Villages in the City

Hui Xie
Visiting Scholar in St. John’s University
Associate Professor
Graphic Design

School of Art and Design
Shenzhen Polytechnic
XiLi Lake, Nanshan District
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

“Men and women do not want to move back, but the mark of youth has been branded in their heart. This is not their hometown, but with a deep nostalgia as well.”

As a unique specimen of Chinese urbanization, the villages “DaChong” and “GangXia” in Shenzhen, China represent a bridge between rural and urban. With the huge gap between disadvantageous groups and mainstream society, the existence of villages in the city created a buffer zone between low-income workers and the high cost of living. Unfortunately, in recent years because of ongoing urban renewal development, the villages have been razed and are now flat ground. Victims of high speed economic development, the villages of Shenzhen are disappearing, and because of their absence the names “DaChong” and “GangXia” are becoming as meaningless and vague. The multimedia installation “Villages in the City” incorporates vernacular typography used for signage with phrases like “ I LOVE YOU” and “I MISS YOU” to explore what should we learn and remember from these places.

The names “DaChong” and “GangXia”and shapes used to create their Chinese characters are data carriers as are the handwritten advertisements found on the walls of buildings. They provide with a wealth of living information about daily life in the most densely inhabited district in Shenzhen. Documentary photography, neon and stainless steel characters are used to create compositions, which reveal traces of the environment where immigrant working class citizens used to live. Text and imagery of messages from people for looking for or advertising jobs, information about selling Chinese herbal medicines, and telephone numbers of movers are combined with house numbers, street names, and the price tags from street foods to produce site-specific installations which serve as constructive links to former residents while recreating memories of village nights. “Villages in the City” is a memorial for the loss of history and an exploration aspect of village life that should be remembered.

Zone1/ZoneA: Reflection/ Resilience

David Frisco, Adjunct Professor, CCE
Graduate Communications Design
School of Design
Pratt Institute

ZoneA/Zone1 took place during the Fall 2013 semester of a graduate-level design studio, at a design school in New York City.
Using the NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) Report as a departure point, our teams engaged with the five most affected communities in NYC through qualitative research in the form of cultural probes and interventions, addressing each area’s unique relationship to the city’s waterfront and impacting climate change, ultimately creating a set of proposals and in some cases, implementing solutions and toolkits serving to improve grass-root resiliency efforts in each community.

Our objective was to design a responsive communication strategy as well as individual or community-led activities that advanced resiliency efforts and foster behavior change, putting preparedness at the fore. The goal was to inspire and engage a community to take action.

We concentrated on the following 5 communities identified in the NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) Report: A Stronger, More Resilient New York

  • Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront
  • East and South Shores of Staten Island
  • South Queens
  • Southern Brooklyn
  • Southern Manhattan

Our initiative focused on qualitative research strategies to utilize design as a means for transformation. With an emphasis on a human-centered, holistic, and empathic approach, our teams applied Design Thinking methodologies to localized problems and issues in an attempt to transform the behaviors of individuals in desirable and sustainable ways, while creating meaningful experiences and interactions.

Emphasizing that people are participants rather than simply users, we studied human factors — cognitive, physical, emotional, linguistic, social and cultural behaviors. We explored numerous conceptual and procedural frameworks which guide the design process, in order to address the needs of people and organizations, and convert them into progressive, sustainable solutions.

Design Criticism in Search of a Platform

Dr. Gaia Scagnetti
Assistant Professor
Graduate Communication Design
Pratt Institute

By definition criticism presents negative connotations. In philosophical terms, criticism is not an action but a method of systematic analysis of a written, oral and visual discourse. It involves merit recognition and it means a methodical practice of doubt. Design criticism has had a short life story and never reached the popularity of Architecture or Art criticism, Film or Literary criticism. Probing design work is perceived as a threat, especially in a time when liking is the expected way of supporting peers both within and outside of social networks. To like and express appreciation for the work of others is a consolidated strategy to get noticed and welcomed in a community of practice, especially among the young generation.

Support is rarely shown through critical encouragement and is mostly communicated through unconditional recommendations; endorsement is seen as a currency to be exchanged regardless of the intrinsic value of a certain production. The problem gets exacerbated by the platforms we use to contribute to disciplinary conversations: symposia, conferences, talks are now always recorded and publicly streamed. This public exposure does not support attempts to make critical analyses; streaming is an opportunity for advertising others or yourself, your connections and your relevancy. Public speeches are opportunities to create connections the so called shoutout to other projects, friends or celebrities. In a time where positivity is the currency nobody wants to practice doubt.

We can consider the process of criticism to be equivalent to making strategic decisions it is a part of how we govern ourselves. Strategies are rarely discussed out in the public, but within a dedicated environment where the social rules of conduct are made explicit and intentions are shared. Similarly, design criticism should be fostered and cultivated within purposebuilt platforms. Design criticism needs a home more than ever. Analysing, considering or dissecting design discourse is a contribution to the politics of truth and criticism is the art of not being governed quite so much.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.1: Pratt Institute, Graduate Communications Design on Saturday, October 24, 2015.

On Technology, Design and Art: A Reformulation

Alex Liebergesell
Associate Professor
Pratt Institute
Graduate Communications Design

The term “design” (Latin designare, to designate) is defined as “intent.” Technology, from the Greek techné (art, craft), are tools derived from the deliberate application of knowledge. Design and technology are therefore inseparably rooted in their common meaning as the deliberate instantiation of ideas.

Vilém Flusser, in his 1993 essay About the Word Design, explains design as a “bridge” born during the Industrial Revolution, which attempted to close the “sharp division between the world of the arts and that of technology” in place since the Renaissance. For Flusser, design is a reunion of “equals” which makes “a new form of culture possible.”

But is design really a reunion of art and technology? In the face of converging trends in art, technology and design, Flusser’s typology is outmoded. His view still maintains a separation between art and technology, and while he ascribes a strong causal value to design as a cultural arbiter, he over-expresses its dependency on technology and ignores art as an intrinsic expression of technology. In short, neither art or design are defined as technologies, thus rendering his entire equation untenable.

However, if we designate both art and design as technologies, and accept that the former is primarily preoccupied with intrinsic expression and the latter with extrinsic functionalities, we can readily assign technology as the universal constant from which all knowledge, inventions, and creative expressions — in effect, all culture — emerges. By assigning equal value to art and design as manifestations of technology, we can better grasp the convergence in methods and intent that are common to these disciplines today. Moreover, this alternative formula provides room and equal footing for liberal arts and social science co-products such as philosophy, political theory and the institutions which sustain them, all key technologies and human inventions essential for design and artistic development.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.1: Pratt Institute, Graduate Communications Design on Saturday, October 24, 2015.

Membit: A Magic Time Machine

Jay Van Buren
Artist, Designer
CEO and Founder, LLC
Co-Founder and CEO, Membit Inc.

Places are part of our identity. Our memories and experiences are tied to places, and yet in a world where we increasingly use digital means for everything, there’s no good way to mark a place as special to us, or to connect with the other people for whom that place matters. GPS is insufficiently precise and computer-vision-based augmented reality depends upon some kind of physical marker, a poster, a plaque, or other demarcation.

Membit allows people to annotate a location with precisely placed, augmented content without using computer vision. It uses the patented “human positioning system” which works anywhere.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.1: Pratt Institute, Graduate Communications Design on Saturday, October 24, 2015.

Improving Cybermedia Literacy In Art Education Through Internet Art: A Study on Adolescent Perspectives

Laura Scherling
GreenspaceNYC, Co-founder
The New School, Design Lead
Teachers College, Columbia University, Doctoral student 

By fostering cyberliteracy in the arts, educators and their students can examine the digital artifacts of our time and embrace a dialogue that addresses the profound effects that digital art, such as Internet artwork, is having on youth culture in formal and informal learning environments. This research, through a series of interviews with four adolescent participants who have grown up as digital natives, explores an enhanced focus on cyberliteracy in visual arts education, on both the part of students and educators. Four major themes are explored: cybermedia literacy in art education, adolescent Internet use, the emotional and psychosocial development of the adolescent, and online identity construction.

Lay Me Down to Sleep: The Design of Coffins, Caskets, and Alternative Containers

Susan Merritt
Faculty Emeritus, Graphic Design
School of Art & Design
San Diego State University

Throughout our country’s history coffins, caskets, and more recently alternative containers have been invented or perfected by anonymous contributors working in the factories that manufacture them. These wood and metal boxes that have become the standard for American burial are being called into question due to changing attitudes towards death and the shift from indifference to action on the part of some contemporary designers.
This research tracks the journey of a corpse from site of death to burial, through the containers it may inhabit. First, I examine containers that are designed to contain, enclose, and preserve as much as possible the corpse, including historical examples gleaned from nineteenth century advertisements. Starting with body bags as a means of transporting cadavers from the place of death to the burial container in which the body will be either buried or cremated, next I consider the evolution from eight-sided English coffin to four-sided American casket; the desire to preserve the body and methods to achieve preservation; the introduction of gasket mechanisms for sealing bodies in metal caskets to protect them from the elements; standardization of design, materials, and casket dimensions, including oversized caskets for bodies that don’t fit the established standards.
The second part of my research considers an alternative route for the corpse, in which it is not preserved but rather encouraged to decay and decompose. This section encompasses Green 2 burial, the rise of Green cemeteries and memorial preserves, sustainable materials and biodegradable burial containers, shrouds, and unassembled casket kits. It also introduces the work of several young designers who are stretching the boundaries of death by reimagining burial practices and reconfiguring burial containers through the use of biodegradable materials and sustainable technologies.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

Font Design: Caribbean Archeology Inspired Symbols

Maria Giuliani
Associate Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology

The Taíno Indians resided on the island of what is today known as Puerto Rico. Hundreds of petroglyphs or images carved into stone have been found here and in many of the other Caribbean islands.
Contrary to other known archeological glyphs like the Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mayan scripts, these are not part of a written language or system, but rather isolated images with multiple meanings. Many of these images seem to be literal, while others are definitely more abstract, perhaps used as part of rituals and festivities.
These symbols have become a great part of the Puerto Rican culture and representative of its indigenous heritage. Today they are often used in the arts, fashion, crafts, and are an integral part of education. I started my research and found books on the subject, websites with downloadable jpegs, and even a Taíno inspired display typeface (letters), but not an existing font that purely depicted the symbols. I wanted to create an easily accessible version of these. By transforming these symbols into a font, they can easily be used as a traditional dingbat, a decoration, paragraph separators or even stand alone as a simple illustration.
I decided to design a symbol-font based and inspired by these stone drawings. My presentation will show the progression of my work from pencil and ink to Adobe Illustrator to the Font Editor “Glyphs”.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

Graphic Design in the Zone: Peak Performance in Picturing Sport

Jen Roos
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Computer Arts + Design
Mercy College
Founder and Principal
8 Point Studio

While much has been written about the significance of sport and graphic design in culture, there exists a gap in research examining their intersection. The cultural impact of sport and graphic design has increased and so has the importance of this growing body of design. The history of graphic design for sport reveals important cultural attitudes toward human movement, and contemporary design in this category depicts our shifting attitudes in the face of significant societal change. Contemporary designs for sport display an increasingly sophisticated and groundbreaking visual language for the poetics of movement through space. This modern translation of the experience of “flow”, or “being in the zone”, provides a heightened and visceral sense of great feats of modern physical prowess — albeit at a remove. Our current outsourcing of movement to visual and virtual realms and idolization of the promise of technology threaten to imperil our actual experience of physical movement and health on a global scale.

Individuals experience the seduction of motion more than ever by virtue of the rapidly evolving digital world and expanding global presence of sport. At the same time, health research indicates that we as a society are becoming dangerously sedentary. Given that we are increasingly detached from physical movement and real-life athletic experiences, we naturally seek visuals that represent the glories of the pinnacle of motion. We now need to ask if design and sport can work together to encourage — not just lionize — movement. Global entities such as Nike have begun to experiment with ways graphic design might inspire physical movement, an important mission that could have larger, positive implications for the role that graphic design can play in improving our future health across the world.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

Espiritu, Texas 1886-2015: An Essential Part Of American History

Andrés Vera Martínez
Assistant Professor,  Cartooning and Illustration
Lesley University College of Art and Design
Cambridge, MA

The Spanish term Mestizos, meaning mixed, came into popular usage during the 16th century to describe the offspring of Spaniards and Native Americans. Vaqueros, or the first cowboys, were Mestizos and their cowboy culture has been mythologized and marketed; but too often stripped of the ethnic origins before presented for popular consumption. Tejanos, or the first Texans, were borne of the mix of Spaniards and Native Americans and were the original cowboys of the United States. This culture lives on today in Texas through the food, language and ranching culture.
Espiritu, Texas 1886 -2015 will tell the story of a Texas built upon the struggles and triumphs of diverse people. This presentation will focus on one chapter, Lamesa, TX 1961: Andrew Martínez.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.