Practical Work Synthesis
The main endeavour of my dissertation was to attempt an understanding of the current moment within graphic design practice and visual culture. In the conclusion, I articulated our present condition as being somewhat insular, self-referential, repetitive, stagnant and curiously nostalgic for aesthetics from the fairly recent past. My primary and secondary research indicated that many contemporary practitioners currently operating in the field appear to be concerned with aligning themselves to seemingly fast moving, superficial trends. These trends, which lack in any real social, political or cultural drive or commitment, are a means for categorising work on websites such as Trendlist.com. The presence of such websites has produced sectors within design culture which seem to value aesthetic appearance over conceptualism and even functionality. Trendlist encourages designers who are perhaps just entering the discipline to adopt a design process which is solely concerned with ‘final aesthetics’, instead of investing time into research, idea generation and genuine experimentation. In addition, websites such as Tumblr and Pinterest further perpetuate this apathetic state of authenticity and originality, through encouraging designers to imitate favoured aesthetics through the complacent utilisation of stylistic devices. Combined, these influences are largely responsible for manifestations of pastiche and simulacra which only continue to fuel this ‘meta-culture’ in which graphic design appears to be consumed by.
Through my research, I discovered that many of the earliest radical developments in graphic design were fuelled by the act of manifesto writing. Movements such as De Stijl, Constructivism and the New Typography all utilised the prescriptive power that manifestos possess in order to achieve their objectives. In the process, manifesto’s helped form unified ‘anti-aesthetics’, which purposely challenged established conventions within the art world. In contrast, a number of developments that fell under Postmodernism occurred without the presence of manifestos, for example, Deconstructivism and the Grunge aesthetic. These movements, charged by advancements in digital technology and dissemination of post-structuralist theory, produced leaderless ‘anti-aesthetics’ which fundamentally lacked direction and conviction. Since the arrival of Postmodernism, there have been sparse attempts to amalgamate collective desires. This absence in manifesto writing could perhaps give an explanation to the current condition that we are presently experiencing.
Graphic design culture is currently far too eclectic and expansive to ever be contained by a singular statement. However, a myriad of terms have recently emerged in attempts to define the peculiar current condition. Many of them sound simply ridiculous, for example ‘Post-postmodernism’ or ‘Meta-modernism’. In order to allow visual culture to enter a truly new epoch, I believe it will be important for contemporary designers to assess their current operations and motives behind them, and abandon the notion of defining movements. Thus, I did not want to simply produce a manifesto to govern the current moment. Instead, I thought it would be apt to produce a series of ‘products’ which make reference to the ridiculousness of some of the recently coined terms as well as the prescriptive qualities of manifestos, without being totalitarian.
So much design produced today appears to be aesthetically successful on the surface but ultimately fails to extend past this frivolous state. Therefore, the medications serve to bring relief from an array of symptoms induced by the contemporary moment, whereas the schemes aim to enlighten people, opening their eyes to the potentially counterproductive nature of current design tendencies prevailing in contemporary graphic design practice. The medications are aimed at designers and audience alike, essentially, anyone who feels affected by aspects of contemporary graphic design.
I wanted to visually represent the way I view the current moment in a playfully irreverent, yet highly informed manner. The work perhaps provides the audience with more questions rather than answers; however, I feel this is appropriate given the context of the issues explored in the essay. It aims to be provocative whilst being conceptual and theoretically grounded.