I’m a design guy. Believe all aspects of life can be enriched with design thinking. Ideation + Initiation = Innovation The too easily overlooked ingredient in that equation being the necessary action of initiation. Observe and breath life. See it through fresh eyes, the unprejudiced mind we all had as a child. Seek why, practice the 5 Whys. Seek opinions from others, from my co-workers, my clients, and enrich it with opinions from people outside my field of expertise.
After logging over 2 decades as a professional in the design/build field, including running my own design firm, I wanted to subject myself to further growth. So I attended college full-time while working full-time in various architecture firms, and after 4 grueling years of sleep depravation, received my Baccalaureate of Science in Architectural Studies.
I pursued classes that expanded my perspective by immersing myself in Graphic Design, Business and Film classes. While taking these classes I came to realize a beautiful thing; that the design process I learned for Architecture is ubiquitous for many other areas including film, graphics, even business and everyday challenges. This idea was further vetted out after receiving a scholarship to participate in a select Chicago studio with Neil Frankel,FAIA to investigate design in groups through quantifiable research. During school, and continuing after graduation, my duties expanded into being hired by UWM School of Architecture [SARUP] to direct short films and acted as Project Leader for the exciting challenge of redesigning the entire SARUP website.
I moved out to Boston to take a job as Media Coordinator at Tufts University with the Institute for Global Leadership. I currently work in a creative direction and production role at Boston College for Instructional Design and eTeaching Services. Here I am given the exciting opportunity of investigating design solutions for eLearning projects, made all the more enjoyable with the support of the immensely capable IDeS team.
In my "spare time" I am enjoying yoga, learning Flamenco guitar, photography, making short films and furthuring my education with night courses at Boston College.
My argument on our contemporary [mis]utilization of design is influenced by Stuart Ewen’s thesis as set forth in his book, All Consuming Images. He argues that previous to the invention of photography, images were seen as a demonstration of wealth and power. Previous to this invention if you wanted to have an image, say a portrait of your family, you had to commission an artist. To commission an artist, you needed disposable income. In the time of Feudalism, peasants did not have such disposable income at hand, therefore paintings and other imagery were the reserved right for wealthy land owners.
When guests arrived to their stately manors, having oil portraits and other imagery on display impressed upon their guests the amassed wealth and power. Even more powerful, a collection of work served as a testament to the legacy of their family’s inherited wealth, and materially established for their guests the power of their family name over generations of time.
With the invention of photography, all this changed
Ewen argues that post photography, imagery now could be created quickly, easily, and for a considerably reduced price point. Families could now have their portrait shot within minutes at a local fair. Imagery was now accessible to all, and therefore, the currency of imagery as a demonstration of family wealth was negligible, and arguably, obsolete.
And here we find an interesting shift occurring. One may conclude that with imagery's loss of grandeur, it was now valueless. But in fact the value of imagery was not depreciated. Rather what we find is that the very opposite occurred in large part because some envisioned imagery as a disarming, and potentially, powerful tool.
Before photography, imagery through paintings had dimension and form with their textures, oils, canvas; and statues presented to us an image that had infinite variations as the viewer changed their perspective in 3D space. Ewen declares that now, imagery through photography is stripped of its form, and therefore, is stripped of it’s contextual meaning.
At the same time, accelerating the use of imagery without context is the Industrial Revolution. Previously, masterfully designed architecture and intricately crafted household items were reserved for the wealthy, created by families of craftsmen and artisans. Now? Now these items could be poured and stamped out by mass production in a factory, selected in a catalog, and picked up at a store for mass consumption for the developing middle class. Sure, the quality of materials were sub-par, and your neighbor likely had the same item, but it was designed nonetheless and served as evidence to your rise to the middle class, perhaps even the nouveau riche. But these items were nothing more than faux status symbols, out of context and consumable.
Whereas before photography and the industrial revolution, art and craft items served as evidence to demonstrate wealth, now imagery was no more than fabricated facades used by the middle class, put on display for others to argue of their importance. It was as real as a Hollywood movie set. With everyone purchasing the same mass produced trinkets, the shift of power moved from the owners of imagery to the designers of imagery.
A notable milestone in the transformation of formless imagery as a tool for persuasion occurred when companies realized the power of design, and reacted by branding their identities to provide a cohesive image for public consumption. In the early 1900’s, Germany’s AEG commissioned architect Peter Behrens to design AEG a corporate identity. Behrens’ hand of design encompassed, not only their building headquarters, but included AEG’s product line, extending even to their corporate trademark and typeface.
Here we see the groundwork for what Marshall McLuhan observes as The Medium is the Massage. Our spending habits and viewpoints are no longer based on the information we observe, rather, we are influenced by the delivery of information. Our response to information is consciously manipulated through a designed system of delivery, a delivery based on imagery stripped of context and form.
And here we see the monumental responsibility today for those who disseminate information. As a high-tech society, we are immersed in an environment where the publishing of information is incessant, and frequently, without context and form. Sound bites. Snapshots. Quotes. Pop culture too frequently manipulates these tools to wield power over our decision making process. Limit the context and form of imagery, focusing the viewer, the participant, on a singular desired outcome. Oversimplify viewpoints as binary scenarios framed within Straw Man arguments, so the active viewer is left with no choice but to agree or be ostracized.
As viewers and generators of information, you and I have a responsibility to be aware of these tools, and to be aware of our innate tendencies as pliable humans. This is my explanation of TintypePop. To be socially aware of imagery and information, and to digest and use it in an authentic and transparent fashion. To invite open discussions. To go out and research untested theories. To seek solutions from the edge, outside of our areas of familiarity. To view life with a child’s mind, with fresh eyes. A willingness to be wrong and a desire to accept that our current base of knowledge is not all there is to know.
We live in an exciting time of change and growth for the accessibility of information. The questions are:
“Will we meet the challenge by delivering pure content in an authentic and transparent fashion? Can we view information with a child’s mind, and digest it with sound judgement and common sense?