Wednesday, September 3

RHETORIC 3 :: reading

Read this second source on rhetoric. The examples and captions are the most helpful to recognize the various visual/verbal relationships that are possible. There are more terms here than our "ten" and some are named differently, which goes to show that our examples are not the limits of rhetoric.

Rhetoric, Bonsiepe (PDF)

Read "Good Citizenship", by Katherine McCoy, from Citizen Designer (an excerpt from the full essay)

Reflect upon your own role in civic engagement in relation to: this project; the specific skill-set of the profession; AIGA's competition goal to "demonstrate the power of design in the public arena"; and/or any greater goals you have as a designer. Post your responses to the comments.


Kyle Huber said...

As I read through McCoy's article I highlighted certain thoughts that I found compelling. She is right, "we cannot afford to be passive anymore." We need to defend our right to freedom of expression, instead of letting our values and opinions stay out of the picture. We must please our clients and complete the tasks at hand, but why should we have to sacrifice our own feelings to do so?

"We have trained a profession (graphic design) that feels political or social concerns are either extraneous to our work, or inappropriate." This sentence relates to the restrictions set on this AIGA voting poster. We are supposed to make a voting poster for the general public and we must not target a specific party. We are allowed, however, to target a specific demographic. In doing so, I have found that some of the stereotypes and statements that I have come up with might be offensive and detrimental to my purpose of trying to attract voters. McCoy says, "Being a professional means to put aside one's personal reactions regardless of the situation and carry on." In order to make a poster that is acceptable, I must be careful about what I say and what I show because I might risk being unprofessional and be disqualified. Where the hell did my right to freedom of expression go?

"The graphic designer was to be the neutral transmitter of the client's messages. Clarity and objectivity were the goal." This sounds like the design problem we are facing while creating this voting poster. With my research, I feel like I have sorted out what I need to say and how I need to say it, in order to catch my demographics attention in the proper manner.

My goal as a designer is to always be conceptual and to always push myself to achieve better. Sometimes I have to be careful, being too conceptual can create a problem. Some audiences aren't expecting something to be rhetorical or to have a deeper meaning than what is shown. My challenge is striking a balance in what can be understood by all types of people. One thing is for sure, I have never and will NEVER wear a white lab coat.


"Remove our freedom of speech and graphic
designers might never notice." Even though it's not to pleasant to admit it, it's true. Many designers are focused on solving all kinds of issues, but forget that they have a certain role that is still there.
"We were encouragedto wear white lab coats, perhaps so the messy external environment would not contaminate our surgically clean detachment." Love that quote. Many designers our age and older think it's better to pretend that what's going on in the world is none of their business. But designing artifacts that do nothing for anyone, except for a specific consumer-oriented audience, seems to be a waste of time. I don't mean that all design should be trying to solve societal issues, because we need the other things too. It is a good idea, however, to design things that attempt to change something in this world at least once in a while. That's why I think it's great that we have this poster assignment.

Ian Tirone said...

"Consumerism and materialism now seem to be the only ties that bind."

"Our self-absorption and lack of activism has left a void filled by minority single-issue groups aggressively pushing their concerns."

"Detroit was still smoking from its
riots just down the street from our office. Yet hardly a word was spoken on these subjects. We were encouraged to wear white lab coats, perhaps so the messy external environment would not contaminate our surgically clean detachment."

The world is a filthy bathroom from floor to ceiling.

The grout is thick with decay and the tiles slick with grease.

The toilet hasn't been flushed.

The paper dispenser was ripped off in anger.

The cabinet is on its way, filled with pills that don't match.

The sink is stopped up with hair, tangled impossible.

The wall paper is stripped don't remember what it looked like.

The shower head gushes a singular stream of vomit onto the occupant.

The ceiling fell in and the pieces left behind.

Its inconceivable that cleanliness could be born fo this.

It can never be cleaned.

All the bleach would clean the corner of a tile.

There is no other choice.

Rip it out and build a new one.

Design cannot help, anyone who would need to read and be influenced by these will never see it, and the people who would be exposed to it are too selfish to help. Helping those who need it only make them dependent on the help, it does not give them the ability to help themselves and become self sufficient. Provide opportunity, not handouts.
There is a structural problem that design in its current form and mode of thinking is unable to address, let alone fix. These issues don't matter to anyone unless they have been directly affected by it. MAAD was started by a mother whose child was killed in a drunk driving incident. She probably hadn't thought too much about it until then. Now this "minority single-issue group" exists that has most resonance with people in the same position as its founder. Other than that their message falls (like so much design and thought) on uncaring ears.
I don't know what I'm trying to say to be honest. I'm sure I thought it was important when I started typing though.

Ryan Shawgo said...

I thought that this article was very insightful to the very same problems we are having in society today. The war on terror kinda relates back to the vietnam war, it is a problem in which needs to be solved but who is going to do so? I think that designers can do much more than just design for the sake of communicating, how about making a difference in the world through the art of design. We are restricted from certain views that some might see as being offensive in which restricts us to just designing in our "white lab coat" and not wanting to get dirty. I think that if you have the guts to express your views or feelings you will make a difference through a humane way and objectively solving the problem while still hinting at ones views without throwing it someone's face.

thenewprogramme said...

great thoughts so far! this is the kind of discussion i love.

kyle, your quote from mccoy about being a professional misunderstands her intent, i believe. i think she meant that's how most people (or modernists) define "professional", but it's not necessarily correct. i think she's saying that an actual professional doesn't mean you have to put your personal feelings aside, but that you can (and probably should) stand up for the things you believe in, even in the workplace.

you're right about the "neutral transmitter" idea, relative to the aiga brief, because it calls for non-partisan encouragement of voting. you are all doing that quite well, i'd say. however if you take a step back, the brief doesn't allow for any dissenting opinion or questioning of voting, electoral politics, etc. it is biased in favor of participating in the electoral process (even if very few people would disagree with that process).

that's one thing i didn't like about the aiga's brief -- that the only acceptable answer was to encourage voting, no questions asked. what if you feel like the process is screwed up; the choices are already made for us; the true differences between candidates are very slim? i know that the aiga is interested in GD and design thinking gaining more respect and exposure, and in design sitting at the table when large scale decisions are being made. rather than us just making brochures about decisions that have already been made, they believe (rightly so) that designers can lend their creative problem-solving skills to systems-level issues to re-think how things work. and yet when it comes to our political system, we're simply encouraged to play the cheerleader with some nice posters. what's up with that?

that thought takes me to ian's revolutionary diatribe. whose fault is it if nobody will ever see these posters, ian? how can graphic designers set up systems that foster opportunity rather than just handouts? how can graphic design get to a place where we canaddress structural problems, get in front of audiences that don't yet care, and make them care? isn't persuasion what we're supposed to be good at? i believe design is well positioned to take that step forward if we would just start banging around and trying some stuff out. and people are doing that already in small pockets. marcia lausen's "design for democracy" initiative is one example. it's not just a bunch of pretty posters, but a comprehensive system designed to improve the whole voting experience for voters and volunteers alike. sounds like a potential degree project lurking around in your writing somewhere, ian...

with your MADD example, ian, the question is how to make those partying teens either care enough to not drink and drive, or design some solution that prohibits them from doing so. the question is not as simple as "how many billboards does it take?" it's a huge process, and it probably starts with real little kids and parents setting good examples.

anyway, great thoughts from all. keep thinking about this stuff, and we'll talk more in a year and a half in visual advocacy. yay!

Michael May said...

After reading your comment Tyler, I agree with the criticism of the AIGA brief. I personally do not agree with encouraging people to vote, as it's something I will not do. Politics are an ever-changing system, (if votes did count) you are never guaranteed that your candidate will stay true to the political climate of their election. People need to find loyalty in patriotism, not politics.

Rantings aside (or not) I don't think it's appropriate to inject your point of view into everything you make. Many things, as this project demonstrates, require a certain (or total) level of objectivity to be successful. I don't think it's appropriate to to force your opinion on someone beyond what is required for whatever you are working on. Marketing controversial enough with a large chunk of the population without personal politics thrown in.

Ian Tirone said...

Forcing an opinion, and making your opinion known/providing reasons for why your opinions are "right" are different things.

Forcing an opinion is fascist,

presenting and opinion and a case for it is democratic.

Laura Berglund said...

Creating these vote posters has been interesting... I've really noticed how hard it is to research out a group of people so deeply, so as to know what makes them tick, and what will move them enough to get them to vote in the election. I purposefully chose hispanics because I really knew nothing about them beyond stereotypical things, but now that I'm trying to draw out poster sketches that will motivate these people, I just don't feel like I know what I'm doing. Catering towards a specific demographic besides your own is a definite challenge, because it's near impossible to wrap your designer-y brain around what these people care for so much that they will feel the desire to go out and vote when they see that it's at stake. To me, there are only a certain few aspects that would relate to everyone in my demographic, but thinking about it, they are basic human values that could pertain to anyone... family, health, housing, freedom, etc... these issues would move anyone if there was the potential to lose them. So I need to find a way to connect these larger issues to a smaller group of people alone.

As a designer for these posters, I am finding it difficult to keep these guys non-partisan! I have found out so many issues that these people care about, like immigration for one, but if I use that as the basis for a poster, won't that come off as liberal? Or if I address abortion or traditional marriage, won't that be advocating conservatism?

My role as a designer is a love/hate relationship. I absolutely love to design, to create something clear, innovative, persuasive, or appealing... but I hate that with my designs, I am only inundating society even more with crap that screams for people's attention. All designs are meant to make the viewer view the design, but the problem today is the overload of designers, no matter how subtly, trying to persuade their viewers to do something. I know I don't want to be persuaded or talked into something that I didn't care about two minutes before... so why do I keep designing? I guess it's just because I love good design.

rmasri said...

Of the first article, I made it halfway through without wanting to yell at "Gui" for using unnecessarily difficult language and syntax in trying to express his ideas. I understand his message, one of the unity of ancient rhetoric, and the modern semiotics, but I feel like he could have said what he wanted to in a paragraph.
Nonetheless I found the images as worthwhile case studies in these forms of rhetoric we've been studying, and a few new ones. I particularly liked the power and simplicity of his example of visual substitution. Though the image is really barren, there are many layers of meaning that help to build a cohesive viewpoint.
The more I study rhetoric and semiotics, the more parallels I see between graphic design and literature. Both are message makers, and using the cliche chant, a picture is worth a thousand words, it's easy to see how a poster can carry just as much geist as a poignant essay, or convincing speech. I've realized that it's important to make these equations, to understand the potential that our constructed visual clues have to inspire, motivate, and educate.
Kathy McCoy's reading was like a breath of fresh air after Bonsiepe's. I thought that she made some very important points about the increasing complacency of American culture, and how the novelty and appreciation of our unique system of government has been in a downward spiral for years. I have noticed this myself, specifically in the last few years. I was intrigued by her discussion of designer as "nuetral arbiter", simply serving as a translation service between client and audience. This is not at all how I think about design, or ever want to think about design. Though I understand it is more scientific a practice than any of the fine arts, I still place it (at least in my mind) as in the realm of art, albeit commissioned art. I see the client / designer relationship as more of a collaboration, a mutual understanding and appreciation for each other's message and style. I also see the implications of the designer to educate their clients, and audience, to enrich society with their skill, and to be decidedly opinionated, passionate, and expressive.
Maybe this is why I'm not a modernist. :)

rmasri said...

so after reading over the other classes posts I realized I may have interpreted McCoy's article incorrectly. I understand her sterility in being true to the message and objectives, in being clear and concise. My point though was more that I believe in the expressive power of design, more so than the stark modernism of McCoy & Vignelli.

I, like Kyle, will never wear a white lab coat.