. Lyons, 1971).
It is for these reasons, that many people throughout history (such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Stephane Mallarme, William S. Burroughs, John Cage to name a few) had sought to challenge the traditional notion and understanding of language because they could not be content with the thought that the current mode of communication is all there is and there is nothing that could be done to expand it. They realized, that their inner worlds, as well as the ever-changing outside world, are simply too complex to be translated into such a “primitive” structure as the conventional form of our languages. The experiments undertaken by these numerous writers and poets included bending and breaking grammatical and semantical rules in an effort to reinvent literature and change the way we perceive information. The increasingly progressive treatment of text gave birth to many new literary movements, which undoubtedly left impacts on the way we share things with each other (eds. Dworkin & Goldsmith, 2011). However, it seems that despite all of these extensive changes, people were still left craving for a way to expand their set of communication skills. To find another medium that would perhaps be able to embrace the more ambiguous and murky parts of our communication or be able to transcend all language barriers and allow us to clearer shape our messages. The medium that they turned to were images.
It is important to mention, that the desire to communicate through images and visuals appeared at a very pivotal moment in human history, as we were going through rapid industrial and technological changes. Images stopped being singular paintings hung in museums and rich peoples homes and became easily reproduced and shared, with any person being able to not only access but also produce any kind of image they desired. The invention of photography, mass printing, televisions, computers and etc had rapidly developed this process starting from the beginning of the 20th century and onwards, with it now reaching its zenith in the digital age, where image accessibility is at an all time high (Goldsmith, 2011).
Words as images
In order to examine this shift in communication it would be useful to take a look at the concrete poetry movement. It is perhaps the most peculiar representation of a persons desire to expand our way of communicating between each other by paying attention to and introducing elements that we had previously neglected. Concrete poets were not only interested in manip- ulating pre-existing constructs of linguistic rules, but they were also intent on finding entirely new linguistic material. They explored the physicality and materiality of words, looking at sep- arate letters and formations as nothing more than visual structures. It is almost as though they believed that if we are unable to understand each other through what we write then we might be able to reach more clarity from the way that something is written and the visual aspects of the writing itself. This can be seen in many of Aram Saroyan’s works for instance, specifically in his poem m, which has been praised as heavily as it was criticized. There is no singular meaning that can be assigned to this poem, it can be read as a pun on the phrase “I am”, or regarded as a connection of the letter m and n, it is a manifestation of the malleability of the English language. In it, we are looking at something so familiar to us, yet are forced to perceive it as nothing more but a visual structure, a picture.
Concrete poets believed, that by freeing words from their stuffy preconceived purposes, they will be able to achieve a new method of self expression that is closest to what true human com- munication is. They were fixated on the idea of making the way we communicate more contemporary, by recognizing the materiality in which we reside in our daily lives. They were intent on creating their own language, which would be, as they titled it, verbivocovisual and panlin- guistic. Some of them, went as far as dismissing the semantic aspect of language whatsoever, focusing instead on transmitting an absolutely new kind of information. Their main goal was to create visuals that could transmit messages to everyone that saw them, regardless of their personal background or what language they spoke (Solt,1971). Mary Ellen Solt’s Flowers in concrete series is an attempt at reaching this transient space between visual and written communication. Take her poem Lilac, for example. Each letter of the word Lilac is transformed into a circular shape by method of repetition and script writing. These circles are then arranged together into a representation of the lilac flowers from Solt’s garden. The connection between the poem and its meaning here is very straightforward, with little doubt about what the poet is trying to convey. Yet again we are invited to deal with this work either from an entirely visual perspective (admire the picture itself), or seek out the letters and read in a way that we are traditionally used to.
It is then interesting to note, how an entire branch of poetry that boggled the minds of many, who were perhaps not ready to receive and understand the bogus propositions that the concrete poets were making, is completely mirrored in the results of the digital revolution. Something that was before reserved for writers, poets, and artists has become the mundane day-to-day of any person with access to electronic tools, television, and the media.
Instead of words
One of such pictorial tools of the digital revolution that have become truly ubiquitous at this point in time are emojis. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine any kind of textual communication between people to be devoid of a visual element to it. We utilize emojis and online “stickers” to convey the fleeting feelings and emotions that we think we are unable to correctly translate without some kind of visual representation. It is quite peculiar how quickly people had adapted to this new language, considering that emojis had been invented in 1999 and writing letters
and exchanging texts between each other has been something that human beings were doing since the beginning of time. Why did communicating via simple text suddenly become something that appears so dry and lifeless, when just adding an emoji to it or, at times, responding only with an emoji, becomes a better descriptor of the way a particular person is thinking? If concrete poets were trying to make words look like images, emojis stepped in and eradicated words entirely, embracing that same materiality that the concrete poets tried so hard to grasp, as the amount of emojis used to represent real tangible objects continues to expand as we speak. The system of symbols grows and changes with us, as we continuously contribute new elements to our collective digital language. Certain emojis grow out of their direct clear representation entirely, as they are used to mask or stand in for other things that are not directly rep- resented, in the mean time turning into their own little agents of ambiguity. In this way, cer- tain images end up acquiring multiple meanings and at times become misleading. This can be visible in Natalie Czech’s work, titled Icons. Natalie scoured the Internet in search of icons that are used across different platforms to signify and indicate already known objects. Yet, despite the icon remaining visually the same, the interpretation consistently changes.
This is something that has proved to be inevitable in the world of still images and icons. Despite the efforts of many, even Ancient Egyptians, visual language cannot free itself of the shackles of spoken language and remains limited in its expression. The hieroglyphs of the Ancient Egyptians often had symbols standing in for their specific phonetic indicators and homonyms. The little pictures which appear to be simplistic and straightforward cannot escape the native spoken languages of its creators and therefore cannot transmit the same messages in a “panlinguistic” manner. The languages of emojis and digital icons experience the exact same issues. Alan Kay had initially developed icons as a way of transmitting abstract thought, yet even he conceded that his effort was unsuccessful. As there is no way to systemize and arrange such still visuals in a way that would aid in their understanding.
Images tend to say too much, no matter how visually “simplistic” or “minimal” they look. Just as with regular, text based language, we are unable to predict how a specific picture will be perceived by the end user, and therefore we once again plunge into a sea of ambiguity.
In his book, The Rise of the Image the Fall of the Word American journalist Mitchell Stephens manages to present his own solution to this particular limitation that still images experience. He states that the only successful way to unambiguously transmit information through images is for them to become moving images, i.e. television and film, put more concisely — video. Stephens particularly focuses on a future phenomenon that he calls the “new video”, which arises from all of the mistakes and triumphs of cinema history. He argues that cinematic methods will elevate the still image and allow it to get rid of its obscurity through montage, juxtapositions, sound, and other editing elements. “New video” will be able to create links between objects faster and more efficiently, it will be able to captivate the attention of its audience in a way that text never could. Scenes will become the new words, yet richer and more powerful, as they will allow the viewer to engage in something that Stephens calls “complex seeing”. Stephens hopes that through this process we will be able to come up with a new kind of symbolism that will be used by video to transmit messages. Here he also refers to weather icons on television, a nod back to the origin of emojis, and expresses hope that if we are able to create such icons for simple concepts such as weather conditions, we will soon be able to do the same for more complex structures such as the word “democracy”, “truth”, and “irony”. I suppose that Stephens imagines such symbols to be constructed out of quick paced shots or “scenes” that depict situations in which these abstract notions take place, yet even then there is no guarantee of clarity. This is where we gradually understand, that although his proposition for video as a new visual language is at times very convincing and alluring, the perpetual problems of per- ception do not appear to be solved. He later goes on to say that words will exist to fend off the ambiguity of video, which automatically devalues his statements thus far and brings us back to our starting point. That despite the impressive scope of video, it still relies on language and at times cannot succinctly transmit information without it.
We unavoidably reach the incredible paradox of visual language. We are forced to realize that both text based language and visual language cannot provide the security and clarity that we seek. The end users ability to perceive and misinterpret the intended message consistently gets in the way and hinders our ability to successfully use one form or the other. The introduc- tion of visuals to our primarily spoken and written communication has undoubtedly widened the extent to which we are able to process the world around us. We are able to say more and show more, yet it seems that us being able to do this has not simultaneously guaranteed that the messages will become clearer or more universal. Perhaps, through trial and error, we will some day find a more efficient way to use these new mediums that are available to us. But in this particular moment, it seems that the only way of achieving this clarity can be done by em- bracing the symbiosis of image and word.
FORM FOLLOWS WHAT?
‘Form follows function’ is probably the most famous and defining principle of the graphic design through the years of the profession existence and the minds of many design practitioners. It came from modernist architecture, meaning that the shape of a building should essentially relate to its intended purpose. As modernists were also pioneers of graphic design, they saw practical reason in focusing mainly on functionality when choosing the right form for what they were working on. Indeed, in the atmosphere where the graphic design was born, functionality was a truly important element as it finally divided design from art into a separate profession. But its development during the century revealed some other essential factors to focus on.
FORM EVER FOLLOWS FUNCTION
The author of this famous principle, which became a modernist’s credo during the 20th century, was an American architect Louis Sullivan. In 1896, he used that expression in an article titled The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered. His precise phrase was ‘form ever follows function’, but the simpler version of it is more widely remembered. According to Sullivan, this was the single ‘rule that shall permit of no exception’. In general, he developed the form of the steel skyscraper in Chicago at the time when technological and economic forces lead to the unavoidable split with existing methods and forms. The purpose of the building had to determine the new form of it instead of the pattern chosen out of the traditional pattern book. Therefore, ‘form follows function’, in contrast to ‘form follows precedent’ (Sullivan, 1896).
However, Sullivan himself did not always follow his own directives – certainly not to the same extent as the modernists, who took what he said for dogma (Sagmeister & Walsh, 2018). At first glance, Sullivan's buildings seem pure and solid in their main masses, but he often decorated their plain facades with bursts of lush ornaments, varying from natural forms to more geometric designs. One of the most obvious examples is the entrance of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building in Chicago, richly covered with the twisting green ironwork (fig. 1). In other words, it is lavishly decorated with completely non-functional elements. Therefore, Sullivan's credo was brought to life by modernists more than by himself.
Figure 1. Louis Sullivan, Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building, Chicago, 1899. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/yxy7hfx5 [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
FORM FOLLOWS PROGRESS
Probably, the most functionalist out of all modernists was the Austrian architect Adolf Loos, who worked in the United States at the beginning of his career and admired the functionality of American architecture and the work of Sullivan in particular. In 1908 he wrote an essay titled Ornament and Crime in response to the detailed ornament used by the architects of the Vienna Secession movement (Sagmeister & Walsh, 2018). According to him, ‘ornamentation’ was also equal to any further improvement of a form right after the initial function is achieved. He detested the aesthetic appropriation that many 19th-century practitioners chose as their strategy. Loos believed that new times require new means of expression. The machine age has begun, so to use in any kind of design the elements of past eras - is nothing more than a farce or a parody. He also explored the idea that the intellectual power and the progress of culture are associated with the deletion of any ornament from everyday objects, and that it was, therefore, a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation (Loos, 2019).
Figure 2. Adolf Loos, Villa Müller, Chicago, 1899. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/rjwgsd7 [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
Thus, future modernists adopted Sullivan's phrase as well as Loos's moralistic argument and continued with the belief that when a function is optimized, the form following it automatically becomes perfect. But what is surprising, when in the 20th century the functionality and economy guided the architects and designers in their works, this did not prevent the contrariety between the goal and the result. Many projects created at this time occurred unsuccessful with time. Cheap and same housing, boring cards with safety rules for planes - only a few people wanted to live in these ‘functional’ houses and look at these cards (Sagmeister & Walsh, 2018).
FORM FOLLOWS INDIVIDUALITY
Unlike Loos's notion of form, which remained constant through all of his architectural and written works, some modernists changed their minds later during their career. One of them was Jan Tschichold, a German typographer, book designer, and educator, who played an important role in the development of the graphic design during the 20th century – first, by improving and delivering postulates of modernist typography (fig. 3), and then admiring conservative typographic arrangements (fig. 4). But many design schools continue to teach from his Die Neue Typographie (first published in 1928), even though Tschichold himself renounced almost everything he wrote in it. ‘What I do today is not in the line of my often-mentioned book, “Die Neue Typographie,” since I am the most severe critic of the young Tschichold of 1925–28. ... So many things in that primer are erroneous, because my experience was too small’ (Tschichold, 1964). He also insisted that Modernist typography 'is the exemplar of a most inflexible typography which makes no distinction between the advertising of an artistic performance or of a screw catalog. Nor does this typography allow for the human desire for variety. It has an entirely militaristic attitude'. Instead, he wrote that typographic design decisions should be treated individually, 'as different as the people around us' (Tschichold, 1964).
Figure 3. Jan Tschichold, Poster of the Avant-Garde, Munich, 1930. Available at: https:// www.moma.org/collection/works/7292 [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
Figure 4. Jan Tschichold, A Book of Scripts, London, 1950. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/ uuv58hl [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
FORM FOLLOWS EMOTION
Here is another interpretation of Sullivan’s classic maxim which also deals with diversity and individuality but in the form of human emotions. Hartmut Esslinger is founder of the global design and strategy company known as Frog. His innovative approach to design refined ‘form follows function’ into Frog’s slogan of ‘form follows emotion’, pioneering a global design philosophy that sought a comprehensive approach to both the aesthetics and functionality of the design. ‘I always felt that “form follows function” was a simplistic and misunderstood reduction of Sullivan's wider description. I also believe that “function” is a must, however, humans always strived for a deeper meaning’ (Frog). Esslinger's significant work for well-known electronic brands such as Sony caught the eye of Steve Jobs who in 1981 was looking for the company to design a signature look for the new Macintosh line. In 1984 this successful collaboration resulted with the Apple IIc which took personal computers into a new age of visual user-friendliness and also became instant classics of design (fig. 5). Esslinger had a straightforward goal to achieve the right balance between software and hardware. 'With the aim to be the computer for the rest of us, the Macintosh was far easier to operate and more intuitive than the prevailing IBM desktop models; Frogdesign expressed that simplicity’ (Edwards, 1999). Therefore, not only an object is designed, but also a relationship with it.
Figure 5. Apple IIc computer, 1984. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/v7sdrco [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
Another person, exploring the importance of the emotional aspect in design is Don Norman, an American psychologist and usability consultant who is often recognised as the father of UX (this term first appeared in his book The Design of Everyday Things, which was first published in 1988). Like Esslinger, Norman is also known for a prominent work for Apple in the '90s, when he joined the company first as a “user experience architect” and then became the Vice President of Apple Computer’s Advanced Technology Group. Later in his book Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things (2004), Don Norman talks about form in design among other aspects and claims that ‘attractive things do work better—their attractiveness produces positive emotions, causing mental processes to be more creative, more tolerant of minor
difficulties’ (Norman, 2004). He comes to this conclusion by exploring three levels of human cognitive processing which lead to three corresponding forms of design: visceral, behavioural, and reflective. Shortly, these three levels capture how we emotionally react to visual experiences and they also can be mapped accordingly to such product characteristics as appearance, the pleasure and effectiveness of use and self-image, personal satisfaction and memories (Norman, 2004).
FORM FOLLOWS PROCESS
Unlike all already mentioned approaches dealing with solid objects in design, this one is mainly about finding a suitable algorithm in order to define the form in the process. Neri Oxman, a designer and professor at the MIT Media Lab, is known for the combination of design, biology, computing, and materials engineering in her interdisciplinary works of all scales. Her approach is based on form-finding, not form-making, arguing that ‘if indeed form is to follow function, how is that function tested, evaluated, validated; according to whom and by which criteria?’ (PopTech, 2009). Oxman believes that the nature, being a great multifunctional material engineer, has all the answers we may need. She investigates the material and performance of nature and describes her working method as computationally enabled form-finding, which is about bringing together material properties and environmental constraints, mixing them together and then generating form out of them. In a more practical way, it is about looking at natural examples, transferring them into digital realms and then back into the physical with produced design outputs. Focusing a lot on sustainability, Oxman also has an idea that instead of separation between materials and functions we have today, there is a possibility to move forward to designing and engineering systems that could incorporate performance criteria. In other words, nature can teach us how to build a structure that can sustain itself. Even in such a large scale as architecture, instead of using steel for the structural performance of the building and glass to let the light through, she believes we can create a material that would change its characteristics where it's needed to fulfil all the desired functions (PopTech, 2009).
Figure 6. Neri Oxman, Carpal Skin, Museum of Science, Boston, 2009. Available at: https:// tinyurl.com/uqgnkj8 [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
Other practitioners whose work is focused on processes rather than completed and defined forms are those of Moniker, an Amsterdam based interactive design studio by Luna Maurer & Roel Wouters. Within their multidisciplinary projects, they explore the social effects of media and technology on our data-driven society. In 2008 they formulated the Conditional Design Manifesto which contained their common views on art and design and reflected their approach to design and the way of working in general rather than chosen media. According to this approach, there are three main elements to work with: process, logic and input. The process is the result and it produces formations rather than forms. Logic is the main tool which is used to design the conditions through which the abovementioned process can take place. Rules they apply are used as constraints to sharpen the perspective on the process. Finally, the input is the main material which employs logic as well as stimulates and influences the whole process. This element comes from our complex environment. It could be nature, society and its human interactions. This kind of external collaboration within a regulated logic leads towards unpredictable forms of design, which display differences and illustrate the state of constant social changes (Walker Art Center, 2013).
Figure 7. Moniker, Red Fungus Series, Laboral Art and Industrial Creation, Gijon, 2010. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/qmcju7q [Accessed: 19th January, 2020]
Summing-up all the mentioned notions of form, interpretations of the original Sullivan's 'rule' and approaches to the design in general, the following conclusion derives quite obviously: design of any kind and scale definitely requires a function and should have a purpose, but in order to succeed its various forms have much more directions to follow.
Sarcasm: a Tool For Criticism
The widespread use of sarcasm as a critical tool in the modern world is something to be expected. Sarcastic remarks directed against the consumer culture dates back to at least the 1970s, and the term itself was first documented in Oxford English Dictionary in 1695. Even though the idea of using sarcasm as a weapon for criticism is not entirely new, it is still effective to this day and has become a tool often used by the creatives to build resistance against the culture of mindless mass consumption. The modern language of marketing and advertising provokes the so-called peaceful protests by individual designers and is also the reason for the emergence of a number of movements such as subvertizers and anti-brand activists, for whom sarcasm is the main language for expressing their position.
Subvertisement as a whole can be interpreted as a strategy for resistance against the culture of advertising, a somewhat peaceful protest. As claimed by Special Patrol Group in the interview for Huckmag (2016) ‘Not only does advertising frequently promote negative stereotypes, but it also dominates our visual realm and privileges extrinsic behaviors over intrinsic.’, which is what the members of the movement fight against. While it is hard to say when exactly subvertising originated as a method, the history of organized mass-subvertisement dates back to at least the 1970s. The earliest known form of subvertising belongs to the Billboard-Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions, also known as the B.U.G.A.U.P. collective, and was directed against tobacco advertising in 1973. Sometime later in 1977, the Billboard Liberation Front, also known as BLF, was founded in San Francisco. Their practice was directed towards what they called “improvement” of the outdoor advertising, with the longterm goal to inspire others to do the same. Both B.U.G.A.U.P. and BLF still run blogs that give advice to prospective practitioners and comment on their history.
Even though subvertising is a relatively modern term it can be used to describe any kind of action taken to subvert ads. This can vary from spontaneous actions in the graffiti style to the more organized and polished modern campaigns. Traditionally, subvertising has been driven by a variety of reasons and motivations: from sarcastic remarks and objections towards individual products and the consumer culture to satirical notes and comments directed at political leaders. Even though the techniques for modifying, manipulating, and reflecting upon certain subjects may remain mostly the same, today's subvertisers usually form more organized groups with a more specific vision. As Thomas Dekeyser (The Conversation, 2015) notes: ‘Today, the practice of subvertising is reaching novel heights. Collectives are starting to connect globally to form an ever-increasing force of resistance against the visual and mental implications of advertising.’ The reason for that is the rapid speed of consumer culture and aggressive advertisement expansion and political disagreements, that have reached new heights. All of it has provoked more extreme reactions and the need for more organized actions.
In terms of action, subvertising mainly consists of transforming the original or creating a new piece based on a particular ad. It promotes building resistance against both the visual and psychological effects of advertisement. In addition to this, it inspires critical thinking and reaction towards the modern-day adverts and the modern-day language of the capitalistic society. An example of such actions is a project by The Yes Man collective, where they recruited thousands of social activists to distribute 100,000 copies of a spoof New York Times Newspaper. The spoof made by members of the collective consisted of several fake articles and images, that were meant to look authentic when placed in what looked like a commonly trusted source. The goal was to use a tangible and trusted medium, in their case the New York Times, to argue for a specific future (The Yes Men, 2008).
Another movement with similar ideas is anti-brand activists. Their main goals are intended to illustrate ethical issues related to the advertised products. Whereas in subvertisement, the range of mediums varies from logo parodies, poster manipulation, and even video works, the main medium used by anti-brand activists is ironical spoof ads and precise doppelgängers of existing adverts and campaigns. The doppelgängers get pejoratively changed and spread via social media, blogs, and websites, such as Ad Busters. Such campaigns have proven to be quite effective, as Markus Giesler notes in the Journal of Marketing (2012) ‘A 2012 study concluded that doppelgänger brand images were able to
negatively affect sales’.
One of such spoof ads shared by Ad Busters (2011) is the Fashion Slashin’ series by Nancy Bleck. She mocks ads and campaigns from worldwide famous fashion companies and the beauty stereotypes they promote. Typically, such campaigns display borderline anorexic look for women and overly muscular bodies for men, often putting the advertised images through intense photoshop manipulations upon releasing to enhance the resemblance of a particular beauty standard. Bleck explores the reality behind such images and mocks the unrealistic body standards and unhealthy body image by recreating the adverts, that display the opposite body types than normally promoted in the fashion world and working with slogans that represent the behind the scenes world of the fashion advertisement much more accurate than the original ones. Bleck, N. 2011, Fashion Slashin’. Reality for Men
Another example of similar reflection and use of sarcasm although via different mediums is Tom Sachs’ practice and his series called Cultural Prosthetics in particular. First known for his installation Hello Kitty Nativity that depicts traditional nativity scene that he created for Barney's shop in New York, his work focuses and reflects upon the obsession with consumerist culture and the influence the world of advertising has on the society. From the very beginning, Sachs did not hesitate to change the classic motives to fit his style; For the Hello Kitty Nativity, he replaced the key characters with contemporary pop-culture figures. The Three Kings were made to look like Bart Simpson, the Virgin Mary was replaced with the pop singer Madonna, wearing a leather outfit and posed with her legs spread, and instead of the Christ figure, Sachs placed the children's toy Hello Kitty, shown as a cat with a
beanie on its head. The new characters were all dressed in clothes by Chanel and Hermes, and the McDonald’s logo was placed over the crib. This way Sachs draws attention to the problem of brand obsession and the culture of consumerism, where everything means nothing yet pretends to have a deeper meaning. The installation was taken down soon after due to many angry calls from the offended by the Christ-cat religious activists. Sachs argues to have chosen Hello Kitty precisely for the reason of it not having a meaning, which makes the negative reaction that the installation caused even more ironic than the original piece. ‘She does not have a TV show, she only exists as plastic crap. In this time of consumerism, there is nothing like that. Everything really tries to mean something’, states Sachs (Artist Talk, 2015). Sachs, T. 1994, Hello Kitty Nativity, [Duct tape, synthetic polymer paint]
This was followed by Sachs’ first solo exhibition in 1995 called Cultural Prosthetics. As a part of the project, Sachs combined high-end fashion brands with weapons and created grenade sculptures with the Hermes logo, a Glock pistol combined with Tiffany identity, and a makeshift rifle. For an exhibition called Creativity is the Enemy that took place later that year, he added the Chanel guillotine, which later became one of his signature pieces and the Prada concentration camp model to the list of installations. Therefore, instead of looking dangerous and deadly the weapons looked glamorous and desirable just from the added elements of famous branding. As mentioned in the exhibition review on the Trend Hunter portal (Young, 2013), ‘Decapitating in designer style, modern society would probably make it legal thanks to the branding scrawled all over it. The allure of the Chanel name would put anyone in a trance, which seems more dangerous that this beheading machine.’ On the one hand, the quote describes the effect the media has on society perfectly; Paired with comments from all over social media, it is evident that even such a deadly weapon become something to be desired, simply by having a popularised logo on it. Sachs, T. 1995, Tiffany Glock (Model 19), [cardboard, thermal adhesive, ink]
On the other hand, the whole series and especially the Chanel Guillotine could easily refer to the death sentence people's uncontrollable consumption is giving the world. Sachs sarcastically notes and mocks society's obsession with chic brands and reflects upon the consequences such obsession has.
Sachs, T. 1998, Chanel Guillotine (Breakfast Nook), [Mixed media]
As obvious as the effect the media has on society is, it is not easy to resist. As noted by Sachs in his interview for The Talks (2016), ‘This is something that has been plaguing me my whole life: the effect advertising has over our self-image. Even though we understand that we continue to be part of the addiction and contribute to its power.’ Commenting and creating spoofs and satirical remarks on the market whilst still being part of it creates cognitive dissonance. Both Sachs’ practice and subvertisement movement can be seen as antipodes of the unhealthy nature of the aggressive advertisement and as a rebellion against the culture of capitalist society, yet it can not exist outside it. Creators are still part of the consumer culture and still engage with brand machines, that they fight against. Whether it is buying a new pair of underwear or a new phone, without putting themselves into complete social isolation they are forced to engage with what they believe is wrong. Sachs notes that he is a victim of the consumerist system as much, as he benefits from the luxury of the experience (Robertson, 2016).
The main goal of the projects such as Cultural Prosthetics and Fashion Slashin’ are meant to prevent the advertisement industry from establishing false values and to build resistance against the culture of mindless mass consumption. In short, both anti-brand activists and individual creatives such as Tom Sachs work against the mass-market machine, political manipulation, and toxic standards to create a healthier society using sarcasm and irony as a tool. Whereas the main language for such actions is either sarcastic remarks or ironical spoof projects, the majority of activists cannot exist outside of what they fight against, therefore creating cognitive dissonance. In such a scenario, sarcasm might not only work as a provocative gesture to gain attention and build a “better” society but also a coping mechanism of some sort.
Overall, the consumer culture that gets glorified also provokes a wave of sarcastic remarks from the creatives all over the world. It is impossible to ignore the negative aspects of consumerism, the unhealthy stereotypes and beauty standards the industry promotes, and the intense obsession with the brands promoted by the world of advertising. In such conditions, the widespread use of sarcasm as a tool for criticism is to be expected. The modern language of marketing and advertising provokes the so-called peaceful protests, the emergence of various anti-brand movements, and practice by individual creatives aimed to build resistance against false values and the culture of mindless mass consumption. For the majority of such activists, sarcasm and irony are the main languages for expressing their beliefs and a tool to create a healthier society free of toxic stereotypes and unhealthy obsessions promoted by the consumerist society.
GRAPHIC DESIGN IN DIGITAL CAPITALIST SOCIETY: PROBLEMS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
In his 'In the Flow' Boris Groys suggests that the supreme objective of humanity was always, from the very beginning of civilisation, the search of totality. Totality as universality, thereby a way out of particularity, the only possibility to stop being just a part and become a whole. (Groys, 2018)
Traditionally the role of immortalising unifier of society was a competence of religion and church. By the end of the XIX century, industrial revolution rendered humanity even more powerful than any gods our predecessors could imagine. The rise of computer era and the internet in particular was one of the most promising ways to consolidate civilisation and build a free society. However, by 2020, many media critics, such as Geert Lovink, agreed that eventually the internet turned into an ugly dystopian capitalism-driven machine that produces precarity and creative underclass. One of the specialities affected mostly was graphic design. (Lovink, 2019)
II. Background & Context
Traditionally being a field that separates conceptual part from production due to the complexity of technical processes, graphic design required dozens of specialities within itself. But with the emergence of desktop publishing, suddenly a huge range of production artists, from typesetters and colour separators to printers and photomechanical technicians, became outdated all at once. One ultimate tool replaced thousands of people.
Andrew Blauvelt in 'Tools, or Post-production for The Graphic Designer' writes that graphic design tools of the past were bearing a gatekeeping function, which was eliminated with an open access to digital instruments. In a long term, this easiness did not only demystified design practice, but increased general awareness of the activity as such, leading to the growth of interest towards design. More designers began to appear, including self-taught, as the border between being a newbie and a professional started to erode. In the first decade after the rise of computer era, the competition within a field of graphic design went up, while wages went down, the craft experienced a decline, and the market became flooded with amateur work. (Blauvelt, 2011)
In 'What Design Can't Do', Silvio Lorusso mentions that among the variety of trends proliferating within the internet, appropriation is one of the main. And if in the 1980s designers were already referring to works of the past, like Russian Constructivism, a decade ago focus had shifted to the 'design without designers', as Lorusso puts it. Tibor Kalman was one of the first to resort to vernacularity and find a fascination in everyday graphics. In the beginning it seemed like the contextual field of widely acknowledged design expands beyond the limits of established culture, allowing for a variety to bloom. But in the 2000s, with the development of internet culture, graphic design was eventually deprived of any reference points and became a chaotic mixture of all imaginable visual genres. (Lorusso, 2017)
As design became more accessible, Blauvelt notes, the people from outside the profession started to explore image making with a new passion, discovering processes and possibilities that were unthinkable before, especially for a non-designer. While an older generation of designers was experiencing a crisis of identity, the young ones began to shape a new market. The internet provided them with immense flow of references and platforms to publish works on, at the same time not allowing to choose a particular audience to target. The information started to circulate and spread faster than ever, creating what Blauvelt calls 'a feedback loop', when one design decision, being a reaction to the previously seen one, gives birth to another one, and often this appropriation has a purely visual, contextless nature. This constant stream of responses shaped a new post-critical space, a postmodern version of Dark Age. (Blauvelt, 2011)
By the mid 2000s, Graphic design became a part of popular culture. But not only this. Gradually it started to appear in contexts that previously didn't imply the use of it, turning into a common practice, from choosing a new Facebook cover to a more complex tasks, such as laying out a presentation in Keynote. Ian Bogost generally refers to this phenomenon as 'hyper-employment'. Neoliberal agenda demands an increased efficiency from every worker, full devotion that requires performing more tasks than your official job practice implies. Life is almost unimaginable now without managing your monthly schedule, promoting yourself on Behance, retouching photos for Instagram, writing texts. Lorusso indicates that a lot of these routine tasks initially were operated within a speciality of graphic design. He calls this aforementioned state a dilution and generalisation of graphic design, that, again, affects the professionals by rendering their skills less valuable. (Lorusso, 2017)
Yet computer technology kept evolving, and in the 2010s graphic designers faced another rival — automation. Geert Lovink in 'The Critical Theory of The Internet' describes the collapse of dotcoms after web 2.0 had consolidated into social networks. He suggests that it fuelled the development of blogs and the 'template culture', because the need of making a website from a scratch became outdated, as blogs were hosted by platforms with proprietary designs to choose from and customise. Bots were taking over the sphere of simple editing tasks, web-designers' work devaluated. Lovink assumes that the aspiration for open access and participatory culture turned the creators of customising soft into victims of free culture, unable to monetise their own labour. (Lovink, 2019)
Ironically Youtube keeps selling me a free Wix logo maker, while I am investigating the growth of precarity among creative class. Wix allows to choose from a palette of styles and references, providing a user with dozens of options, from Futurist-like bold titles to lettering. Typical client's ultimate dreams are coming true — now they can endlessly play around typefaces and colours themselves. No designer is needed anymore, and no designer could compete with a quickie printer capacity of a machine, as Lorraine Wild formulated.
Blauvelt asks rhetorically, what is the added value of designers, if a content they used to produce can now be made by anyone, even a computer? Although the computer couldn't immediately demystify less tangible aspects of a designer's work, such as a craft of typography, taste for balance, harmony, composition, and the very shape-making skills, design community made up a new story about the value of the profession, lead by an instinct of self-preservation. Instead of concentrating on visual surfaces, designers turned their gazes to theory and writing — highly intellectualised outlook on design. (Blauvelt, 2011)
Yet Lorusso mentions that this new role remained a domain of elite art-schools and proliferated primarily on premises of universities, which increased the gap between real world practitioners and design institute graduates. Thereby the intellectual realm of a designer's work could only be acknowledged by other designers. It also implies that client should be educated enough to recognise the conceptual value of a product, which is, in fact, unlikely. This is how thousands of designers end up doing a 'bullshit job', a term coined by anthropologist David Graeber, to sustain themselves, while trying to solve an ambitious problem to keep being 'real designers'. In this vicious circle design schools become 'precarity factories', as Lorusso names them, and a real need for a conceptual discussion is only maintained throughout the process of education. (Lorusso, 2017)
III. Case study & Analysis
The situation looks incredibly pessimistic. What is the role of a designer in the world where every year a new tool is being introduced to take another traditional competence away from a designer? Are there any decent alternatives? Or from now on a designer is forced to work in a call centre in order to secretly practice meaningful and intellectually fulfilling graphic design at night?
Silvio Lorusso made an attempt to answer this question in his essay 'What Design Can't Do'. He appropriates Hakim Bey’s concept of temporary autonomous élites and applies it to design schools, envisioning them as think tanks — places to redefine the idea of work and develop structures of more efficient and satisfied society. (Lorusso, 2017)
This is not the only proposal. Tools that once deprived designers from their workplaces can become allies instead of enemies. The most obvious one is automation. Blauvelt refers to the work of Philip M. Parker, a business professor, as a positive example. Parker had managed to automate the process of online research, writing, and layout, to end up with more than 100,000 books produced with a help of neural networks. Designers could possibly do the same, leaving a job that can be automated to machines and taking a role of curators instead. Appropriation and selection over creation may prove a better decision in a world of remixing, reinterpreting, rebooting, and recycling. (Blauvelt, 2011)
Another niche yet to be explored is the creation of tools. Template culture devaluated the individual work of a designer, but allowed designers to produce templates and the scenarios of customisation. Computer, as Blauvelt wrote, is a meta-tool that gives one an ability to make other tools. For a designer, it means an ability to help other people design easier. Jurg Lehni designed Scriptographer, a program that translates digital vectors to more analog devices. Casey Reas and Ben Fry created Processing, an open source programming language that many other designers have used to create visualizations. (Blauvelt, 2011)
The hierarchy within the sphere of content-production needs reinterpretation as well. Geert Lovink indicates the new tendency of eradicating a border between labour and game, the process that gave birth to a very special form of exploitation. Online-platforms represent themselves as leisure facilities. However, they convert the attention of the viewers into a commodity. A group of developers from YouTube earn millions of dollars by simply embedding advertisement in users' videos, while paying almost nothing to the content authors. Thereby a professional practitioner from a creative industry finds her or himself in a more vulnerable position than a user for who the production of a content is a recreational activity. (Lovink, 2019)
Although the very system has to be revised, some designers make use of their audience and involve it into production, taking a position of an orchestrator of frameworks, enabling design to happen instead of making it. Studio Moniker specialises on interactive design and researches the social effects of technology. They ran a few user-experience-based projects. For instance, 'Place a Stone' — a participatory memorial for the World War II victims in Amsterdam. Visitors are invited to place stones themselves to help write the names of thirty-two victims. Or a scarf for Unmade, a pattern of which can be distorted by a website visitor by moving a pointer. (Studio Moniker, 2016)
However, the creators of content, even the participatory one, are still doomed to take a precarious position of creative underclass without a rethought system of monetisation. Geert Lovink analysed the existent situation in his essay 'The Meme Design Principles' and stated that authors should strive for a more egalitarian ways to reward their work. For now content can only be monetised through direct and deliberate donations, while the main money current keeps flowing to pockets of corporations that only distribute content without creating it. Lovink insists on building a new model of business communication, based on peer-to-peer scheme, that will allow people who do a real job start getting a fair compensation. (Lovink, 2016) According to Lorusso, graphic designers, performing a think tank role, may become the ones to come up with these alternative systems. (Lorusso, 2017)
The 1990s hopes for a better world of free content and liberated opinions are long ago left behind. Digital escapism proved itself a questionable strategy. The disappointment about the internet and computer culture became a commonly admitted fact, Lovink states. (Lovink, 2016) Yet, as a meta-tool, the internet can be transformed into anything, interpreted and employed in the way users choose. Instead of paranoid neo-luddist fantasies of dystopian future in a civilisation ruled by machines and corporations, with people relegated to inferior consumers and impoverished workers, a new paradigm can be adopted — the one of turning the disadvantages of technology into an allied force. And there already are clusters that cultivate alternative paths. Which, in its turn, fuels the collective hope and offers prospects of Groys' totality and unity utopia, long-awaited for from the very cradle of civilisation.
The role of play
CHILDHOOD,TOY AND PLAY
For my research I’m going to focus on childhood, toy and play.
‘One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood’ (2018, p. 27) that what thinks Agatha Christie. ‘Childhood is another country but also a waiting-room, a state of accommodation and acceptance’ (2002, p. unknown) said Antoine de Saint Exupéry because and I completely agree with his statement. That’s a fact that all grownups used to be children. It’s true that childhood was different for everyone but it had a big impact on their entire lives. Moreover, childhood is a time of various questions, opportunities and consequences.In the world of childhood reign their laws, their own rules and down space. Kids completely differ from adults. They have a different height, children do not have such physical strength and mental skills. Children see the world with new eyes. Often adults forget, what is like to be a kid.
THE MEANING OF PLAY
In order grown ups could feel themselves as a full member of the society сhildren have
to live in a world of beauty, play, music. Pablo Picasso states that ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up’ (New Times. 1976, p.unknown). For solving this issue it is important to allow a child to play enough in his childhood. Play is a sparkle that lights up a flame in inquisitiveness mind and curiosity. A dutch psychologist and culturologist Johan Huizinga writes in the book Homo Ludens (1938) about the main role of play. He puts the deep meaning in the concept of play. The culturologist believes that without any game components can exist neither one kind of a human’s cultural activity such as: justice, war, philosophy, art and so forth. The culture itself appeared from play, Johan Huizinga considers neither the labor originated a human but the leisure time did it. During that time a person could implement his fantasies, develop imagination, create artistic values, communicate with others this definition of play gives the psychologist. He describes the term play and it is an activity which do willingly in specific place and time. The play is necessarily based on the rules. It is accompanied by tension and thrill. The essence of play implies games that relate to intelligence, dexterity with
the use of wit and strength. He considers that the play itself is tend not only to people but animals too.
Johan Huizinga brings an example of playing puppies. Games of primitive humans are similar to children and
animals. Their game also, includes elements of sequence, tension, movement, and excitement. A child plays with a complete self-forgetfulness, an athlete plays with seriousness and courage, an actor plays in full immersion in the game. A violinist goes through sacred thrill. Hence, the manner of play may be inherent in most sublime actions. An adult plays like a child for enjoyment and relaxation. Although, the adult understands that this activity is not real and it does not connect with his routine.The psychologist claims that play is an exercise on the threshold of a serious, adult life.
THE EVOLUTION OF TOY
In my point of view one of the necessary objects in playing is a toy.
The expert Jiří Dostál’s claims that toy has experienced many historical changes throughout evolution era and even at the current time it has an immeasurable value because its nature remains unchangeable. From the book: Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt: For the Use of Students and Travellers the first toy occurred 4000 years ago. They were made by primitive humans at that time those things were made from stone, pottery and wood. The first rattle originated in Egypt. The rattle was protecting an infant from evil spirits. The word “toy” was initially used in France during the era of Renaissance.
Toy serves as an education part of a child. As a matter of fact, preschool children in need of diversity toys that challenge them to use their minds, bodies and feelings. When a child plays with a toy, it positively effects on the cognitive, emotional and physical development of a kid. For a child it symbolises the world in a realistic or stylized way, the universe which surrounds them, motivates their activity, living and acting. During the play children apply toys which determine the type, manner and richness of their playing activities.
Thus, a child grows and develops. He needs special toys for harmonious formation. What are these toys? Educational toys are the toys that teach something. They evolve imagination, memory, fantasy, logic and thinking and motor skills. Hence, the toys contribute to the mental and creative growth for a baby.
CREATORS OF TOY
One of the ancient authors was a German
pedagog and preschool teacher Freidrich Froebel.
In his work The Education Of Man he makes
a conclusion of a child who reveals during the play and it’s the main idea of the publication. He applied music, dance and game for the educational process. Freidrich Froebel invented the definition of kindergarten and he was one of the first creators who designed educational toys such as: paper origamis, brain teasers, cubes and blocks.
His contrivances for children the writer called Froebel’s gifts. For the 19th century it was a revolution upheaval.
The same theme unfolds Bruno Munari who was an Italian artist and tutor who had
been designing educational toys and books (2007). He’s one of the most pioneering and ingenious thinkers of the 20th century, who deeply explores the area of visual narration in children’s literature. By the artist opinion books had to motivate to think creatively. The books like: The Elephant’s Wish (1945), Zoo (1963), In the dark of the night (1961),The circus in the mist (1969) which visually demonstrate it. For instance, in the book Zoo the author highlights his evident observations about the animals such as: Some camels are more bumpy than others. Something similar say kids when they go to the zoo. Children are more sharp-eyed than adults. Also, Bruno Munari created the cards that are called Visual Games. They consist of 72 cards, with 48 transparent ones that can be superimposed to compose complex images and stimulate a child’s creativity. A child can overlap pictures of trees, this way he creates a wood. By adding some rain, the sun or the moon, or some birds, a passing dog, or whatever he wants. The child is able of changing the sequence of his story which consists of various images. Moreover, the designer invented Montessori Mobile-Black and White Baby Mobile is constructed from two-dimensional geometrical shapes that are in black and white color because new borns cannot define colors.
The slow movement of this toy allows a kid to focus his attention on this specific object. The Montessori Mobile is produced from plastic sheer, paper, birch wood, cotton cord.
CUISENAIRE RODS AND DIENES BLOCKS
Emile-Georges Cuisenaire was a Belgian school teacher, who designed a colorful set of rods for teaching students basic Mathematics. Emile-Georges Cuisenaire thought that education goes in an effective way if a kid is able to play with this visual aid.
He was inspired by Maria Montessori and Friedrich Fröbel in order to create rods. The idea of the rods is simple and interesting. They have different length from 1 to 10 cm and various 10 colors. Each rod is a number which has specific color and length. This object contributes in the development of logical thinking, exploring for patterns and concentrating attention. Here’s another practitioner Zoltan Paul Dienes who related to games too. He was a Hungarian mathematician, psychologist, pedagog-author of the play approach for children in terms of education. In order to evolve analytical abilities and the logical ones Zoltan Paul Dienes elaborated games. The mathematician used blocks that differ by color, shape, size and width. The game that involves Diene blocks have impact on the development of children’s speech.
In conclusion let’s highlight great meaning of play in human’s civilisation, in adults and kids life. It’s not surprising that nowadays, psychologists and educators came to the understanding of the earliest significance in development of kids. In shops appear a lot of educational toys. At the present there are various brands that manufacture such toys like: the Fisher-Price company which produces toys for children that don’t have a sophisticated design and it’s colorful. The company is famous for durable toys that offer a lot of opportunities like awaking imagination.
By the manufacture’s opinion, all elements of growth are: learning, fine and general motor skill, imagination, creativity, speaking, communication and emotional development. Yookidoo’ is an American brand that makes toys for babies that bring fun, entertainment, exploration and discovery. Chicco is an Italian company that manufactures various products for infants that encourage to evolve motor skills and fundamental activity
for baby’s growth.
It is clearly seen from the examples that were mentioned above that teachers, psychologists and modern toy makers are aiming to prepare children for changing world and new challenges that occur in front of him. Edutainment is one of the ways by moving with the times. This is an education through entertainment and implementation of games elements in education.Edutainment is a special approach of showing how to soak up information through entertaining process. One of the most complicated things is teaching children rather than giving education to a person who studies in college. It is very important that kids would be be able to absorb the given information from the first class.
It is necessary to base a taste and interest for learning among the young ones. Children are interested in play and they want to see the world as fun and amusement in general. The ground-breaking educational method was invented in order to reach the interests of the young audience through having fun and learning it productively. Currently education is full of tests during the learning time because the main goal is making this study more effective and productive. The idea of edutainment is not modern because it has been experienced for the past decades. This strategy is becoming more popular nowadays. The the concept of edutainment is often stimulating children to soaking up new things without losing the fun component.
Everything new is actually well-forgotten old because Bruno Munari, Freidrich Froebel, Emile-Georges Cuisenaire, Zoltan Paul Dienes used in their methods absolutely the same idea of teaching kids by playing with them, maintaining interest and their engagement in the cognitive process.