The New Design Landscape
Post on 25-Jul-2016
DESCRIPTIONThis is [a digital version of] a printed version of Erwin Slegers' documentary movie "The New Design Landscape" (watch it at: https://vimeo.com/120899089). What does it mean to be a graphic designer in a world in which social, economic and technologic mutations are rapidly and constantly shaping the way people communicate? What is its role in the new society? The questions raised in the video, together with some statements and defined positions, made me think about this remediation: I have transcribed all the content to 'translate' the movie in a booklet. Expanding the time of the fruition and transforming the viewer in a reader, the relationship with the content of the interviews changes completely too. This small booklet is designed to be a tool through which is possible to assimilate better the concepts expressed in the movie, digest them and also criticize them. "Does the discipline of graphic design still exist?". Yes, it does. It is just changing.
CAST Kirsten Algera Jasper Hauser Felix Janssens Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen Jan van Toorn Annelys de Vet
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR Nikki Brrrmann
CAMERA/EDITING Jan van den Nieuwenhuijzen
EDITING/VOICE OVER/COMPOSITION AND DIRECTION Erwin Slegers
WITH THE COLLABORATION OF Bieneke Bennekers Max Bruinsma Cornelis Bos Raw Color Marcel Feil Hansje van Halem Femke Herregraven Hoaxhoaxhoax Mark Horn Thera Jonker Ymer Marinus Arjen Mulder Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen Henk Slager Peter de Vries Arnoud Warschauer
ORIGINAL VIDEO AT https://vimeo.com/120899089
A printed version of Erwin Slegers documentary movie The New Design Landscape
Designed by Giorgio Ruggeri
5 Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen It is very important to question everything you say and do. Jan van Toorn The world looks towards us for critical design but I dont believe it. Annoys de Vet I definitely think that design can put the world in motion. Jasper Hauser The designer is not only a person that can solve visual problems but also a person that can solve problems, period. Kirsten Algera Craftsmanship plays an important role in our society. Felix Janssens ...And that is for me the reason that I have nothing to do with the idea and with the term graphic design, because the discipline doesnt exist anymore.
JvT We try to understand why graphic design is positioned as it is. It has an important role in media that cannot be ignore. It has to do with media landscape that has totally changed, but it also has an important economic com-ponent. In addition to a facilitative component it has a totally different role, and this problem continues to play on. If you look at design theory and you compare that with theory in architecture there is a world of difference...In that sense design has developed. I am current with the developments in the theoretical field because of my experiences in America. It remains an academic, written pursuit...how you can handle something, for example. But when you talk about methodology, strategy, or the processing of making, the sensitive side of it...there is nothing to be found. FJ The biggest change that technology and social media has made is that communication no longer has any form. Where Dick Effers made his impact on the citizens of Amsterdam with a beautifully designed poster inviting them to come to a performance or shop, this is now done with Facebook, Twitter and In-stagram. So the value of a designer is not in the designing of the message, but in the organisation of the message. KA In the past you got a text, a client, you made a book. Now, you are developing for a website, for the internet, for something that goes viral, that has different audiences; that has its own life, and could be changed or copied by someone else. You will be confronted with conditions that are never the same: how are you as designer going to make your point, and how do you frame it?
What does it mean to be a designer
in this new reality?
6The New Design Landscape
AdV In the information era that we are living in I find that the role of an information designer, editor or conductor is more important than ever. In this way the professional field is growing. If we look at the field of graphic design twenty years ago...When I was a student, we were thaught to design the infor-mation, to think about form and typography, we were encouraged to think about form and concept. If I look at the progression now, and what we are doing at the Sandberg Intituut, its not about designing the information, but its about how we deal with information. It means that you have to understand the information and that you have to understand form, the meaning of image, the meaning of propaganda, the meaning of context, and how to interpret it, how to reflect on it. So the focus of designers has shifted, but the field itself has not. FJ The field of design has no limits. Since the introduction of the computer, of social me-dia there are no borders anymore, since the introduction of the 3D printer....Everybody is a designer, from Papanek it is more true than ever. So the design-er doesnt design things anymore but designs conditions: how new things can be made, experiences that can be consumed. DN What I find a very interesting discovery is that the possibilities become broader. We discover different ways of communicating with each other at the same time we search for ways to commu-nicate better with each other. All the new forms have their own limitations. AdV A very nice example of a project, where the designers voice is the starting point is a project, Taxodus, from Femke Herregraven. She had a short residency here at the Zuidas, she was curious about companies that were locat-ed in Zuidas and discovered that there were more companies than buildings. She went to the chamber of commerce and made a telephone book with all the businesses and she discovered that there were many companies with oil in their name, or only numbers; there were man post office box companies. Next, we invited Femke to do a masterclass at the Sandberg and Media Funds and she developed the research further, and in the end she thought of making a game out of it, an online game, Taxodus. The object of the game is to avoid paying taxes worldwide depending on where you place your company, in which country, you have different tax laws. At the end presentation there was someone from Dutch television, they found it so fascinating that they made a program about it. Femke worked together with journalists from the financial newspaper who specialized in offshore practices. The moment the documentary came out and the game came out, it became a media topic how the Dutch law favors big companies who are located here: we realized that the Netherlands is a big tax haven. It was questioned in the parliament, it entered the media and became a topic of public discussion, and it became not only a success for Femke. The convergence of the different research, I think it is an amazing example of how you as a designer can
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tell a complex story and how that translates to a very broad audience. FJ I think that designers must be able to create richness in their topics, around certain themes, develop visualizations, raise issues and form connec-tions, and those components...you can work on giving form to the world. If we speak about how we live in the world or we talk about culture or about sustain-ability or healthcare, these are all themes that surround us, those themes are untouched and no one owns them. Those are unique opportunities for designers to work together with other parties, not only clients but also other stakeholders. There is no longer a contrast between commisioner and contractor or producer and consumer. Airbnb would not have got off the ground if they had to wait for a client. No, there were people in this world who wanted to sleep cheaply and were other people who were able to facilitate that using software. And that is the great success of Airbnb that now has, at this moment, more rooms than all the Hilton hotels put together.
We are standing on the eve of what is perhaps the biggest change yet in the
discipline of graphic design. We are looking at a new horizon
where unexpected alliances with other disciplines is of vital importance. Now the questions
arises, does the discipline of graphic design still exist?
KA We could say that a graphic designer is a writer, a producer and many other things, but his main tool is still the image, the visual. Thats why its so spe-cial. Its something you can read and has an effect. Graphic designers are aware of that, but cant explain it very well. Neither can clients. So you often end up
8with a sort of non-conversation, in which designers cant articulate it and clients dont bother asking, for fear of asking a stupid question. JH Theres a reason I set up my own business: its because, especially after leaving the academy, its so difficult to work with clients. They have their own will, their own ideas. I always found that interesting, but difficult. Setting up your own business lets you become your own client, thats probably even more difficult. The closer the client and designer, the better the final result. What works best for me is being your own client, or working very closely with a client: you set out together to discover what youre going to do, why youre doing it, how youre going to do it...the more you work together the better the result. Not all clients are open and flexible enough for that, not all clients even understand it. DN As soon as you start a project you have to ensure youre on an equal footing with your client. Thats a crucial difference with the past, when you were more a servant passively carrying out a clients instructions. There was a dinstiction between working on behalf of a client, expressing his intentions, or conversely offering resistance, almost as a form of protest. AdV If a client says, Thats how I want it, so take it or leave it, the designer should not agree to those conditions. They need to survive of course, but should not abandon the principle of an independent position. Collaborating on those terms is not good for the de-velopment of the design profession or for relationships in society. FJ In this new reality, which already exsists though we still have to disvover it, the client is now a partner. Sometimes you know him, sometimes you dont. I like the example of Bloomber, former mayor of New York. He wanted to get New Yorkers to drink less soft drinks, two-litre glasses of cola were common at McDonalds. To find out who he needed to work with on this health initiative, he did something very clever: he banned the Big Gulp. Next day he knew who to work with: not lower class cola drinkers but cola companies. He met them in court. DN The subject is getting more complex all the time. Liquid modernity, rapid changes in society, technology...keeping up to date isnt easy. All the more important to work together, find forms of collaboration, not just with colleagues but also with clients. You have to become part of your own design office to do that together. AdV Instead of using the word client, I prefer to talk about partners in crime. Its no longer about a client asking a designer to do this or that. Its more about a designer with a signnature, voice and method of their own. Doing things they consider urgent, which lead to new projects, new questions, and much more collaboration based on equality. No longer a hierar-chy in which a client in charge pays and a designer is paid is paid to carry out a job, but much more synergy between who pays, who decides...thats becoming a much more fluid entity today.
esThe New Design Landscape
Design students must also contend with this hybridization of their field of work, in which a diversity of roles has become a
significant factor. What choices should educators
make in translating this transformation for students?
Is that a combination of technical developments and professional
craft? Or are we moving more towards conditional design?
And has that taken us to the dawn of fluid design?
FJ I can state bluntly how Dutch design education should change: no more designer on the teaching staff. To put it more subtly, the curriculum at de-sign schools should be broader, more interdisciplinary. I dont mean interactive, apps, infographics. I mean design with communication, strategy, sociology, busi-ness. Thats the model. KA I always find it difficult to say how education should respond to whats happening, because its like getting the fighter jet were in to fly through a hoop. Where exactly is the hoop? And how big is it? Thats so diffi-cult to say because things move so fast. But its vital for people in education to reflect of this issue. JvT Worldwide, China for example, in places other than the Netherlands, even in Belgium, they take initiatives where they are much more
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concious about the quality of the exchange of knowledge and research, practical and theoretical, and the connection between those. This is something that is very necessary. DN Policy makers play a key role in shaping the education system. They need to look more closely at reality on the ground among students, and especially among teachers at the workplace. If you dont allow them to renew education, the whole system could implode and students will ultimately view ed-ucation as totally superfluous, because it no longer teaches you who to become but just a method. It doesnt help you find your place in society, shaping things with other people. KA A good place where students can learn and reflect on their position, is less of a traditional school and more of a laboratory setting. Its very important for schools work together with clients and partners. Not in the sense of you name it, we do it, but in doing research that is relevant for clients. What use is graphic design to them? How could they use it in new ways? FJ My advice about preparing students for the context that already exists out there is to bring them into contact with social reality. Offer them a much broader range of sub-jects, earlier and longer internships, not with tiny design offices on the fringes but with bigger offices...it doesnt matter whether its with an app developer, an office like ours or in another country. Students need earlier and better contact with the social reality out there. KA Students still receive too much traditional, top-down education. It could be more bottom-up, organized by students themselves. We need more multi-disciplinary education, learning to work with other disciplines, to com-bine distribution channels. Students need to learn to reflect critically. DN It starts with opening up the compartmentalized method of education, learning needs more of a laboratory environment linked to practice. Various disciplines ex-perimenting together, discovering how to make the things that will determine design for the coming decades. All the schools should look and learn from one another. Together they should shape a way of learning that goes beyond catego-ries like theory and design. What new professions will emerge? How should we define them? Designer of the future? Visionary of the future? Philosopher of the future? Thats not so important, we can decide that later. FJ Design schools should focus much more on knowledge and cognitive skills. You see too many deaf-and-dumb designers who are excellent at one thing, but very bad at everything else. KA Design education should think about the right environment that allows students to think about their changing role and their changing profession. Education is a slow-moving entity that hasnt changed much since the Bauhaus of the 1920s. So the main important question is: what should a school look like? A triditional academy with a classroom and a teacher? Or should students organize their education? Because students them-
The New Design Landscape
selves should be aware of the networks they will end up working in. AdV A school is one of the few selfless refuges that exist. They are very important in stimulating that thinking. A school is not only about teaching students but also about defining its own position within society in terms of the professions development. FJ Why do we have schools of art where you can only study art? Why not schools where you can study journalism and media and soci-ology and many other subjects? Curricula in the Netherlands focuses too much on authorship and creation. We should move from creation to creativity, which is so much more that simply a form. DN Its complex because it involves merging faculties and even schools. Art with technology with science and so on, to gener-ate more interaction. That requires much more than a policy change, it requires a willingness to change from the bottom up. A realization that the world isnt made up of separate compartments but is one big anthill where we need to work together to build an ant tower.
Now that art education rapidly needs to redefine its position, the question is: are design schools the right place
to educate designers?The vast scale of education leads to
far-reaching generalization. Is it therefore capable of responding
adequately to the rapidly changing design practice?
Or should it cease to exist and be replaced by a new entity?
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The days of graphic design as a medium for posters and books are
numbered. It is high time to educate designers of the future who can
adapt to hybrid work environments, reveal processes of change, and find their role in the new design
KA I dont think the profession of graphic designer will have changed much in ten yearstime. The developments around it will advance much further: globalization, forms of internet, focus on tools instead of final products, increas-ing importance on process and research. And the speed and turnover rate of information will probably be greater. JvT You see too much design that is too personal and decorative, too much stereotypical use of imagery. Even though human capacity is much great-er, the combination of text and image the multitude of forms, that has been greatly neglected in design. FJ Designers still need to master skills, develop a distinctive style, vision and mentality. They need all that more than ever, because design has become a commodity. They need to develop qualities in order to stand out and offer added value. Ten years ago we heard the bizarre story that in Hong Kong they could design a skyscraper in an afternoon. Thats now standard practice here today. Thats how fast things change. Designers need to develop with the right skills, crafts and attitude...But we need to place these skills in a wider context. Not react to commissions but actively seek out stakeholders to shape a project. DN You cant simply translate an autonomous project directly into a practical assignment. A designers has become a theorist, researcher, artist, philosopher, scientist, programmer and much more...so many that its become harder to connect it all together. A vision we put into practice is the project we did two years ago with Pieke Bergmans entitled Res Sapiens. It was about com-
The New Design Landscape
municating information flows in a more tangible way. We linked 13 cheap lamps to random yet specific sources of information on the Internet, such as a girls Facebook page from Friesland, news from the Middle East or Obamas Twitter account. We developed software that interpreted texts and images from those sources in terms of emotions rather than content. The lamps were fitted with tiny motors and placed on table that became a sort of social network of things. Emotions were expressed as subtle movements, just as Im gesticulating as I speak. AdV The designer of the future should deal with issues he understands. He isnt somebody who packages a clients message in a pretty form. He focus-es instead more on substance is aware of his fascination with and relation to the subject. He can understand it, interpret it, and then act on it. Internation-al orientation and collaboration are also vital for student development and understanding. Focusing on this country alone wont save you. International orientation and collaboration are important for understanding projects and interpreting them. DN Are we reinventing the profession? Ill let others to judge of that. But I do like working with the people here and asking: Whats next? The world around us is changing. How can we shape those new developments such in a way that we can deploy them? JH We see that more and more mundane tasks are now being done by computers. So dull jobs will not exist in 10 years time, at least in the West. Theres a huge role now for people to determine how we should automate things and make them enjoyable, easy, beautiful? Thats diffi-cult. Designers who can think creatively and solve problems are very well posi-tioned to play a constructive and leading role in this area. DN Innovation is very important. People mistakenly think that they have to innovate themselves, but the world around us innovates all the time, whether we like it or not. The ques-tion is: do we go along with it or not? Its very easy to stick to what youve already learned and just apply that. McLuhan said we look at the future through a rear-view mirror. Thats the easy, familiar, risk-free path that many people follow. Do things the way youve always done them and theres a stronge chance itll go well.But if you do something youve never done before, theres a big chance itll fail.
FJ Talking about graphic design in the Netherlands is becoming a his-torical fallacy. The whole world around us talks about design, creative thinking, design thinking, visual communication...and so on. No other country talks about graphic design. We need to stop that, quickly.
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Design Historian Memeber of the Councile for Culture
Graphic Designer Design Manager at Facebook
Graphic Designer Creative Director at Total Identity
Annelys de Vet
Graphic Researcher Cultural Designer
Visual Philosopher Director of LUST & LUSTlab
Jan Van Toorn
Graphic Designer Former Director of the Jan van Eyck Academy
Usedfontfamilies:Noe Display (by Schick Toikka) Work Sans (by Wei Huang)
Printed in Vilnius, LithuaniaJanuary2016
The world of Graphic Design is in transition. As is the world around us. The old economic models are under
fire and this causes questions to arise. Established institutions are in danger of disappearing, fundamental social
behaviors are changing, so its not unthinkable that we have reached a
turning point in time.