For the final week of the module, the theme we are ending on is New Steps. The week’s content encourages us to consider how ideas would be perceived in new environments. The lectures looked at extending designs to new realms and paradigms. This is certainly the case when building a brand identity, the design must be able to extend to create an experience. Last week I looked at how Disney has been able to apply and adapt their brand to create tailored and appropriate experiences around the globe. This week I am excited to explore the idea of extending a brand’s message into a new realm, particularly perhaps one that currently exists on-screen or in print, into something larger and more prominent, disruptive, in our real world.
This week’s lectures were in three parts, with the first two revisiting the practitioners we have become familiar with over the course of the module. On the topic of New Steps, the practitioners deliberated on the potential future definitions of design practice, and what sectors may need to change in line with these.
The standout point to me in this first section was raised by several practitioners, both Kristoffer Soelling and Tom Finn of Regular Practice, and Sarah Boris. They highlighted the changing role of the designer, a point which has come up frequently over the course of the module. Sarah reflects that newer designers younger than her will graduate with a broader range of skills, whereas her generation tended to have specialisms. Regular Practice add how practices generally tend to have far fewer employees for this reason, as practitioners are expected to possess a wider skillset as design becomes increasingly vague.
In Week 10, Kristoffer Soelling talked in his lecture about how graphic design is becoming much more accessible, with Microsoft Word allowing anyone to begin setting type and considering design. Templates and other reusable systems, buttons and interfaces allow all to employ graphic design principles. It is comparable to when footwear was only available from experienced shoemakers, whereas now the majority of people no longer opt for this, due to a variety of cheaper alternatives (Medium, 2019). This explains graphic design becoming more ‘vague’ as Soelling notes, due to clients coming in with a clearer idea of what they’d like the end product to look like.
The points above are further reinforced when the practitioners examine what sectors may need to change. The changing role of the graphic designer is highlighted by Simon Manchipp of SomeOne, who notes that we as designers ought to ensure we come up with ideas that connect with people, rather than as he earlier put it, ‘jumping straight into conversations about typography’. We need to consider how our designs make people feel, and their wider impact on society.
There is a problem there for the younger designers which is; how equipped am I to deal with this complex set of problems like the environment? Fashion students for instance are often hitting stress points because fashion is very much under attack for the amount of pollution and the amount of waste that it’s generating.Maziar Raein
In the final instalment of the week’s lectures, Maziar Raein is in conversation with Susanna Edwards. During the conversation, Maziar also touches on the challenges faced by young designers and design students, mentioning his work with fashion students who have faced criticisms for the wasteful nature of fast fashion. Whilst this highlights a need for change in these industries, and a great shift towards better sustainability, graduates now are in a position where they need to defend their career choices. This links back to Soelling’s predictions for graphic design to become increasingly ‘vague’ – young designers must almost justify their worth by possessing broader skillsets, and being able to contribute to marketing and strategy conversations, etc.
Our challenge this week was to take one of our design interests and investigate how the idea can be improved, disrupted, or retold when it shifts into a new paradigm. As soon as I read the challenge brief, I was determined to finish this module by investigating an application I haven’t previously. Still feeling inspired from last week’s Breaking News 2.0, Patrick Thomas’ mobile newsroom, and Morag Myerscough’s Touring ‘Belonging’ Bandstand from Week 9 – I was keen to look into transforming an existing design into an installation.
Set on an installation, I originally wanted to create a disruptive and impactful statement on a current affairs issue, considering using Kraken Rum’s branding and ocean-inspired illustrations for an ocean clean up campaign, or to tackle climate change generally in some way. On further reflection, I considered the events of this year and the psychological effects they have had on us as individuals. Stress, worry, and mental health problems are at an all-time high as we navigate uncharted territory. Almost one in five adults in the UK are likely to be experiencing some form of depression, nearly double the rate before the pandemic, according to to Office for National Statistics (The Guardian, 2020).
Being stuck indoors all day, and with limited exercise opportunities, body image concerns and searches for weight loss methods have also been on the rise (The Independent, 2020). We have all been stuck with our thoughts, which can take a huge toll on our self-esteem. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, by Florence Given, is a powerful feminist discussion, which seeks to uplift all women and encourage us to both love and accept ourselves. During this testing time, this book has been a god send, personally. In addition to its inspiring content, its bright and sunny exterior, illustrations and design style really appeal to me.
I considered how I could create an installation that radiates positivity, and considered Sarah Boris’ note in the lecture about how as a designer nowadays she often gets involved in the marketing side of her projects, too. With this in mind, I wanted to create something worth photographing and sharing on social media, with the potential for going viral and spreading the message even further. I looked into Selfie Factories in the UK – pop up fixtures, sometimes referred to as museums, where visitors can pose for photographs in beautiful, brightly coloured sets, with props such as bath tubs, swing seats, and even sets designed to replicate underground trains! They put all the sets under one roof and aim to promote positivity, self-love, and wholesome fun (The Selfie Factory, 2020).
Criticism of installations such as The Selfie Factory, along with social media culture in general, decry the use of such services as vanity (Vice, 2019). It is easy to dismiss them as superficial, and while the concept of The Selfie Factory is new and novel, the criticisms against social media culture is quite often rooted in tearing down women. Young women are the target audience for the book, and this criticism may deter some from venturing to features such as The Selfie Factory. Therefore, my installation needed to be functional and inspirational, with social sharing entirely optional. The most important point was that the viewer walks away with their head held even slightly higher.
The colour palette and graphic style of the book’s cover have also informed by installation’s design, but it is also influenced by current mental health data and the book’s overarching message – to be confident in our own skin. The idea for a mirror to be at the centre of the installation came from the digital tools we have relied on whilst staving off loneliness during lockdown – FaceTime and Zoom – which have forced us to come face-to-face with a constant feedback loop of a camera pointed at our faces, unflattering angles, lighting and all (Refinery 29, 2020).
In fact, the rise of Zoom has correlated with plastic surgery enquiries, with more and more people turning to drastic measures to remedy what they perceive to be imperfections (Ad Week, 2020).
My installation design can take the form of a pop-up, a cubicle, or surrounding an existing mirror. The idea is to extend the book’s design style to where we critically examine our own reflections, but instead accompany the mirror with positive reinforcement. The idea is not to cover our reflection, but to emphasise that what we see in the mirror is worthy, just the way it is.
After posting to the Ideas Wall, I received some really positive feedback, and was pleased that the intended message of my installation was received! The nature of my installation encourages social sharing, meaning just one person’s enjoyment and inspiration from the design has the potential to reach many more.
Ad Week. (2020). Let’s Keep the Psychological Impact of the Lockdown in Mind: Body Dysmorphia. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.adweek.com/programmatic/lets-keep-the-psychological-impact-of-the-lockdown-in-mind-body-dysmorphia/. [Accessed 9 December 2020].
The Guardian. (2020). ‘She was left with no one’: how UK mental health deteriorated during Covid. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/21/left-no-one-uk-mental-health-deteriorated-covid. [Accessed 9 December 2020].
The Independent. (2020). During lockdown I realised I wasn’t dealing with my body dysmorphia well – so I have made a change that helped. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/body-dysmorphia-weight-lockdown-coronavirus-exercise-a9519051.html. [Accessed 9 December 2020].
Medium. (2019). The Death of Graphic Design. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://medium.com/swlh/the-death-of-graphic-design-4e830958d8af. [Accessed 9 December 2020].
Refinery 29. (2020). How Lockdown Has Made Body Dysmorphia Worse. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.refinery29.com/amp/en-gb/2020/06/9831416/body-dysmorphia-facts. [Accessed 9 December 2020].
The Selfie Factory. (2020). FAQs. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://selfiefactory.co.uk/. [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Vice. (2019). The Selfie Factory is not the end of the world. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en/article/j5yqgk/selfie-factory-westfield-london-instagram-likes. [Accessed 10 December 2020].