Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Change is Beautiful

I chanced upon a 3 minute Wonder on Channel 4 the other night.

Lemn Sissay (and friends) delivers music, poetry, spoken word, commentary on climate change, capitalism, global inequity, greed, chaos theory, mysticism, Darwin – it’s got something for everybody (and all in 3 mins!)

Also coming out soon is the film "Age of Stupid" – I'm telling everybody I know to go see it if it's the last film they see this year! It should be compulsory viewing for all … and the filmmakers are making it very difficult for it not to be seen. The "People's Premiere" is planned for the launch date on 15th March – a "100% eco-friendly" tented screening extravaganza, bang in Leicester Square, London. And if you can't get to that or the several other screenings across the UK, it will be available for all to watch online.

One thing that comes strongly across in these films, short and long, is that we have agency. Of course, there are plenty of excuses to be made … Sometimes I truly wonder why we human beings can appreciate and create such beauty on the one hand, and totally oppose it through our actions on the other. And we've all been quilty at some time! Age of Stupid illustrates these contradictions so well (it's half fiction/prediction and half documentary).

I think it's wonderful that an issue as urgent as climate change, that affects all of us so directly (though we may realise this or not), finds such rich creative expression. If artists are the custodians of a society's consciousness, surely their works canwake us and inspire us to wonder and to dream? And in being reminded to dream, will we not want to keep the dreaming plane alive for ourselves and others?

It's affirming what I passionately believe to be true: the arts are an incredibly powerful conduit for positive change. I see these examples as explicitly addressing climate change in a way that is entertaining, accessible and inclusive; potentially changing our perceptions of change away from something that's a negative disruption to something that might actually improve our lives; and slightly more implicitly, rousing us to change for good.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Designer Rant: The Mac doesn’t make the (wo)man

In one of my lives I am a designer. I like to be as vague as that because it is too easy for people to package you into small compartments of their understanding and never again recognise that as a human being, you are dynamic and multi-faceted. I’m a designer. I use design thinking to create solutions, usually (but not always), of the communications variety.

What is design thinking? There are many views and conversations. Victor Lombardi’s take is quite perfectly on point.

Could it be that design thinking is really just common sense thinking? What seems to make the distinction however is that designers have particular skills to augment their thinking. In my specific training and experience, this has included: drawing, light and colour theory, three-dimensional design, visual communications, graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, advertising art direction, copywriting, art history, design history, printmaking and branding (CV available upon request!). And yet at work, sitting behind a “big, shiny Mac”, people seem to see the machine and my ability as inseparable. Missing the fact that the machine is merely a tool for expression, of which there are several. And I’ve only listed the tangible ones. In addition to these, every designer draws inspiration and influence from their individual lives. This means that every single designer’s eclectic repertoire is necessarily unique.

We designers are not people who do something, we are something. The distinction between these two might not be immediately apparent but it is very important to me. A crude example: I am not defined by the computer programmes that I know how to use; using them does not fully constitute my being a designer. Take me away from a computer and I am still a designer. Even before computers, there existed designers and no, they didn’t just draw pretty pictures! Hmmm, I think my next rant just might be entitled, “Death to the ‘Pretty Picture’”…