Through conducting extensive primary and secondary research, I discovered that many practitioners operating in the current moment feel as if contemporary graphic design culture is unable or perhaps unwilling to progress into the future. In this ‘speculative time-complex’, ‘there is a kind of suffocation, to the extent that most people have the feeling of not being able to gain traction in the present, to change something, or to have something like a future worthy of its name.’ (Avanessian & Malik, 2016)
Visual culture would seem, therefore, to have settled into a ‘complacent middle age’ characterised by continual oscillation between the binaries of Modernism and Postmodernism. ‘Even in its more radical guises, design has become self-admiring and masturbatory: a condition utterly alien to innovation and the forging of new directions.’[i] (Shaughnessy, 2003)
Until the mid 20th century, the act of manifesto writing commonly instigated development within the field graphic design. It diminished under Postmodernism, as the spread of post-structuralist philosophy essentially negated their necessity. In the current moment, manifestos have become even less relevant, now only used by speculative groups such as Metahaven and Experimental Jetset. Certainly without their presence, aesthetic revolutions are harder to disseminate, thus design culture and practice begins to enter a ‘meta-stable’ condition of stagnancy. (Åbäke, 2016)
In order to negate this condition, a return to critical autonomy and self-reflexivity will most likely be necessary.[ii] (Blauvelt, 2003) The chief aim of the practical work therefore, is to encourage contemporary designers to contemplate the overwhelming multiplicity, plurality and ridiculousness of their present creative landscape. Through offering the potential of ‘relief’ or ‘respite’ in the form the self-help products, practitioners would in theory, be more inclined to assume a more critical, speculative stance within their practice.
Of course, these self-help ‘products’ are completely fictitious; forging conceptual reference to the array of recently coined terms such as ‘meta-modernism’ (Turner, 2011), and ‘hyper-modernism’ (Duvall, 2014) which feel contrived and phantasmal. I sought to comment on the inaccuracy of these terms through producing an over-abundance of advertising materials for the products which would visually convey these attitudes.
Indeed, I could have designed the advertisements for the ‘Speculative Retreats’ and ‘medications’ completely independently, however, I thought it would be far more appropriate and defiantly conceptual to produce the majority of the content using a combination of digital poster generator apps. In our digital era, applications such as ‘Trend Generator’ (2011) have essentially deconstructed the notion of ‘the designer’, through eradicating the need to employ informed design decisions. In this context, a ‘satisfactory’ composition can be ‘generated’ in a matter of seconds, through combining a limited selection of pre-defined options.
Of course, I could have designed the advertisements for the ‘Speculative Retreats’ and ‘medications’ completely independently, however, I thought it would be far more apt and conceptual to produce the majority of the content using a poster generator app. In our digital era, applications such as ‘Trend Generator’ (2011) have essentially removed the requirement of the designer through removing the need to employ informed design decisions. Now, in a matter of seconds, a ‘satisfactory’ composition can be ‘generated’ simply by selecting a combination of pre-defined options.
I decided to utilise this tool to produce an abundance of chaotic content, which conceptually links to the conclusion arrived at in my essay. Applications such as Trend Generator fundamentally contribute to the de-formalisation of the practice through encouraging designers, young and old, professional and amateur, to deconstruct and complicate the aesthetics associated with the binaries of Modernism and Postmodernism. Therefore, this body of work is intended to communicate directly to this audience range. Ultimately, these outcomes comment on our technologically dependant superficial design culture in which certain design fundamentals appear to be irrelevant and un-required.
Within the timeframe of this module, I was unable to fully explore every potential of this concept, and therefore believe that it has the capability to be developed much further and perhaps extended into a more realised body of work.
Admittedly, the final resolutions create a considerable sense of ambiguity and perhaps pose more questions than ‘answers’ to the research theme. However, the nature of the topic is highly expandable, which prompts the question: should it be the role of graphic design to always seek to solve issues? Could it perhaps be viable for graphic design to raise its own questions through a multitude of conceptual offerings? Thus the final ‘resolutions’ exist to instigate contemplation and reflection rather than providing conclusive statements.
[i] Shaughnessy, A. (2003) ‘Laptop Aesthetics’, http://eyemagazine.com/feature/article/laptop-aesthetics-text-in-full
[ii] Blauvelt, A. (2003) ‘Towards Critical Autonomy, Or Can Graphic Design Save Itself?’ http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/657946/8150654/1281970667410/va4-1_Blauvelt.pdf%3Ftoken%3DDM77WnQXhaYgdGwpq65mfFTA1qI%253D