DESIGN DOMAIN PART ONE - 2020/2021
This year's design domain theme is on responsibility. Discovering the theme I was a bit frightened because it is very vast and about a thing, we are almost incapable of dealing with on our own. I was also scared that it will be only centralized about climate change and ecology. But then I took a few steps back and had conversations with people and I realized that it was a potentially interesting theme, yet very ambitious.
LAUNCH & SYMPOSIUM
The launch was fairly different this year as everything was recorded except the live panel. I started to watch the recordings and took notes. I really liked Michael Johnson's talk about ethical design and how we can do good in the world of advertising and branding. He said 'Making good design for good people' that's a sentence that really stuck in my head. Then Joanna Moll talks about her practice was on the first hearing quite complex, but then after leaving it in my head for a bit very interesting as well.
Overall what really inspired me was the question of how to make design ethical in today's industry and how can we make provocative art to raise awareness against crises matter. Both Michael and Joanna answered to this in their talks.
After watching the talks and the panel I started to write down potential directions for the project but was a bit lost on the level of ambitiousness. what is really possible to do or not.
I still developed 4 ideas that are all tied to various sides and the meaning of responsibility.
- My first idea was to make a series of 3D stills/video loop unveiling objects with sustainable materials instead of their current materials that harm our planet. Replacing these materials affects a lot the aesthetics and I wanted to create awareness around this topics. Can we replace current materials with sustainable ones even if they are ugly and don't tick the aesthetics checkbox? I was inspired by Lucas Zanotto in his style of 3D textures. I thought as we are one of the design fields using the most un-sustainable materials to do our design it was maybe a good direction to take.
Lucas Zanotto work with 3D textures
Essay on sustainable materials, published by ECAL in 'Technology and Reseach in Art and Design at ECAL'.
- My second idea was about the moral and genuineness of copyright and open-source. It's one of our main concerns as we are relying on the web, which itself is an immense source of materials. Today it is getting more and more confusing on the rights to use what. Is this font copyrighted or not, is this program? etc etc. I've read an interesting essay on the history of letter pressing and the genuineness of the fonts coming out of them. Back in the days you either bought or inherited letterpress from a particular font, it was the basis of typography and the only way to make it. Although since they were all very similar and not branded carefully it opened a kind of loophole where foundries all had super similar letter sets. It is a very interesting fact I would have potentially explored in our current days with the genuineness of designs and programs.
Book of essays published by ECAL.
Research from the following :
- Essay by Léa Nouraud — 'The legal copyist and the moral original'
- Essay by Sarah Klein — 'Teaching type'
- The third idea was an engaged font. A font that, in its design, was provocative. Although I didn't know how it could be as such. Maybe changing the shape of the glyphs to reflect the environment or violence or something else. Although this was my least developed idea, it intrigued me a lot.
'RIO' variable logotype made by the Swiss foundry Omnitype which breaks some font-making codes.
- the last idea was to create an Instagram filter that augmented objects into something more lively with nature. The aesthetics were to be a bit childish so it could reach any potential users. The concept was to enhance our daily lives on social media with more nature. Being aesthetically pleasing would create some sort of awareness and sensibilize people to the fact that we should take care of nature and surrounding living things.
Here's a potential look of the filter filling object with childish nature drawings
I took a screenshot of this because I liked the overall aesthetic of it, very geometrical, not always practical but the overall feel good and beautiful.
My idea development was centered on a simple topic: How can I help to innovate and improve my design field. (our responsibility as designers). So with the tools, I have and I know, how can I potentially improve my field as it is one of the most dangerous for us environmentally and socially with the web issues. I created a small padlet bringing every idea into one place ahead of the tutorial.
We had group tutorials where we shared our ideas and discussed them with our peers. I realized my 'field of view' was very large as I wanted to tackle a lot of big problems. Paul advised me to focus on a detail of these matters so I could answer the brief more efficiently. This was very helpful for my research as I really focused on something less ambitious and big in terms of subject.
I started the second week by choosing one of my 4 ideas and doing some research. Evidently, the engaged font was my favorite as I really love working on typography and I liked the direction of the idea.
I started reading and researching different concepts, topics, and technologies that I could use to do my project. Lots of this research is present in my proposal here.
The readings helped me a lot to craft and model my idea to its final form. The research project on sustainable materials and their aesthetics was really inspiring for me. It guided me towards this concept of innovating an already existing designed piece but with a new element. It could be its form, shape, material, system, etc etc.
The 'Designing Programmes' by Karl Gerstner helped me narrow my idea to something achievable and restrain myself to create a completely new thing from scratch. It talked about the longevity of certain typography settings and their historical ties. I guess it is indeed more helpful to start with a base and start innovative from this point instead of proposing a completely new 'alien' concept. It really helped me to conceptualize a project that is achievable and but still innovative and meaningful.
Finally, Tristan Bartolini's project was a sort of confirmation that we could innovate with fonts by making them break some rules of our languages (in his project french).
Tritan Bartolini's font samples.
PART ONE PROPOSAL
So my proposal for this project is to create a font that is engaging with its user. The aim is to raise awareness about hate speech when we are writing digitally. The font automatically detects words or combinations of them and reacts to what is written.
The concept comes from the hugeness that is the internet and how unmonitored it is. I guess it shouldn't be a police state either, but making it a slightly better place could be nice. My aim here is only to raise awareness not to make the internet a ruled place with super strict laws and infringes everyone's freedom of speech. Although, in recent decades we discovered how it could escalate fast and let hate and discriminatory speech happen on a daily basis.
I've had recent personal events where I experienced hate and violence towards members of my family and it can come from nowhere at any time. So I thought making a piece to make this place better is an interesting idea. I believe everyone is capable of being good and responsible so why not help and raise awareness around this issue that hate speech is.
As said the idea is an engaged font, the font is reacting to the user's speech and this can be done relatively easily in the font-making software. The technology used is originally for ligatures. Ligatures are a special glyph form where letters are linked. for example for repetition of 'f' the horizontal bar can link the two letters forming a ligature. The concept is really simple and the technology as well. Simply substitute 2 'f' with a new glyph 'ff'.
Here the left glyphs are ligatures, the right ones are the initial versions.
My concept uses the ligature feature of a font. Basically when a particular combination of letters is used then it substitutes for another glyph. The whole idea is better described in my proposal just here.
Overall the concept is to have a font that engages with its user. It's quite interesting to think about how a tiny piece of technology like a font can be augmented and interact with humans. There's a lot of potentials I think which I shall explore in more depth over the next few weeks in preparation for part two. I think the idea needs more exploration and thinking before its final form that's why I started to experiment with the concept.
Again you can find the deeper experiments in my proposal.
I think the idea is interesting but needs a lot of thinking and time to mature.
I started to experiment first with the technology of ligatures in Glyphs, a font making app. Glyphs use a feature 'dlig' and '.liga' to create and instantiate the ligature in the font. A full and very interesting tutorial on this topic is available here.
Here I successfully substituted the word NOIR to N0OIR. this is the first step to implement a text system where some words are substituted with the word + an engagement.
After successfully managing to get it to work with an existing font, I started to think of the different systems of engagement. Again, these are just experiments and nothing is settled in stone.
In the three experiments of systems, I explored different ways of how the font could interact. Either it can engage and replace the text with another thing meaning the same thing, or it can simply add a little note.
The engagement can take multiple shapes. In the first 2 cases it changes the actual words used in the writing and adds up a little note for better understanding and more provocation.
The third case doesn't replace the text but only add a little note (the engagement part) with is the core to the provocation, supposedly raising awareness about hate speech.
So far I prefer the little note on the bottom right as a system. I think it preserves the original text and palliates any kind of freedom of speech infringement. So the concept would be to have a word and a little footnote next to it. The footnote is the engagement part.
So far I've not identified a right way of doing this, that's I think it needs way more exploration for the concept to be complete and meaningful. I also want to make this as responsible as possible so I have to think of any kind of infringement about any freedom and human rights which is a tricky thing to do, but exciting!
A lot of the reflection about the project is in the proposal. Although I would like to add some ideas and thoughts. I think the whole responsibility theme made me realize how our behavior is important in society and how it can do damages. I think the submission being a 1-week sprint of thinking and a 1-week sprint of writing I couldn't take the time to really reflect on the matter. I feel I've missed and not expressed things as clearly as I wanted to.
I've also noticed I would have potentially hurt people by making a concept relatively bold? I'm not sure.
That's why I think there's a huge amount of work to do in research on the ethics of writing digitally and what it means to create a font like this.
Although I am relatively happy with the shape and aesthetic route of the project. The concept of having a little note patch as the engagement is interesting. It feels like the font is answering the bigger text, just like in a chat environment.
Overall I think I might have been clumsy with my writing, I don't know if I should re-submit it or clarify some things in the next part. Surely the concept will have evolved by then as the first part is always a rough and vague idea of part 2.
As explained I will need to do a lot more exploration to finalize my concept, so it will surely evolve over the next few weeks. I think the main things that might change are the engagement system, the triggers, and obviously the aesthetic as it wasn't yet really defined.
This year's Design Domain seemed a little clumsy on my side. I think the theme was a little harder than the last ones as it involved some very serious topics which are difficult to approach. I've approached the topic of hate speech and violent behavior in digital and print writing which itself sounds good but it can quickly infringe some basic human rights and freedoms.
Despite being difficult I think my idea has potential and that I should explore it in more depth before the second part. I'm really excited to work on that as I really want to craft a font that is doing a bit more than regular ones by hacking its basic technologies and making a tiny responsible innovation to raise awareness.