Thesis W1 – Assignment: Aspirations


In thinking of design and designers that I admire, I find some corellation with Nigel Whiteley’s definition of the valorized designer. These works all have the quality of existing not only as market driven, futuristic, or reactionary ideas (such as what may be produced by the consumerised, technologized or politicized designer), but as entities created with an awareness of social, market, ethical and formal concerns. I attempted to pick out projects in different media which interest me.

Design Projects

Pranav Mistry – Sixth Sense

This project, at its base, provides technological solutions to interface problems, but also has larger implications in social contexts and to consumer culture in general. Indeed, its applications are so far reaching that it may embody te idea of valorized design, not only through its purpose but also in its implementation (Mistry went on to open source the design).

Thorsten Fleisch – Intro to Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void”

While the visuals in this clip speak clearly of the cinematic experience to follow (the narrative is about a drug dealer/user who is shot to death at a deal gone wrong, and proceeds through the stages of death described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead), the reason it caught my attention was its disregard for legibility, coherence and, to a certain degree, structure. Further, the work is a laugh in the face of credit sequences, which, though they are meant to elevate the authors of the work, often fall on opposite ends of a viewing spectrum – they are plain and disregarded completely, or they are infused with visual spectacle to hold interest. In this case, the spectacle is all that remains, with names flashing for brief milliseconds, as a mere primer to a coming experience. Each name recieves its own logotype, yet their lack of screentime is a satirical poke at the very process of showing credits.

Bruce Mau and the Institute Without Boundaries – Massive Change

This book/exhibiton/ongoing education projects aims to inform society on the way future design will change our cultural norms, daily behaviors and environmental and scientific responsibilities. Its scope is wide, and as a design project, it brings together disciplines in a larger context while thinking of how theoretical and imagined processes and products will be realized in the real world. While I commend Mau’s endeavor, I chose this piece because it represents some of the problems inherent with our classification of the designer, and with this program’s take on design education. Just as GradComd has a problem integrating theory and practice, and teaching critical analysis and cross disciplinary considerations, Mau has a problem presenting the ideal “designer”. Indeed, most of the projects he describes were conceived and executed by people who would not use the term “designer” – that is, materials engineers, scientists, city planners, social policy makers and futurists. I fear Mau has a complex whereby he is inclined to relegate the terrm design to all futuristic thinking which has social implications. Yet he also refuses to actually define the designer, a fact that was driven home when I heard him speak in person. While I wholeheartedly agree with his goals, the projects are presented with little evidence of their (realized or projected) success, and attributed to the wrong fields of study.

In conclusion

Though this mix of approaches theoretical, practical and ethical is used in producing a student of design at Pratt, I find it interesting that students are rarely called upon to use many of these values and methods of self analysis while producing work for classes. This view also concurs with the complaint that I have heard (and voiced myself) that the Thesis is a leap too far from what we are taught about design through the rest of our classes.

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