Can Graphic Design be a catalyst for Climate Change?

climate-change-poster

In the context of strong political changes, the importance of understanding and behaving ethically towards climate change is requiring vigorous intellectual and collective transformations. Responding to such a complex issue would require a holistic alteration in humanity (Naomi Klein, 2015). As a designer, I would like to evaluate graphic design’s efficiency in tackling the issue.

To begin with, it is essential to acknowledge graphic design’s powerful role in influencing people’s reading. By adopting a visual and verbal exaggeration, they can change the whole sense of words or images. Based on Barthes’ semiotics method (1957), they try to communicate ideas by transforming denotational meaning (what you see) into connotational implications (cited in Fine, 2016, p.12). In other words, graphic design is a subjective practice, able to control meanings and thereby to deliver messages. Harper’s (2008) illustration, for example, describes beautifully the dreadful situation of global warming in a simple metaphor.

planet-fond
Harper, 2008, WARMING WARNING 

Moreover, not only is graphic design’s content an influential medium, its form too can respond positively towards climate change. To reduce the amount of waste, an excellent understanding of the product’s usage and of its potential life-cycle is fundamental! Sustainable design is often related to recyclable material, but can also take other forms, such as Ryman Eco’s font (2018), which is saving 33% ink compared to standard fonts. In fact, manufacturing ink cartridges emit a significant amount of CO2 Greenhouse Gases.

Graphic design is also a powerful tool for translating neglected facts into meaningful and emotional interests. Data visualisation, in particular, has made the reading of information clearer by interpreting them into visual infographics. More specifically, as the amount of collected data is increasing every day, a visual illustration can help its understanding. Hawkins’ (2016) animated spiral, for instance, is a dynamic representation of the global temperatures change since 1850 – the pre-industrialisation. Not only is his graphic enhancing scientists’ research, it is also created to be accessible to a large audience, encouraging a global action.

global temperature .png
Hawkins, 2016, Global temperature change

However, it is worth mentioning, that graphic design has become a central component of marketing, and, more importantly, that consumption is a key trigger of climate change (Klein, 2015). In fact, graphic design’s activity has grown into a beneficial business tool supporting companies’ brand identities (Hollis, 2001,186). Advertising, in particular, has swayed people’s desires into needs and thereby fostered the process of consumption. As a result, communication design has become a dominant instrument of capitalist economies.

Moreover, due to its ephemerality, graphic design loses value over the time and therefore, is not the ideal medium to solve such a significant and long-term issue (Fine, 2016, p.5). Graphic design, in comparison to a painting, has less chance to find a place in the future. I do, however, believe that technical progress can change its longevity.

Another point worth stating is the ambiguity of the medium. Fine (2016), for example, wrote an excellent book titled ‘sustainable graphic design’, which explores the topic. Paradoxically, he has not put any effort or interest in his design choice. How can the content be valued if the form is denying its topic?

In conclusion, I would say, that graphic design, being strictly linked to consumption, will only be able to solve climate change, when a holistic shift in the system happens.

WWF-64

 

Reference list:

Fines, P. (2016) Sustainable Graphic Design. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Harper, C. (2008) Warming Warning. Available at:https://www.charleyharperartstudio.com/shop/Posters/WarmingWarningFramed (Accessed: 06/02/2018).

Hawkins, E. (2016) Climate spirals. Available at: https://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/spirals/ (Accessed: 03/02/2018).

Hollis, R. (2001) Graphic design: a concise history. London: Thames & Hudson.

Klein, N. (2015) ‘Introduction (excerpt)’, in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. London: Penguin.

Rambaud-Measson, C. (2018) Can Graphic Design be a catalyst for Climate Change?

Ryman Eco (no date) Behind the font. Available at:https://rymaneco.co.uk/index.html (Accessed: 03/02/2018).

WWF Singapore (2009) Tic Tac Toe Available at:http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2009/wwf-its-your-turn/ (Accessed: 03/02/2018).

 

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DESIGNOPIA

Sydney Design School

 

Education, in a context of design studies, might be complex to approach. Its broad practice and limitless interpretations may open conflicts and debates. In fact, previous designers and theorists, such as Scotford (1991), have questioned the notion of design in an academic environment, studying, for example, the most efficient way to approach the history of design. Even so, a single response is arguable, it is worth looking at and determining one’s position in relation to this discipline.

In the previous lecture, we were asked to describe our ‘ideal’ design school. I do not think, that there is one single method to approach creativity, however, if I were to re-conceptualise a design school I would perceive it slightly differently.

First of all, I would opt for small teaching groups. From my personal experiences, being part of a 25-students class works very well. Knowing everyone from the course has encouraged support, collaboration, and engagement between scholars.

Another point worth mentioning for an ideal institution is the implementation of a foundation semester or year as part of the degree. This means, that each first-year pupil has the opportunity to discover the range of courses offered, before choosing their specialisation. For this suggestion, the foundation is part of the degree. This should facilitate students’ orientation.

Obviously, technical facilities are essential too. Having access to the various traditional crafts and digital equipment encourages pre-designers to expand their creative skills. What I value at my university, for example, is the assistance from proficient technicians.

An essential factor, I would focus on, which is sometimes forgotten, is the building itself. I do consider that a bright place can improve students work and therefore, I believe, that the need to include large windows cannot be avoided. An inspirational environment is a key to innovation! Additionally, a well organised and easy to access space is crucial to productivity. Rooms’ constellation should also allow apprentices to interact with other courses.

design-school
A prototype of the ideal design school building

 

This brings me to my next point: it is essential to put emphasis on collaborations with other courses. It helps students to visualise the broad spectrum of design as well as to open their perception of the world.

Finally, what if we were exposed to a flow of international tutors? For each lecture, we could experience another teaching approach, based on a different cultural background and educational path. I am not saying here, that our education would only be based on occasional teachers. I think it would still be relevant to have contact with one main tutor.

I would like to conclude my writing with a quote from Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus institution, who once said that ‘art cannot be taught’ (cited in Giampietro, 2011). Vidokle developed this idea, by stating that an art school does not teach art, but allows students to explore the numerous existing facilities and to understand how to best make use of them. He expands his theory with the importance of collaborations inside education and how they support professional networks (cited in Giampietro, 2011).

Similarly, I use my education to expand my understanding of design and to emerge in a creative community. My studies also enable me to develop my own voice as I reflect on tutor’s knowledge as well as student’s pieces of advice.

 

Reference list:

Giampietro, R. (2011) ‘School Days’, in Blauvelt, A. and Lupton, E. (2012) Graphic Design: Now in Production. Minneapolis/New York: Walker Art Center/ Cooper-Hewitt.

Scotford, M. (1991) ‘Is There a Canon of Graphic Design History?’, in De Bondt, S. and de Smet, C. (eds.) (2012) Graphic Design: History in the Writing (1983–2011). London: Occasional Papers.

Sydney Design School (2016) Our Studios. Available at:https://sydneydesignschool.com.au/ (Accessed: 29/01/2018).

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Do we need a canon to understand the history of Graphic Design?

canon

In her writing ‘Is there a canon of graphic design history?’, Scotford (1991, p.37) defines a canon as a list of productions created by authors or designers, which is based on supreme criterions and assessments. To demonstrate her theory, she has selected five of the most relevant books of ‘modern’ graphic design history and has created a canon.

She questions the legitimacy and merit of revered works. She expands her theme by showing how a canon’s weight is establishing a restricted ranking. According to her study, canons are generating superheroes and affecting graphic design’s rich availability of works. Therefore, those lists are setting a hierarchy and are limiting the broad and complex history of graphic design.

The use of a canon also generates an obstacle for the future of Graphic Design’s practice. Scotford  (1991, p.44) reevaluates our approach to design education and states: ‘For students new to the study of graphic design, a canon creates the impression that they need [to] go no further: the best is known, the rest is not worth knowing. She is not saying we should know everything. However, she encourages historians to expand the accessibility of graphic design knowledge, enabling apprentices to develop their voice based on their own selection.

Even though she affirms this existing canon might be unintentional, she has explored in detail the relevance of ‘inclusion and exclusion’. Specifically, she has noticed the omnipresence of men. A few years later, Thomson (1997) has reflected on this and has discerned women’s omission in design as well as in literature. She has been looking at the disadvantages of women vis-a-vis men in graphic design professions, and how this has occasionally excluded women from being part of the history. Thus, a canon might not always be relevant to an understanding of the history.

However, rejecting the idea of a canon might cause complications and challenges. Scotford (1991, p.44) looks into the dilemma of those lists in an educational context and states: ’Fewer names and works may make it easier to teach and learn and even to imitate, but reduces the rich, complex, and interrelated history that truly exists’. In fact, limiting design’s history can be beneficial for an academic approach.

A solution proposed by Scotford to reduce the power of the canon in historical writings would consist of focusing on a ‘cultural history’ instead of an ‘art history’. She recognises this as the best way to preserve our rich heritage.

It is essential to analyse this writing in today’s context as the invention of the internet has enlarged the problem. In 2008, Scotford redefined the canon considering the technical improvement. She has been focusing on Google’s browsing activity and how it has established a ranking of ‘important graphic designers’. The difference she evaluates between her previous study on books and her current understanding of ‘googling’, is the shift of a canon becoming intentional. In fact, the internet might have a more subjective approach than historical books due ‘to inform, to persuade or to delight’ (Scotford, 2008). She delves into the internet browsing issues and questions the source we are looking at. The web is providing a considerable amount of information. Therefore, she points out, the significance for users of navigating the internet consciously and having a critical eye on each source.

 

Reference list:

Eyemagazine.com. (2017). Eye Magazine | Feature | Googling the design canon. Available at: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/googling-the-design-canon (Accessed 18/01/2018).

Scotford, M. (1991) ‘Is There a Canon of Graphic Design History?’, in De Bondt, S. and de Smet, C. (eds.) (2012) Graphic Design: History in the Writing (1983–2011). London: Occasional Papers.

Thomson, E. (1997) The Origins of Graphic Design in America, 1870-1920. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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Fast-fashion: misleading brands. A case study on H&M.

In April 2016, H&M took part in the World Recycle Week. A music video was created in association with Sri-Lankan rapper MIA to support sustainability in the fashion industry. The aim was to build awareness about the use of old clothes by inviting people to collect worn out or no longer desirable garments. However, has H&M achieved positive results against fashion pollution through their involvement?

H&M is a multinational company covering a wide audience. Located only in Global North countries, H&M’s stores exist in 66 countries (Brown, 2017). As a result, H&M does not only benefit from a large clientele but also targets the part of the world which controls global inequality dividing the North and the South. From their privileged position, H&M can build awareness of this issue. In this situation, communication and targeting the right audience is the answer to fight against disparities and through this process reduce fashion pollution. Through H&M’s international importance, the company can easily increase consciousness and thereby influence a large audience.

The video in question features a mainly young population with a global background. This detail might gain more participants attention and therefore make their campaign more effective.

Thus, H&M being one of the leading high-street fashion industries, its involvement in the Recycle Week shows a step forward in environmental protection, and the company hopes to reduce textile waste and change customers’ perspective towards sustainability.

However, a closer look at the situation reveals H&M’s hidden business concern and its misleading behaviour, prioritising profit rather than the condition of the planet.

I want to point out that the amount of outcome resources based on this project is limited. Information about the resulting effectiveness of their project is lacking. Most of the media focus on the pertinence of the idea, but we do not have a clear proof the project was environmentally beneficial.

Moreover, the volume of textile reused from the 1000 tones of garments which have been collected is very little. In fact, as the Fashion Revolution (2015) claims “most clothing is made from a blend of different materials: cotton and polyester, wool and acrylic, silk and elastane, etc. The technology does not yet exist to be able to recycle blended fibres from reclaimed clothing.” Therefore, H&M’s campaign hides key information about the efficiency of this campaign.

Additionally, this project which was intended to be sustainable is, in reality, the exact opposite. H&M is promoting its market by persuading people to contribute to the campaign by receiving a voucher in exchange. In other words, this project is indirectly supporting the fast-fashion consumption. This also means the company is advertising the brand instead of supporting the planet.

Latterly, a crucial factor we often forget about is the Rana Plaza incident, where 1,134 manufacturers working for big clothes industries, included H&M, died (Hogarth, 2016).

The idea of a market-based strategy hidden behind a collaboration in the Recycle Week misleads participants and thereby reveals H&M’s true image.

 

 

Reference list:

Brown J. (2017) H&M pushes expansion. Available at: http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Retail/hm-pushes-expansion-20170820-2 (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Fashion Revolution (2015) Let’s Celebrate The True Heroes. Available at: http://fashionrevolution.org/lets-celebrate-the-true-heroes/ (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Hogarth, B. (2016) H&M’s ‘World Recycle Week’ Is Not A Noble Initiative. Available at: https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/hm-world-recycle-week-featuring-mia-not-for-the-right-reasons/ (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Pinterest (2017) H&M releases the teaser for the World Recycle Week campaign song and video ‘Rewear it. Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/255438610093715594/ (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Can Fashion be sustainable?

In 1994, John Elkington developed an accounting framework based on social, environmental and financial measurements. Also known as the 3Ps – People, Planet, Profits – this scheme encourages companies to estimate their efficiency (Elkington, 2004).

Through the rise in fast-fashion which focuses on a seasonal sale, exploitation in the production chain has been triggered (Hoskins, 2014). Not only are most companies in this sector misusing their workers, their impact on the environment is crucial too. The fashion industry has been defined as the second-biggest polluter – right after the oil industry (Hogarth, 2016).

However, in a capitalist-led world, how should clothing industries best proceed to become more sustainable? We will be looking at the clothing brand People Tree as an illustration of a sustainable company while focusing on the Triple Bottom Line framework.

To begin with, People Tree puts much importance on employers working conditions as well as labourers they collaborate with. To make sure workers are working in fair trade conditions, they provide a Social Review every two years, where customers and producers can share their thoughts towards the company (People Tree, 2017). They also offer medical supports for their employees (Fairtrade foundation, 2015) and workers benefit from identical rights, which avoids discrimination (People Tree, 2017). Regarding wages, those are either equal to or above the industry minimum, illustrating People Tree’s commitment to a fair pricing system (Fair Trade, 2015).

In addition, People Tree also supports environmental justice. Their products respond to an environmentally-friendly production. From initial resources to the final apparel, the production follows an entirely sustainable cycle. Each garment is handmade based on traditional techniques and uses only organic cotton or other sustainable materials (People Tree, 2017). Clothes also require azo-free dyed yarns, a harmful pigment for the skin and for the environment.

Finally, their business policy is extremely transparent. Customers can look on People Tree’s website for the community responsible for the manufacturing of their products. Thus, owners can build an indirect relation with the producer and thereby increase their awareness of their fashion usage. The company also shares wages calculation and market regulation online, which demonstrates their true image. Indeed, in comparison to most brands, their market does not maximise profits, but in contrast, creates a fair pricing system. Additionally, they support long-run partnerships and encourage small and local businesses to grow and support projects and farmers in Global South countries. Thereby, the company alleviates world poverty.

One factor which could make People Tree debatable as a sustainable brand is the garments’ prices. A dress ranges from £ 60 to 120. Clothes from this brand might not be accessible to everyone and therefore might reinforce Marxist Class theory (Bancroft, Rogers, and Stapley, 2010). However, due to their importance on the use of material, the items’ quality is excellent and enables a long-lasting use.

As a result, People Tree is an excellent example of a sustainable brand responding to an honest, Fair Trade and transparent business. Their practice is based on social business, putting people and planet first. Through their practices, they demonstrate that a business can be successful while protecting people and the planet. However, this brand does still present some limitation as prices are relatively high, preventing some of us to enjoy their usage.

 

 

Reference list:

Elkington, J. (2004) Triple bottom line. Available at: http://www.johnelkington.com/archive/TBL-elkington-chapter.pdf

Hogarth, B. (2016) H&M’s ‘World Recycle Week’ Is Not A Noble Initiative. Available at: https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/hm-world-recycle-week-featuring-mia-not-for-the-right-reasons/ (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Fairtrade Foundation (2015) Introducing the people behind People Tree. Available at:http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/media-centre/blog/2015/april/introducing-the-people-behind-people-tree (Accessed: 7/11/2017).

Hoskins,E.T. (2014). ‘Stitching It.’ Stitched Up: TheAnti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. London: Pluto Press, pp. 67-88.

People Tree (2017) Our story. Available at: http://www.peopletree.co.uk/about-us (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Bancroft, A., Rogers, S. and Stapley, P. (2010) Class Theory. Available at: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/undergraduate/introsoc/marx6.html (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

Natalie (2015) People Tree. Available at: http://www.pearlgrace.co.uk/pearlgrace/people-tree (Accessed: 09 October 2017).

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HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR CITY?

The City is Ours

Free

Until 2 January 2018

No plans for this weekend? Then grab this opportunity to have a look at London Museum’s temporary exhibition “The City is Ours”.

“About 12 percent of Britain’s overall population live[s] in London” (Barrow, 2013). London, like many other cities, is continually growing and transforming itself.

The exhibition “The City is Ours”, featured in the Museum of London, looks at cities’ development, through a range of visual, physical and audible resources inviting the viewer to learn about urban living. Those interactive installations also encourage visitors to discover today’s operation to improve our living and lifestyle in urban spaces, as well as future projects, which could enhance our everyday life. Information is primarily based on London and as part of the exhibition, there is a range of events, talks, and walks all around the city.

Did you know that London embodies 400,000 surveillance cameras? (London Museum, 2017) You will be amazed by the amount of surprising, scary and reassuring data you will discover here about your home city.

Not only is this exhibition outstanding because of its broad innovative interactive displays but also because they managed to mix knowledge with placing the viewer in the centre and building a ‘conversation’ with them. Indeed, visitors can compare their opinions and attitudes towards cities with past visitors – a smart way to create an engaging experience.

Another point worth mentioning is that, even if the theme might be abstract for children, curators and designers have managed to transform the information in a visual interactive installation, which reminds infants of a game, and therefore easily captivates their attention. Put differently, children, as well as adults, can play around with data. This is not only an attractive point because it will ease memorising information, but it will also attract a broader audience. Therefore, this display is organised to intrigue every kind of age group.

IMG_6281

Some information might stand slightly too high for children or wheelchair visitors, but most of them are well thought out. As part of the exhibition, books linked to the subject were showcased and were arranged accordingly to the group age on a different height.

Furthermore, the number of readings displayed were fairly reasonable. Indeed, the narrative explanation is straightforward and lucid, and therefore makes the understanding easier and accessible to everyone. The typography was clear and explicit too. A beneficial description is a powerful tool for a good interaction with the viewer, which does still fail in some galleries and museums.

Although I was sincerely captivated by the video projection revealing urbanisation data on a global scale, it would be hard to pick one favourite part. It is a rich and well-accomplished space with a diversity of displays.

Finding the right gallery, however, was not obvious, as the room was somewhat hidden. Moreover, being displayed in the last room, it might lose its importance, and discourage people to walk in.

We live in a time where innovation, as well as sustainable improvement, are the roots for the future. “The City is Ours” is looking at one angle of this transformation.

For more information visit: the-city-is-ours

 

 

Reference list:

Barrow, M. (2013) Fascinating facts about London. Available at: http://projectbritain.com/london/facts.htm (Accessed: 04/11/2017).

Museum of London (2017) The City is Ours. Available at: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/the-city-is-ours (Accessed: 04/11/2017).

Rambaud-Measson (2017) London Museum: film.

Rambaud-Measson (2017) London Museum: location.

Representation of women in art and advertising

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak” (Berger, 1972). Indeed, we see and after we know. However, there are different ways of seeing. As discussed in today’s lecture, I will focus on women’s representation and the male gaze as a key element of Berger’s (1972) writing Ways of seeing.

How do men see a woman contrasted to the way a woman perceive herself? 

According to Berger (1972), women identifies herself by her clothes, voices, opinion expression, whereas, men determines a woman through her physical emanation such as her heat, smell, aura. Moreover, the way of seeing depends on the subject. A painting has to be interpreted through the way the painter visualise the reality as well as his relation to the person. Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages, a nude woman was represented by men.

Also, it is essential to mention that nudes paintings’ are generally representing women. For example, the feminist group the ‘Guerrilla Girls’ (1989) illustrates this fact by claiming that 85 % of the nudes are females. Hence, women are more likely to be turned into a desirable object than men.  

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989 by Guerrilla Girls

An interesting activity, based on Berger’s writing, was to imagine Trutat’s (1895) painting as a nude man instead of the woman.

felix-trutat-reclining-bacchante-1895-pictify-your-social-art-network-1428445953_b

The reaction to this question was commented as “ridiculous” and “strange”.

Another key element of the lecture was the significance of women in nowadays visual communications. The concentration of images in the present day has created an ideological perception of individuals, which has raised some issues. To give an illustration, the number of children suffering from eating disorders has increased by about four times since 2008 (Olymbios, 2017).

Therefore, the perception of women plays an essential part of the society and cultural issues and values.   

Bibliography

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, Published by the British Broadcasting Corporation: London

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? (1989) Display board at © Tate, London, February 2017.

Olymbios, I. (2017) ‘The pre-teen queens of Instagram’, Artefact (12  February), p.5.

Trutat, E. (1895) Reclining bacchante. Available at: http://pictify.saatchigallery.com/888328/felix-trutat-reclining-bacchante-1895-pictify-your-social-art-network (Accessed: 16/02/2017).

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