Lamar Dodd College of Art
University of Georgia
An unstable world surrounds and awaits the designer. It was once a place for the designer to shape, solve, and form, but increasingly it’s a ground that must be reshaped, reformed, and reclaimed. Most importantly, it’s a world that the designer must help to translate, interpret, and respond to.
The pirates of Silicon Valley would like the designer to think that workflows and data informed interactions will help them disrupt every corner of the earth to bring about a new machine age. But such preoccupations are short sighted and only continue the manufacture of destructive productivity. The designer ends up playing the same role just in a different false utopia.
Are solutions the answer? Is the designer a solver or synthesizer, a sage, a medium? Is communications design a fancy way of reading the tea leaves? As silly as this sounds there is some merit to having foresight and confidence to counsel on the unknown.
More than Modernist identities and time saving applications the domain of the designer is most ripe when he/she is a cultural investigator, a sleuth of symbology, and archaeologist of message; this position is a practiced and learned one. Therefore one must constantly be looking and, like the gambler, always searching inside the deck for the hidden edge. Inside the cracks and crevices of the world one can piece together a different story of how this world will move. Meditate on the overlooked, discarded, buried and hidden. Reconnect and reexamine the places and spaces one walks by every day. In such a lucid and open state is where the design can author a voice that stands without the armature of client or brief.
To observe and search for a message is a domain reserved for the artist, but the designer must exist outside the limited realm of service. By unshackling oneself from the assignment can the medial position of the designer be captured and activated to lead and shape a future. Then, like the architect and his desire to shape the minds of others through plan and section, the designer can mold ideas.
Reflection on Findings
The rain reflects off the street with a filtered gleam that includes the air pollution. Puddles are filled with more than dirt and dust. Chunks of someone’s dinner float into the sewer and grease from the restaurant’s waste mix with oil and the exhaust of drunken taxis. The neon glow casts a vibrating pattern over views in all directions. The haze is filled with an equal amount of decadence and destruction.
Walking the streets, climbing out of the subway, and moving through the crowd the din of hums and conversation flow through my ears. The sounds are still unfamiliar and although I can grasp bits and pieces, the total of their contents are beyond my grasp. Sometimes this lack of comprehension feels like an unhealthy meal that I’m not fully able to digest. But at moments the buzz of the streets is filled with the same multicolored pitter patter of a New York street. The shapes, tones, and colors of these sidewalks are becoming more varied with each passing month. Words like ‘global’ and ‘international’ aren’t just aspirational signifiers but apt descriptions of the city.
It is here that I find myself. It’s a different kind of isolated echo chamber. I recognize the streets and alleys as belonging to my own past as well as my ancestors’. I feel this comfort because I feel like I can lay claim to this space, whereas across the pond my place is always framed by difference. A difference which I am often reminded that I am Other. I came to this place accepting a big part of myself on this world; that I will always be foreign no matter where I reside. This state is not just a feeling or a condition, but who I am.
I have removed myself from the places I have come to know. This voluntary exile can be viewed as a type of retreat considering the timing of events. I ask myself ‘am I running? If so, then what is it that I am running from?’ With each corner I turn there’s a film of familiarity and foreignness that shrouds my vision. Over time I’ve come to appreciate this cloaked space of un-belonging. There’s a different kind of anonymity to being foreign in this place. I am at once both recognized and ignored. I am included in a way where I will never reach the inner sanctum, but where I am oddly necessary. My position is granted an unparalleled privilege.