Week 5

In week 5 I embark on the second brief of the module where we’ll choose an industry led brief. I reflect upon the briefs given to us and the possibilities connected to each one. Further, I go on to research competitive project examples related to my chosen brief, which is the one given by The Science Museum.

Lecture notes

Lecture notes

It was interesting to hear the different takes on approaching projects in this week’s lecture. On one hand you have Torsten Posselt who encouraged projects that you know nothing about, and on the other you have Eden Spiekermann who consciously specialises within certain domains (Torsten Posselt et al., 2021). I personally appreciate the excitement that comes with trying something new, but of course I also understand that you can become more efficient and prominent when sticking to what you know. 

The people at Accept & Proceed might have found a middle way as they use self-initiated projects to explore what they are passionate about (Torsten Posselt et al., 2021). This way, they get to explore domains they know nothing about, whilst also making sure that they have enough knowledge when working with clients. 

Wether you choose to embark on something new or not, I do agree with Luke Veerman in that you should choose a project that matches your skillset. Just as we had to choose a topic for brief 1 that could be solved using design, I think one needs to reflect on wether a project could be solved using a skillset that you either have or that you’d like to adopt.

Resource notes

Resource reflections

Michael Bierut on how to think like a designer

Fig. 1: Bierut 2012. Nuts.com. [packaging]

It was great to hear about Michael Bierut’s projects, and I was quite surprised about how casual his design process seemed to be. The first project I really liked what the branding for nuts.com. The concept is so simple, and it really illustrates the importance of stripping back in graphic design (and also that striped back doesn’t necessarily mean minimal). The hand made typeface is really lovely and gives the whole identity a warm and organic look, which suits the concept of buying a box of nuts. The characters are also really sweet, and I like how they now match the aesthetic of the typography, as apposed to the previous branding where everything was a bit all over the place.

Fig. 2: Bierut 2014. MIT Media Lab. [visual identity]

Having worked on a modular project for the last brief, I had to enjoy Bierut’s work for the MIT media lab. During his talk, Bierut mentioned that he liked working with grid systems (Michael Bierut, 2016), and I think this is particularly evident in this project. The system he’s created establishes a cohesive look for all departments, and it’s fun how so many limitations can result in exploratory results with unique pieces of lettering.

Workshop challenge

I started the workshop challenge by reading the briefs, as asked for in the task. As I was taking notes I tried to reflect upon what sort of skills I could use for the different projects, and wether they would suit my creative interests as a designer. As Torsten Posselt mentioned in the lecture, doing a project you know nothing about can be very rewarding (Torsten Posselt et al., 2021), and I thought it could be nice to apply this mentality in terms of themes (e.g. I wouldn’t want to not choose the Science Museum brief because I’m not interested in science, if the brief could have the potential to fulfil my creative interests).

International competition – Creative Conscience

The Creative Conscience brief seems like a human centred design project with a focus on service design. Here, you have to identify specific issues, and attempt to problem solve using design. Thus, it’s not exactly in line with my area of creative interests, which are more about branding and visual identity. 

The topic, human health and wellness, is one that I haven’t worked on before. It’s not a topic I’m instinctively drawn to as a designer. However, that might be due to the fact that I haven’t explored it before. I tend to find interesting aspects in most themes, and this one has the potential to be very rewarding in terms of giving back to a community. 

Some initial topics of interests for this brief could be:

  • Air pollution.
  • A speculative project where I look at the future health problems as results of climate change.
  • Looking at long working hours (both in terms of effects, but also ways of improving health – either whilst working or by getting people to work less).
  • Related to the topic above it could also be interesting to look at businesses and how they can increase wellbeing amongst workers (this might be an interesting article).

What I quite like about this brief is that there are so many niche issues to cover. I also imagine that since the issues can be niche, one might have a chance at actually creating something useful. 

My issue with the brief is that I imagine the outcome to be very product or service related, but of course one could also create a campaign project (for example a global hand washing day). This might let me enjoy the brief more due to creative interests, that only focusing on service or product design.

International competition – Adidas

The Adidas brief seems very cool and it definitely has the potential to become a project in line with my interests for branding and visual identity. It would also be challenging in this aspect as I’d have to make sure that my visuals were in line with the overall Adidas brand, which I think is harder than creating a visual identity from scratch. 

I’m not particularly interested in sports, but I’m not not interested in it either, as I can enjoy an occasional run. I like that the brief encourages original ideas, and to not look to competitors for inspiration. I also like that it asks you to explore city issues and how to improve people’s lives. It could be interesting to look at how sport can impact issues like climate change, but also more mundane and niche issues that are specific to the chosen city. 

Another interesting topic that Adidas has mentioned on their strategy page is women and the fact that they want to increase women’s sales. This is a topic that Adidas is already exploring in their adverts. I’m very into equality as a topic and I’d love to explore ways of empowering women through the topic of sports.

Fig. 3: Pistola 2021. Beyond the surface.

Since I don’t know much about any specific sports (e.g. football or basket ball), this brief could potentially be a way of learning something new about specific communities and technicalities, whilst focusing on an issue I’m passionate about. 

Although it’s a bit superficial, I’m slightly turned off by the fact that the competition is no longer active. This doesn’t affect the brief’s potential, but I’d loose the opportunity of live feedback, which I’d get if I was to choose the Science Museum for example. However, this is a brief of endless possibilities in terms of creative and conceptual approach and I really do think I’d enjoy it a lot.

Live collaboration

The live collaboration workshop sounds fun. However, I don’t really have any potential collaborators that comes to mind at the moment. I could of course attempt to seek one out amongst friends and family, but the availability aspect of the brief makes me slightly hesitant as they’d need to put a lot of time and energy into the project. 

One possibility would be to intertwine this project with my job. This could lead to interesting projects, but one thing I love about doing the MA is that it’s totally free and up to me. Therefore, I think I’d enjoy the other briefs more at this stage of my practice. I’d be very keen to seek out potential clients/collaborators, taking the role of a freelance graphic designer, but since this is not the brief, I wont go ahead with this option.

The Science Museum

This brief reminds me a lot about a project from the previous module where I developed a pamphlet description service with the purpose of spreading information about designs found in digital archives. I definitely find the idea of working with a museum tempting as I’d love to work with cultural fields when I graduate. Science isn’t a particular interest of mine, but research and exploration however is something I love doing, particularly in my work as a designer.

I like that the Science museum has already done parts of the design process that I don’t particularly enjoy, like analysing who their target audience is. There is also a specific issue to be looked at here – the audience is not coming to the digital archive to browse, but rather to research. 

Further, I think this project has the potential to be almost whatever you want. You can use it to comment on societal issues, to create a piece of art, or to serve a more pragmatic function by creating a browsing tool. The topic of scale is very evident here, and something I’d be interested in looking at further – could one work on presenting very specific things as a contrast to the vastness of the collection (here is an example of how Folder Studio presents collected books)? 

Fig. 4: Federer 1968. Lob des Lesens. [book cover]

I think there is definitely an expectation of solving this brief using technology, but I’d personally be interested in looking at more human ways of visualising the collection. Are there tools in the collection that could be used to make something new (could one make a typeface using a record player for example)? Could one take an authorial approach by presenting very specific collections to specific audiences? And are there any outdated and tactile tools/methods used to present vast amounts of materials that could be reimagined in a digital context?

I think this brief is in line with my creative interests in terms of developing systems (particularly referring to my project from brief 1) and tools. However it’s still slightly out of my comfort zone because it’s more of a service design project that what I’m used to. The topic of science is not something I’d normally explore, but of course the museum’s collection goes beyond typical science themes (as mentioned in this week’s webinar).

This brief feels slightly overwhelming at the moment. However, it also holds lots of potential, and after reflecting upon the four briefs, this is the one I decided to go ahead with.

Competing projects

After deciding on my brief, I went on to look for my three competing projects. I found this a little difficult due to the very open brief, and the fact that the project could be about anything from digital interfaces to physical exhibits. Yet, as I hadn’t decided on a direction for my project, I decided to search broad and look at different types of projects.

I’ll start by briefly presenting the projects that I was interested in, but that didn’t make the to three:

Fig. 5: Stamen Ca. 2008. SFMoMA Artscope. [digital interface]

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s art scope
This project was linked to in the brief, as well as this week’s webinar and I was quite fascinated by what John said about it reminding him of looking through photography negatives. It could be very interesting to look into dated tools of methods for showcasing large amounts of data – even map making, if I was to focus on the entire collection.

Fig. 6: New York Public Library 2018. Insta Novels. [Instagram stories]

Insta Novels
The New York Public Library’s Insta Novels, presented to us in a previous module, is a great example of how one can use narrative and technology to reimagine something old. It’s such a simple, yet brilliant idea, that really offer value to users.

Fig. 7: Acid Salt 2021. Acid Salt Collective. [Photo montage]

The Acid Salt Collective
This article on It’s Nice That about Acid Salt was an interesting read in relation to the brief. The collective wants to challenge the way we experience art by combining a range of sensory outcomes  (Grace Lister, 2021). The collective displays work in progress and ideas that they are working on separately, and then they curate it together (Grace Lister, 2021). 

What I found interesting about the article was how the collective aims to combine work that applies to different senses like taste, sound, vision etc. The Science Museum must have a range of material for all human senses, and I therefore think it could be interesting to look at ways of presenting a full sensory experience (in the same way as Acid Salt puts it) (Grace Lister, 2021). 

Below are my three final project examples, accompanied with the synopsis:

Fig. 8: Hello Monday 2014. MoMA Magritte. [digital interface]

Hello Monday: MoMA takes you through a surreal digital exhibition
In their digital exhibition project with MoMA, Hello Monday created an experience that let users explore the work of Rene Magritte (Hello Monday, 2014). The design studio has lots of interesting projects on digital experiences, however this one was most in line with the brief, as it was made for a museum.

One of the project’s strengths is that the transitions and digital techniques were inspired by the methods of the artist (Hello Monday, 2014). This creates a cohesiveness between the design and the topic. The exhibition is also very beautiful, and from the videos it looks like the user experience has been considered. I also like that they have used a range of mediums to enhance the experience like video and audio narration.

To me, this way of telling a story is more appealing that displaying archived objects in more randomised orders through discovery tools. However, it does require more human labour than computer driven curation. One could also argue that the exhibition is only appealing to those interested in Magritte (or at least those who wants to learn about him). Thus, it does not let users discover a range of topics and visuals, but rather works by one man. The experience doesn’t seem to provide value that a physical exhibition couldn’t, other than making the content available to a global audience.

Fig. 9: It’s Nice That and Dropbox 2021. The Inspiration Archive. [digital user manual]

It’s Nice That x Dropbox: The Inspiration Archive
In september, It’s Nice That paired up with Dropbox to create a digitalisation of the Ulm School of Design archive, creating a resource of inspiration for creatives (Jyni Ong, 2021). Although it has a slightly capitalist vibe to it (the usage of Dropbox’s folder system), this is the first time one can view the archive digitally (Jyni Ong, 2021), and I think this is an amazing resource that I’d love to use in my work.

A real success with this project is the categorisation. The target audience (designers) and the function (visual inspiration) are perfectly combined in the way one picks a category to browse based on the following: colour, size, theme, material, activity and physicality (Jyni Ong, 2021). I particularly like the folder where one browses based on colour, as it’s very aesthetically pleasing whilst also providing a huge variety of designs and objects. The act of browsing is very evident here, as one doesn’t need to use searches to discover the designs.

Although the dropbox folder system is user friendly, it’s not very creative or aesthetic. This is a weakness to me, as I’d love to see the tool itself refer to the Ulm School somehow. At the moment, the archive feels more like an advert for dropbox, rather than a source of inspiration, in terms of the tool itself.

Fig. 10: Saint Heron 2021. Saint Heron Community Library. [digital interface]

Saint Heron: Saint Heron Community Library
The Saint Heron community library is a digital resource that presents a list of books on Black and Brown voices in poetry, visual art, critical thought and design (Saint Heron, 2021). The list is created by new guest curators each season, and the books are available to read for American citizens (Saint Heron, 2021).

What I find successful about this resource is how it uses content to achieve something good, and to comment on a political situation. Rather than just presenting interesting books, it’s providing inclusive material for students, lecturers and creatives looking for a more inclusive reading list.

In terms of technical aspects I like the idea of guest curators. It keeps the material relevant, and I personally think it adds a human value to the content in a different way than computer generated curation could. The design is also very beautiful. I love the typography and colour tones as they feel modern, which is not always the case with digital archives.

A weakness is that the material is not available to a global audience. It would also be nice to access work directly on the site, without having to read the books. Also, even though the design is beautiful, it’s not very innovative in terms of technology or information design.

In conclusion

This week has been quite hectic due to non-course related activities and I therefore didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to research and reflect. If I had more time I would have liked to do further research related to the provided material, for example by looking into the act of choosing a brief, and perhaps by doing an analysis of my goals and ambitions as a designer.

In terms of researching the briefs, I also could have done a better effort. Particularly with the Science Museum one, as it contained a range of articles and background information that I didn’t have time to look properly into. As I’ve chosen this brief, I’ll have to go through this material carefully next week. 

I also could have spent more time analysing and reflecting on my chosen project examples. Especially in regards of navigation and categorisation, as I believe this could have let me understand digital archive interfaces better. 

Looking back on my examples, I think the It’s Nice That x Dropbox example is my favourite. It’s extremely simple as far as interfaces go, but the categorisation really makes me want to browse, and it definitely lets me discover objects I wouldn’t have found if I was to browse by more specific categories such as “chairs” or “books”. This way of categorising could be interesting to investigate further when I begin to work on concept development.

Grace Lister (2021) ‘Speaking to the many senses, creative collective Acid Salt challenges how we engage with art’, It’s Nice That, 5 May. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/acid-salt-art-050521 (Accessed: 22 October 2021).

Hello Monday (2014) ‘MoMA takes you through a surreal digital exhibition’, Hello Monday. Available at: https://www.hellomonday.com/work/moma-magritte (Accessed: 22 October 2021).

Jyni Ong (2021) ‘How design became socially conscious: Get inspired with Dropbox and The Ulm School of Design’s new digital archive’, It’s Nice That, 28 September. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/dropbox-the-ulm-school-of-design-graphic-design-partnership-280921 (Accessed: 22 October 2021).

Michael Bierut (2016) Michael Bierut on how to think like a designer. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RanfCx18gi4&ab_channel=DesignIndaba (Accessed: 17 October 2021).

Saint Heron (2021) ‘Saint Heron Community Library’, Saint Heron Community Library. Available at: https://saintheron.com/ (Accessed: 22 October 2021).

Torsten Posselt et al. (2021) ‘Lecture’. Canvas Falmouth Flexible [online], 15 October.

Figure 1. Michael BIERUT. 2012. Nuts.com. Pentagram [online]. Available at: https://www.pentagram.com/work/nutscom/story

Figure 2. Michael BIERUT. 2014. MIT Media Lab. Pentagram [online]. Available at: https://www.pentagram.com/work/mit-media-lab

Figure 3. Caballo PISTOLA. 2021. Beyond the surface. YouTube [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPCJLGh_MJI

Figure 4. Konrad FEDERER. 1968. Lob des Lesens. Informational Affairs [online]. Available at: https://informationalaffairs.com/

Figure 5. STAMEN. Ca. 2008. SFMoMA Artscope. Stamen [online]. Available at: https://stamen.com/work/sfmoma-artscope/

Figure 6. NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. 2018. Insta Novels. The New York Public Library [online]. Available at: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/08/22/instanovels

Figure 7. ACID SALT. 2021. Acid Salt Collective. It’s Nice That [online]. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/acid-salt-art-050521

Figure 8. HELLO MODAY. 2014. MoMA Magritte. Hello Monday [online]. Available at: https://www.hellomonday.com/work/moma-magritte

Figure 9. IT§S NICE THAT and DROPBOX. 2021. The Inspiration Archive. The Inspiration Archive [online]. Available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/43ryhq4f0mhh78n/AADQKMTo9EnShfWKlhEU9cUda?dl=0

Figure 10. SAINT HERON. 2021. Saint Heron Community Library. Saint Heron Community Library [online]. Available at: https://saintheron.com/