Welcome to the very first blog post of Visual Design for Screen & Print. This semester I will be learning about the theories and practices behind visual designs, and I can’t be more excited about it. I have always wanted to learn about design in a systematic way so that I can take advantage of my creative skills. (Also, I really wanna stop relying on Google when I have to use any Adobe stuff)
Anyways, jumping into this week’s reading. One of the first things I noticed that the readings are packed with statements; which I assume is to provide inspiration for our design manifesto assignment. While reading the design manifestos, I was particularly surprised by F.T. Marinetti’s Manifestos of Futurism. To me, there were many things I do not agree with, especially in his misogynistic statements and rejection of the past. To me, it seems like he envisions futurism in a lens of cis-gender male experience and glorifies violence and aggression as a progressive movement that will shake up the current state of society. Upon knowing more about the historical context of Marinetti’s piece, I understand where he is coming from and somewhat agree with his idea of using aggression to re-mobilize a society that has grown stagnant.
I also found some similarity in Rodchenko and Moholy-Nagy’s manifestos, as they are both calling for a unification of art with technology and industrial advancements. Compared to Marinetti’s statements, I feel more comfortable with these two’s ideas as I agree with the appeal of constructivists and Bauhaus to democratize the practice of art and see craftsmanship as the essence of all arts. As art has been used as a sign of social status by the bourgeoisie, their proclamations are not only reasonable to their specific times but also still relevant for the current age.
I felt very inspired reading through Helfand’s Dematerialization of Screen Space. Helfand’s comments on the limitations of digital screens made me think about how creativity is often subject to technological capabilities such as processing speeds and display size. The vernacular of modern computing is always associated with limitless possibilities and vast potential; but we often ignore the fact that after all these years of seeing through screens, our media are still confined by the permanent frame of our screens. We see a lot of “smart” products that reinvent themselves by merely adding a screen with a sleek design and an app that will connect the product to our phones. I agree with Helfand that the new avant-garde, or, the “next big thing” lies somewhere beyond our practical considerations, and it’s becoming increasingly important for designers to start moving and responding to the broader picture.
Feeling inspired, I decided to write from a personal perspective as to how I have experienced design works. I think it’s a good practice for me to try to put in words what I care about in a piece of design and to have the opportunity to look back on what I thought about design by the end of this semester.
When this week’s manifesto is being assigned, I quickly jotted down some statements and words that I thought about. I wrote: “design should be intentional”, “makes sense”, and “inclusive”. So I took these as the starting points of my manifesto and began to dig deeper into why I thought about these things.
Today, the practice of design is being increasingly democratized by digital tools and platforms; for instance, users now have the agency to design how their content is being displayed on social media, and design tools are continuously simplified and streamlined to give more access to people who may not have a design background. It is an empowerment to have these abilities: as every piece of information is competing for someone’s attention, being able to deliver and arrange information effectively is now more important than ever. Nevertheless, out of all the beautifully designed social media posts, infographics, videos, posters, and other design products, there is often a design pattern or color scheme that is being repeatedly used.
To me, design work is about intentionality, self-expression, and inclusivity. I don’t have an issue with the currently popular “instagram-esque” design, but what I do care about is the connotation behind all these designs. I think that it is crucial to make design decisions with intentions and to be able to explain these decisions with the design work itself. When a design loses its intentions, the message that is being carried may be lost or distorted. If that’s the case, then where is the purpose of design? Or, to put this in the context of graphic design, why did we organize all these messages, symbols, and information just for them to express nothing?
I believe that there is always an element of self-expression to design; because it is a medium used by humans to carry some sort of message, and frankly, I don’t know what a “neutral and objective” design looks like. So, as an audience, it is always inspiring when I am able to tell the logic behind a series of design choices. Design work should reflect creativity and the context in which it answers to.
Last but not least, although a piece of design is mostly determined by its creator, the audience should be included as a part of its consideration. Especially in the world of user interface and user experience design, inclusivity has to be the center of the work. Since UI/UX speaks specifically to a group of people, making sure a design is being considerate of their wants and needs affects their access to not only the design but the technology as well.
At the end of the day, design work has to make sense to someone.