top of page

Week 12 - Press - New Steps

Ideas in a different space, problem swap, cultural and paradigm shift.

The last week of this first MA module and we were asked to investigate future perspectives for design.  Considering the ever evolving cultural, political and social landscapes, we needed to envisage a possible future platform for our design work.  My notes for this week can be viewed below.

Discovery Notes 

Analysis of Research

The case studies this week were asked 2 questions.  The first required responses that addressed the definition of design practice within a projected future.  All the designers consulted referred to their personal knowledge of current design practice and made educated proposals for future trends.  Simon Manchipp described a shift in focus with designers developing more multi-sensory experiences for consumers, on behalf of the brands they represent.  As he talked, I could see how the messages conveyed when working on branding a client business could become more holistic.  I wondered if this was in some way a antithesis to the all consuming digital world we now inhabit, customers perhaps craving a more 'tangible' experience when consuming products and services in response to an environment highly saturated with visual imagery.

Sam Winston seemed to concur with this viewpoint as he talked about a world where communication channels are so rife that people are struggling to process all the information they absorb.  With this disarray of thoughts, Winston suggested that medium would play a very important role.  I understood this to mean a broader selection of medium being used in design outcomes today, which would support a multi-sensory approach.  I could envisage a future where forecasters may need to assess public preferences for preferred methods of communication.  There are still consumers who would rather read a real paperback book than a kindle or listen to music on a record player rather than through Spotify on their phone. 

This idea of multi-sensory approaches will facilitate more multi-disciplinary collaborative design collectives.  Designers that have deeper level skills working with specific mediums will consult with those who are digitally savvy, creating work that stands out.  This is an idea that Regular Practice discuss.  Tom and Kristopher believing that uninspiring, uniform, standardised communications across the internet are prevalent and an injection of surprise is required to cut through the noise.  I'm excited by this projection, as I can see how my own textiles background could support graphic designs with a distinctive angle. 

The second question asked the case studies to envisage how sectors might change or need to change in the future.  Simon Manchipp believed that design ideas should connect well with people in order to successfully communicate and that the channels of communication such as Snap Chat, Twitter or Facebook will need to adapt to achieve this.  I think we are already seeing a change to more localised conversations as residents trade with each other through local Facebook marketplaces and politicians reach out to debate the issues of specific regional communities through these platforms.  However social media groups still have some way to go in facilitating platforms of mutually respectful and safe environments if the recent boycot relating to racist abuse is anything to go by. 

Julian House and Adrian Talbot of design studio Intro noted the ever tightening client budgets but increasingly elevated expectations.  They discussed the need to manage a clients expectation by presenting solutions that they may not have considered would meet their needs, particularly as the final outcome must fall within the restricted budget.  This obviously means that the designer must have a knowledge of costs, a good relationship with the client and discretion to deal with marketing departments who can squash creativity.

Maziar Raein in conversation with Susanna Edwards said that designers must consider how equipped they are to tackle this evolving creative space.  The problems that the world is currently and will continue to address are complex.  Raein acknowledges that for designers this can be overwhelming.  I wonder if designers should focus on issue/s that hold the most meaning for them rather than trying to tackle them all.  Graphic designers could become known for their knowledge of a particular world plight and find themselves working for companies looking to positively respond to it.  Work that has already been done within the realms of sustainability, ethical trading or world economics may be outdated or ineffective as time moves on.  The designers job could focus on challenging public pre-conceptions, mis-understandings or inaccurate learning in relation to these global problems and highlight the part consumers play, in their local communities, that feeds the bigger picture.  Clear and inspiring narratives will need to be conveyed in order to win hearts, minds and attitudes around such issues.  Raein describes this approach as a reflection of a designers own 'sensibilities', something he states as important for a designer to covet, building up personal archives of interest.

The notion of changing public perceptions or clarifying misunderstandings is not an easy task to undertake.  In her TED talk 'Why we need to imaging different futures' in 2017, Anab Jain spoke of the work she and her collaborates do to physically illustrate the potential realities if actions to address such issues as climate change are not taken.  She demonstrates how effective a tangible staging of a possible bleak future can be and this made me realise a similar strategy when designing a proposal could be very impactful. 

 

Staged objects, scientific experiments and real experiences may be one way to communicate a message but forensic-architecture.org also demonstrate the success of digital methods of tacit messages.  Working within the arenas of human rights violations, alleged miscarriages of justice, possible environmental coverups, forensic-architecture.org take a detailed and quantitive analysis of every piece of information at their disposal to tell a story that challenges a prior conclusion (often presented by a global authority or the law).  Highly controversial, their reports are hard to dispute when every piece of information they present is based upon meticulous research.  They use digital medium to re-enact events as they may have unfolded, technology to isolate visuals or sounds of key importance and researchers collate and record data, later examined with algorithmic precision.  This MA encourages us to explore sectors beyond design and art, to see where research in to sectors such as science, archaeology or medicine may take us, how this may open up outcomes that are experimental and fresh, breaking through the mundane.

Speculating about futures has become an industry in its own right, with forecasters like The Future Laboratory carrying out the research, data collation and analysis for us.  Organisations looking to these analysts to steer their business forward.  The Future Laboratory present insight in to consumer preferences, public services, built environments and virtual experiences.  Every sector has it's own report and terminology devised to cultivate meaning in a public domain, for example 'deadstock designers' - in the fashion industry, those who remodel or repurpose old stock & scrap clothing that is no longer 'on trend', seeking to forge a less wasteful sector .  As businesses become more concerned with future dynamics, these consultant services will increasingly be in demand and designers will need to be mindful of their projections.

Workshop Challenge

How is perception changed when design shifts into a new paradigm?

To answer this question, I felt it was important to firstly consider a current shift within a particular area that interests me.  Aware of consumers increasing concerns to address their purchasing habits in relation to sustainably and ethically conscious brands, I decided that clothing consumption was an interesting topic for investigation.  Having researched the clothing company Uniqlo last week, I knew that their business philosophy included an anti-fashion trends approach.  Further investigation in this area made me appreciate that the industry is beginning to address this fast, throw-away fashion perspective with a move away from cheap, mass produced clothing.  

Reading through the environmental issues reporting site greenmatters.com I became enlightened about the textile re-cycling challenges.  Re-cycling textiles requires them to be sorted by material, type and colour.  Some textiles, particularly those made from synthetic materials can be shredded in to fibres that can then be formed in to yarn and woven or knitted in to new clothing.  Although purposeful, this is labour intensive, requires industrial equipment that may produce greenhouse gases and new garments may end up back in the pile, re-cycled again.  100% cotton clothing seems to be more sustainable with it's compostable composition.  However, fields of cotton plants covering the planet may need to be retained for food production sooner, rather than later and many of those plants are grown using pesticides.

Circular online.co.uk, a news and insights resource for professionals working in this sector, highlights the UK as the 4th biggest waster of textiles with each person throwing away 3.1kg of textiles each year, 1.7kg of that straight in to the landfill pile.  Pollution of water courses and contaminated soil destroying wildlife habitats near the dump sites.  

Development of Ideas 

I decided there were two main issues to investigate with my outcome for this week.  The first was the carbon impact of cheap, fast fashion production, driven by consumer desire to keep up with fashion trends, which in turn is driven by industry.  The second issue is the disposal of old unwanted clothing whether that is due to fit issues, trend changes, worn out or outgrown. I thought about what might happen if we continued to waste textile resources, if the cotton textile growing fields were re-purposed for food and if clothing became a scarce commodity. 

 

The key question I felt needed to be answered was; How do we make people consider the responsible purchase, ownership & disposal of clothing? With the industry beginning to realise the unsustainable, frivolous and irresponsible model of twice yearly fashion trends, but with consumers still desiring clothing styles that communicate their tribal/demographic/cultural markers, I envisaged smaller collectives developing their own trends much more readily in their local or regional residencies.  For this to become a reality, people would need practical support to re-style/re-model existing items.  I could imagine local clothing Revival workshops being set up where creative and skilled people could support these adaptions and re-designs.

 

One of the main aims of the Revive scheme would be to keep clothing out of landfill and re-circulate items throughout the community.  Swapping items would be encouraged along with learning skills to keep clothing fresh, individual and fitting correctly.  Donating and volunteering would be at the heart of the community interest venture but designers would be in demand by those prepared to pay a little more for a bespoke t-shirt placement or print design.  Some designer profits being injected back into supporting the venture. I decided that my outcome would be a leaflet to be dropped through local letterboxes, but that could also be digitised to appear on Local Authority and Community Group social media pages.  The leaflet would aim to encourage engagement with the Revive Clothing Workshops and the services it would offer.

My initial ideas focused on the relationship between waste in landfill and the clothing dumped there, plus the fact that land would be contaminated by this and through the food chain thereby contaminating our food.  These were my initial sketches...

IMG_2316.jpg

Here I am playing with the idea that buttons from the clothing left in landfill have literally filled up and contaminated the river waters.

IMG_2315.jpg

This iteration's aim was to make a comment about how wildlife are affected by the clothing we dump in landfill  - what if a centipede evolved to have zipper legs!

IMG_2314.jpg

Here I am aiming to show how contaminating the land with dumped clothing would find it's way to contaminating our food in the chain.

IMG_2313.jpg

Here again, I was trying to illustrate how clothing would contaminate our land if left in landfill.  The roots of the t-shirt plant weaving through clothing brand labels. 

All the ideas above related to contamination of land following clothing dumped in landfill sites.  Although an interesting angle, as I read more I came across the Textiles 2030 call to action plan at www.wrap.org.uk.  The pledge has 4 main targets; reduce consumption, keep for longer, collect used & find new markets.  With the aim to "engage the majority of UK fashion and textiles organisations in collaborative climate action" (WRAP.org.uk)

I began to think about the Textiles 2030 targets and concluded that should textiles continue to be wasted, one area of growth could be the trading of Vintage Clothing.  I could see how quality made clothing from yesteryears would be desired by those with a fashionable eye.  I considered showing a mock lifecycle of one 1950's dress and how it could be adapted for each new decade's style.  I considered also demonstrating this from the dresses perspective - if the dress could tell the story of it's life, where it had been, who had worn it etc.  

I developed some leaflet titles that might grab the attention of the viewer and create intrigue around the Revive Workshop idea.

  • 1 Dress - 4 Generations

  • Don't archive - Revive

  • REVIVE - REMODEL - REVALUE

  • Throw away our throw away culture

  • Heritage your wardrobe

  • My Dress My Generation

I liked the idea that clothing could be passed down generations, re-modelled and become heirloom items of great value & significance to the owners.  My next iterations utilised imagery from vintage sewing patterns.  I looked at silhouettes from 4 decades, the typeface used on vintage patterns and the pattern markings. 

1960's Dress.jpg
1980's dress.jpg
1970's dress.jpg
1950's dress.jpg
20210427_154332000_iOS.png
20210427_153319000_iOS.png
20210427_152825000_iOS.png

My developed ideas in response to the visual research above. 

BRWC0B5D75C0B85_000889.jpg
BRWC0B5D75C0B85_000888.jpg
Revive 1.png

Jan Van Toorn

The iterations above were in part inspired by the Dutch Designer Jan Van Toorn, whom I had been investigating alongside this project.  The brief this week had asked us to; 'Communicate your outcome/ shift ensuring your outcome is apparent, courageous and driven by risk and a rationale'  I discovered that Jan Van Toorn (JVT) was something of a master risk taker.  Rick Poynor writing for eyemagazine.com describing him as a "hero". 

 

JVT's work was not obvious, but required some effort on the part of the viewer to interpret his message.  As I consider Maziar Raein's advice to bring one's own personal sensibilities to one's work, I looked to JVT for inspiration.

 

Often challenging his clients view point,  interlacing his political and personal agenda in to his work, JVT was provocative in his approach.  Fig. 1 demonstrates his desire to make the viewer work with the manipulation of the paragraphs of text set at different alignments on the page of this 1967 catalogue design. 

2021-05-10.png

In his 2008 book, Jan Van Toore: Critical Practice, Rick Poynor explains that Van Toore's focus was about meaning rather that aesthetics and style.  Van Toore's commitment to a theoretical design pedagogy shines through in his work as he presents unfinished, clumsy, loose scrapbook style compositions.  Challenging expectations and formulating confrontational design elements that subverted meaning, gave Van Toore the outlet for questioning a designers role, something he encouraged his students to do at Jan Van Eyck Academy, Maastricht. 

 

Fig's 2 & 3 utilising JVT's photo montage technique, show two posters from a series of 7 designed for De Beyerd Visual Arts Centre from 1981-1987.  Poynor describes these as reflexive works and explains how Van Toore was highlighting the designers role in relaying messages to the public, along with a statement about how the media has the power to control a high profile public figure, like actress Sophia Loren (shown in the posters).  These pieces are a good example of how JVT was able to meet the requirements of his client, De Beyerd whilst also generating questions around culture and society.  

20210427_140106816_iOS.jpg
Fig. 2
2021-05-10 (1).png
Fig. 3

Final Outcome

Revive 1.2.jpg

Journal Reflection 

The statement I was trying to make with my final outcome this week, is how frivolous we can be when it comes to clothing, how much money we can waste buying 'ill-fitting', 'wear once to a special occasion' or 'emotional boost' clothing.  I want people to look at my poster and consider a different approach to individual fashion style, one where re-imagining pieces can provide that uniqueness that many people crave from what they wear.   I think I could have taken more risks with my final outcome and take more of a leaf out of JVT's book, but I feel my final outcome has the rationale I wanted to convey.  I would like to spend more time investigating presentations that break with traditions of design and will continue to consider my own creative sensibilities.  I would also adapt the clothing in the image to appeal more readily to both male & female audiences, although I believe females to be the larger consumers of fast fashion.

I have enjoyed looking at possible futures this week and been surprised by the depths of research being undertaken in an effort to predict the direction of markets, consumers and cultures.  I can see how lucrative forecasting is and how important the projections are for business planning. I have realised that being a good designer requires a fine balance between looking back to learn from the past, being aware of what is happening around you in the moment and imagining what the future may bring. 

References

Dunne, A. Raby, F., (2013) Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. Cambridge MA: MIT. Available from: www.dunneandraby.co.uk [accessed on 26 April 2021)

 Barbican Centre. (2014) Welcome to the Digital Revolution. [online video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6cn8xFfDIQ&t=1s [accessed 25 April 2021]

Forensic Architecture. (c2021) Available from: https://www.forensic-architecture.org/ [accessed 25 April 2021]

TED (2017) Anab Jain: Why We Need to Imagine Different Futures [online video]. Available at https://www.ted.com/talks/anab_jain_why_we_need_to_imagine_different_futures  [Accessed 26 April 2021]

Cute Circuit. (c2021) Available from: https://cutecircuit.com/ [accessed 26 April 2021]

The Future Laboratory. (c2021) Available from: https://www.thefuturelaboratory.com/reports [accessed 27 April 2021]

Osmanski, S. (2020) How Fabric Gets Recycled.  Available from: https://www.greenmatters.com/p/how-fabric-gets-recycled [accessed 28 April 2021]

Poynor, R. (2008) Jan Van Toorn: Critical Practice. Nai010 Publishers: Netherlands.  Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lubZS3-FJ6MC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed on 27 April 2021]

Typeroom (2020)  In Memoriam: Jan Van Toorn.  Available from: https://www.typeroom.eu/in-memoriam-jan-van-toorn-1932-2020 [accessed 29 April 2021]

Plastics Industry Association (2021) This is Plastic:  Things You Might Not Know About Landfills.  Available from: https://thisisplastics.com/environment/things-you-might-not-know-about-landfills/ [accessed 28 April 2021]

Textile Recycling Association (2021) Press Release 26th April 2021 - Textiles 2030 is Launched.  Available from: https://www.textile-recycling.org.uk/re-use-and-recycling-to-play-a-crucial-role-in-delivering-a-sustainable-and-circular-economy-as-textiles-2030-is-launched/ [accessed 27 April 2021]

Retro Waste (c2021) 1950s Dresses & Skirts: Styles, Trends & Pictures.  Available from:https://www.retrowaste.com/1950s/fashion-in-the-1950s/1950s-dresses-skirts-styles-trends-pictures/[accessed 28 April 2021]

Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H. et al. The environmental price of fast fashion. Nat Rev Earth Environ 1, 189–200 (2020).  Available at:https://www.nature.com/articles/s43017-020-0039-9 [accessed 29 April 2021]

bottom of page