Portraits of Obama: Media, Fidelity, and the 44th President

Scholarship: Creative Work Award Winner

Kareem Collie
Lecturer
Harvey Mudd
Stanford University

“In a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter…information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.” -Obama

President Obama made this statement in May 2010, during one of his most tumultuous years in office— healthcare reform, financial reform, the BP oil spill … the list continues. The notion of being bombarded by media is not a new one. This idea was discussed often during the last half of the 20th century, as television became ubiquitous in American life. The proliferation of media content, voices, and audiences (specifically in relationship to news content) continue to grow and reach into every aspect of our lives through 21st century media tools and channels. The discourse on media and its impact on society continue to call for scrutiny, and as Obama says, it continues to put “new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

Using Obama as a prism, I examine the culture of American mass media, examining the fidelity of news content amongst the ever-growing, ever-fragmenting, modern media landscape. I investigate the audience’s active engagement in the construction of their relationship to reality, the flawed nature of news makers and their perceptions of the world, and offer an alternative narrative approach to the construction of the self.

I approach this essay through the convention of narrative and visual communication. I discuss narrative as a mechanism of our individual cognition and cultural engagement, allowing for personal and collective understanding of the world around us. The tools of visual communication design are used to reframe the discussion of today’s 24/7 media environment, hoping to step outside of the “wolf’s gullet,” using the tools that help coat its lining.

My hope here is three-fold: (1) Using President Obama as an example, I wish to examine and illuminate the current role of media in our lives, (2) reframe the discourse of media and the active nature of the audience through the use of visual communication design, to pose new questions and answers and (3) present an alternative means of finding our sense of self within the deluge of media today.

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Kareem Collie is a lecturer at Harvey Mudd College and Stanford University. He is a design professional, with over fifteen years of experience designing, directing, and leading projects in branding, advertising, interactive, and creative strategy. His collaborative and leadership skills span across diverse areas of the industry, from the boardroom to the classroom.

Kareem is also a lifelong learner and educator, with a decade of experience teaching design and design thinking. His research interests are visual communications, design thinking, narrative, audience reception, and media theory.

As a deep thinker, visual storyteller, and maker, Kareem endeavors to inject more critical thinking and intentionality into the creative process, a notion that drives both his practice and pedagogy.

 

Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities

Scholarship: Published Research Award Winner

Jessica Barness
Associate Professor, Kent State University
Amy Papaelias
Assistant Professor, SUNY New Paltz

Our special issue of Visible Language journal, “Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities” (vol. 49, no. 3) locates where, how, and why critical making is emerging and the scholarly forms it takes. Visible Language journal is the oldest peer-reviewed design journal in the world and is currently published by the University of Cincinnati.

The idea for this special issue grew out of a mutual interest in the ways critical making in design connects with humanistic inquiry, and how this might form a foundation for research by design faculty. We viewed the project broadly as a finding tool because we observed a shortage of resources for design scholars on this topic. Critical making is an emerging framework that serves as a means to integrate research activity and practice-based artifact. It situates studio-based design practices as scholarship in ways that augment existing theories of design authorship, production, and thinking. The findings that occur within these activities become the crux of the endeavor and may produce as much knowledge as the polished, finished product.

As editors of the issue, our responsibilities included writing and circulating the international call for papers, facilitating double-blind peer review processes within two disciplines (design, and the digital humanities) and designing the issue layout, including the development of text analysis and data visualizations. Rather than advocate for each discipline to borrow and build off the other in isolation, this issue aimed to serve as a shared space to affect synergistic research, practice, and education. It became a research project in itself and is ongoing.

Two challenges were encountered in this project. First, Visible Language is a journal of evidence-based research and we focused on scholarship that is often considered exploratory. This meant determining, for all submissions, what constitutes rigorous ‘evidence-based research’ in theoretical and speculative inquiry, and in effect, publishing articles to serve as models for work of that nature. Second, the issue needed to connect research within disciplines that have significant overlap yet are just beginning to formalize their commonalities. The final issue needed to represent new knowledge, and be peer-reviewed, at a transdisciplinary intersection.

The final issue was published in print (approximately 700 copies distributed) and online. The online distribution coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of Visible Language and launch of its new open access web site; as a result, our full issue was readily accessible to all visitors to the new site. The issue contains nine articles by an international group of authors, and these were organized into two areas that blurred disciplinary boundaries: Theories and Speculations (methods and systems to facilitate research), and Forms and Objects (publishing, prototyping, and hacking practices). These published works have the potential to critically impact the ways we read, write, play, imagine, and learn across disciplinary boundaries, and exemplify non-traditional academic research methods for design and digital humanities scholars. This project served as a catalyst for the AIGA DEC conference Converge: Disciplinarities and Digital Scholarship we co-organized (spring 2017) and has been referenced in various other venues (see outcomes PDF).

Jessica Barness is an Associate Professor in the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University. Her research resides at the intersection of design, humanistic inquiry, and interactive technologies, investigated through a critical, practice-based approach. She has presented and exhibited her work internationally at venues hosted by organizations such as the Design History Society, HASTAC, and ICDHS, and she has published research in Design and Culture, AIGA Dialectic, Spirale, Visual Communication, SEGD Research Journal: Communication and Place, and Message, among others. Recently, her interactive work has been on display in the traveling exhibition Édition, Forme, Expérimentation, curated by Collectif Blanc. She co-edited (with Amy Papaelias) a special issue of Visible Language journal, “Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities” and is a member of the organizing committee for AIGA Converge conference, June 2017. She has an MFA in Design from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. jessicabarness.com

Amy Papaelias is an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design program at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Presentations of her creative work and pedagogy at national and international venues include the Type Directors Club, Digital Humanities, Theorizing the Web, TypeCon, and the College Art Association. She has been involved with several digital humanities initiatives including One Week One Tool, and serves on the Advisory Boards of Beyond Citation (CUNY Graduate Center) and Greenhouse Studios (University of Connecticut). She co-edited (with Jessica Barness) a special issue of Visible Language journal, “Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities” and is a member of the organizing committee for AIGA Converge conference, June 2017. She co-authored a chapter (with Dr. Aaron Knochel) for Making Humanities Matters (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). She is a founding member of Alphabettes.org, a network for promoting the work of women in type, typography and the lettering arts. amypapaelias.com

The Sit&Tell Project

Service Award Winner

Jenn Stucker
Associate Professor
Bowling Green State University

The Sit&Tell Project was a multi-participatory community-based art project that connected communities through pulling up a chair and sharing stories of Strong Women of Toledo. The project collected 100 stories as told by Toledo citizens as storytellers on World Storytelling Day (WSD), March 20, 2016 under the global theme of Strong Women. Based on the Toledo Arts Commission’s 2015 Strategic Plan for Arts & Culture, eight (8) neighborhoods were cited to illuminate, thus were chosen to be the sites of the story collections. On WSD, teams were sent to the Collingwood Arts Center, Toledo Public Library, The National Museum of the Great Lakes, The Ohio Theater, the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center and The Fredrick Douglass Community Center to collect the 100 stories through in-person interviews. These recorded stories were told by or were about women recognized by their families, communities or organizations as strong and influential. Following the collection, the stories were assigned to juried (jurors: Andrew Shea, Antionette Carroll, Keetra Dean Dixon) artists/designers to visualize 100 chairs. The donated chairs from MTS Seating went on display at rolling exhibitions in those neighborhoods throughout the summer of 2016 with each chair containing a specific URL numbering to direct viewers to the corresponding audio recording of the story.

A preview event for 150 guests on June 14, 2016 unveiled 30 chairs at AIGA Toledo’s Pre-conference Cocktail Reception + Welcome talk for AIGA’s Nuts+Bolts Conference, followed by the first neighborhood launch of ten (10) chairs at the National Museum of the Great Lakes, with positive local press. During the summer a chair a day for 100 days was posted on social media outlets. All 100 chairs were featured in a final closing exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art on September 24, 2016. In November, the chairs were sold through an online auction and the $7,500 raised was donated to the Toledo Arts Commission for art classes for young people in those neighborhoods.

The Sit&Tell Project participation included 180 storytellers and artists, eight community exhibition locations, 15 WSD listeners/volunteers, four BGSU Media and Communication undergraduates and an MC faculty member who collected WSD footage and audio, plus two BGSU Digital Arts graduate students and a DA faculty mentor who shot additional footage and edited the final video. Of the 100 designed chairs, the juried pool included 21 BGSU undergraduate graphic design students, eight BGSU School of Art faculty members, 32 BGSU alums, one chair by a graphic design class at Whitmer High School in Toledo and remaining chair designs by Toledo area artists. Exhibition venues expressed a deep gratitude for participating in the project and all stated they experienced an increase in their visitations.

www.sitandtell.com

SitTell overview

Jenn Stucker is an associate professor and division chair of Graphic Design at BGSU. She earned her BFA at BGSU and her MFA from Eastern Michigan University, both in graphic design. Jenn’s research interests include Design as Artist and Practitioner, Design as Scholarship of Engagement, and the Scholarship of Design Pedagogy. Her work has been published in several books on design and has received various award recognitions including, HOW Magazine’s 2013 and the 2017 International Design Awards for her community-based works, The You Are Here Toledo Project and the Sit&Tell Project. She is the co-founder/organizer of SWEAT (Summer Workshop for Experimentation and Thought,) a collaborative experience in experimental modes of making. She is also a founding board member of AIGA Toledo and has served in numerous leadership roles. Jenn has previously co-chaired two national AIGA Design Education conferences and has presented at several conferences across the country.

BMORE Than The Story

Teaching Award Winner

Audra Buck-Coleman
Associate Professor
University of Maryland College Park

The death of Freddie Gray and his treatment by police sparked anger, protest, and violence in Baltimore during April 2015. Mass media implicated area youth in the crime and destruction, whether they committed it or not. Their overriding narrative was pejorative and full of scorn. Students at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts (AFSIVA), a public high school in West Baltimore, lost control of their narrative. BMORE Than The Story brought together art and design students from AFSIVA and University of Maryland (UMD) to collaboratively produce an exhibit response to the Baltimore Uprising. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian affiliate, hosted the exhibit, which opened during the one-year anniversary of Gray’s death and closed in September 2016.

The project was successful for its end product—the exhibit— as well as its curricular structure, which allowed students to create meaningful relationships and delivered multiple “teachable moments” over two consecutive semesters. This timeframe enabled the students to build a sense of community and have rich conversations about the issues at hand before diving into the exhibit’s potentially divisive issues. Almost 60 students—24 from UMD and 35 from AFSIVA—participated. I know of no other undergraduate project that has had students co-design at such scale and duration.

UMD students learned how to research, synthesize and create design about complex issues. They researched the death of Freddie Gray, police brutality, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and Baltimore’s history of race relations, economy, and culture. They then connected these findings to larger issues: academic achievement, incarceration rates, political power structures, and the level of violence present in these communities. They produced information designs visualizing their results. This heavy content was difficult to unpack and yet critical to understanding the AFSIVA students’ challenges and opportunities. With today’s information overload and plethora of wicked problems, clarity and synthesis are essential. The UMD students developed research techniques and honed their design skills to communicate and unpack a wicked problem lurking in their back yard.

These students also co-designed compelling visuals that effectively communicated their most salient messages. In a post-project survey, the AFSIVA students said the exhibit represents the issues that are most important to them (100%), their friends (89%), their school (83%), and Baltimore (94%). Through this project they also gained a better understanding of how they might leverage art to address important issues (88%) and learned to collaborate more effectively (98%). Finally, they said that because of this collaboration, they feel like more people cared about them and their struggle for justice.

This project exemplifies and advances a critical need for social design curricula: ways to incorporate assessment mechanisms. We are able to quantify and qualify the impact of this project. Our research results indicate that the project had a significant, positive impact upon the AFSIVA community. Findings can enrich future social design research and curricula.

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Audra Buck-Coleman is an Associate Professor and director of the graphic design program at University of Maryland College Park. She has written, art directed, curated, designed, authored, led, and collaborated on numerous design projects including Sticks + Stones, an international multi-university collaborative graphic design project that investigates stereotyping and social issues. Her research focuses on social impact design, assessment mechanisms, design pedagogy and design’s role in culture, identities, and representation. She has led students through 16 whole-class collaborative projects, seven of which were with off-campus stakeholders and four of which were with on-campus ones. Seven addressed issues of underrepresented communities. One was an international collaboration with students from China, Germany, Turkey, and the United States. She holds an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a Bachelors of Journalism from the University of Missouri. She is currently pursing a PhD in sociology to connect to social design.

Graphic Design Histories of the Olympics

By examining the role of the Olympics in different geographical and political contexts, I focus on how communication design becomes a vehicle for the promotion of new national identities and even new forms of citizenship.

As a scholar interested in understanding space, I see acts of spatial representation as primary means of creating the realm of “spatial conception”—where communication design plays a key role expanding from place-marketing campaigns to unofficial and often subversive spatial imaginaries.

By examining the role of the Olympics in different geographical and political contexts, I focus on how communication design becomes a vehicle for the promotion of new national identities and even new forms of citizenship. My research proposes the term “Olympic design milieu” as a way of understanding the multiplicity of design generated by the Olympics—this includes officially created symbols and constructions that aim to facilitate the Olympics and induce civic pride, but it also incorporates unauthorized acts by political or civil society groups that question or oppose the Olympics.

“Graphic Design Histories of the Olympics” includes chapters of my recently published book Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation as well as a film I produced with director Marija Stojnic titled Olympic Design: Mexico 1968: Visual Identity: Lance Wyman (2014).

The three chapters featured focus on three elements of the Olympic design milieu. Chapter 1, “Through the Lens of Graphic Design: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Universalism in the Tokyo 1964 Design Program,” reveals how the Tokyo 1964 graphic design program played an important role in re-articulating Japan’s postwar identity. The next chapter, “Not for a Nation, but for the People: London 2012 Brand Design as a New Paradigm of Olympic Design,” looks at Wolff Olins’ design as the first conscious effort of Olympic designers to induce public participation in the design process. This marked the expansion of the Olympic design operation from an exclusive affair (a sponsors-only right to Olympic properties) to a matter of engagement across society. Finally, the chapter titled “Opposing the Olympic City: Designerly Ways of Dissenting” demonstrates the potential of design to induce alternative forms of participatory citizenship by looking at materialized practices of Olympic opposition.

The accompanying film features Lance Wyman describing how his official Mexico 1968 Olympic designs convey a “sense of place.” Appropriating these official symbols, powerful subversions by the student movement of the same era show the blurring of the official and the unofficial, the authoritative and the subversive in the Mexico 1968 Olympic milieu.

Jilly Traganou was born in Athens and studied architecture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. A scholarship from Japan’s Ministry of Education brought her to Japan in the early ‘90s and inspired her PhD work (University of Westminster) on the representation of space through travelling, resulting in the book The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (Routledge 2003). Her interest in theorizing travel led to a co-edited volume with Miodrag Mitrasinovic titled Travel, Space, Architecture (Ashgate 2009).

Living in Athens in 2003-2004, Jilly experienced the making of an Olympic City and began new research into Olympic design. Her new book Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation was published this year. This summer, she continued her research in the Olympics as a Fulbright scholar in Brazil during the 2016 Games. Her work has been supported by the Bard Graduate Center, The Japan Foundation, The Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton, Design History Society, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts among others. She is an associate professor of spatial studies at Parsons School of Design, The New School.

 

The Phaistos Project — 45 Symbols

the drive to teach visual literacy, which is based on the idea that pictures, in the broadest sense, can be read and communicate meaning through the process of reading.

Pascal Glissmann (Parsons School for Design), Olivier Arcioli and Andreas Henrich (Academy of Media Arts, Cologne) initiated the The Phaistos Project, an exploration of visual language that unites students, teachers, scholars, and ideas from across the world. All participating academic partners share the drive to teach visual literacy, which is based on the idea that pictures, in the broadest sense, can be read and communicate meaning through the process of reading. Students must learn to excel in finding and applying their own visual language, embrace diversity, and propel their identity in order to vigorously influence their own creative practice. This can be achieved through using open environments to better invite students to explore ethnographic backgrounds, and to initiate critical thinking through encountering the unknown, which can range from utopian visions of our future living to the unanswered phenomena of our past.

A prominent example of unresolved visual code—and a milestone in the history of visual language and typography—is the Phaistos Disc. Even though its purpose and authenticity is still discussed it is considered to potentially be an early, if not the earliest, document of movable type printing. The clay-impressed notation is assumed to be a textual representation and comprises 45 unique and recurrent symbols. Participating students explored this ancient disc, its visual principles and symbolic forms. Inspired by its cryptic yet powerful character, they developed collections of 45 unique symbols to represent the essence of their identity, the spirit of a culture or social change.

Their mission is not to create additions to the endless repertoire of functional pictograms. Instead, they are driven by personal storytelling and creating ethnographic visual anecdotes that are subjective, stimulating and inviting.

The Phaistos Project now is accepting new entries: Deadline is December 15, 2016. This international call is open to → art & design faculty interested in integrating the project into their teaching and → currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate students in visual communication, visual arts, design, typography, and related areas.
www.45symbols.com

Pascal Glissmann is a media designer, artist, scholar and founder of the studio subcologne. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design. He holds an MFA in Media Arts/Media Design from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and a BFA in Communication Design from the University of Applied Sciences Duesseldorf. He joined the Academy of Media Arts Cologne as a full-time faculty in 2001 and focused on creative approaches to new media and technology within applied design projects and emerging installations. He became Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University, Academy of Visual Arts, in 2007 where he set up the curriculum and infrastructure for the areas of media design and media arts. In 2010 and 2011 he was Visiting Assistant Professor at the Lebanese-American University, School of Architecture and Design, in Beirut.

Olivier Arcioli is a book designer, editorial designer and founder of the studio ateliergrün. He holds an MFA in Media Arts/Media Design from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and a BFA in Communication Design from the University of Applied Sciences Duesseldorf and the Ecole Cantonal d’art de Lausann. Olivier is currently Assistant, Lecturer and Researcher of Media Design at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne as a full-time faculty with the main focus on book design, print media and typography.

Andreas Henrich is professor emeritus of graphics and media design and retired from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne in 2015. The curriculum of the Academy covers all artistic disciplines including new and traditional media, the different areas of film and moving image, as well as the arts and media sciences. The course is taught at different levels and even offers a PhD. He has been in leading positions at this school and was the president for several years.

Design Edu Today

The Design Edu Today podcast is a biweekly interview with design professionals discussing topics concerning the state of interactive design education at institutions of higher learning.

The Design Edu Today podcast is a biweekly interview with design professionals discussing topics concerning the state of interactive design education at institutions of higher learning. In order to help define interactive design for classroom instruction, guests are chosen based on their contributions—whether technical or theoretical—and leadership within the interactive design field. With the goal of diversity in experience and perspective, guests range from junior designers, to art/creative directors, studio owners both large and small, in-house or freelance designers, and everything in-between.

Launched in June 2015, the podcast’s initial goal was to discover the balance between instructing visual principles for digital design, such as flexible grids and screen-based typography and iconography, and instructing one of the core mediums of digital design: HTML, CSS and JavaScript. All of this must be accomplished in a limited number of credits within a graphic design program. Since the launch, the scope of the podcast has grown beyond its initial goal of finding this instructional balance to include broader research topics that include the overview of the entire process of interactive design, from the initial client meeting to final site launch. This expanded research also targets in depth discussions about each phase of the interactive design process, including information architecture, content strategy, user research, designing for performance, design workflow, and interactive prototypes.

Now over a year into the research project, the Design Edu Today podcast is a vast resource for design educators that includes over thirty episodes, complete with audio files, transcripts, and links to people, topics, and tools discussed during each episode.

designedu.today

Gary Rozanc is an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Education Director for AIGA Baltimore. Gary received his BA in Graphic Design from Cleveland State University and his MFA in Visual Communications from the University of Arizona. In May 2013, Gary was awarded the AIGA DEC Design Faculty Research Grant to uncover necessary competencies for entry level interactive designers to successfully transition from student to industry professional. As a result of this grant, Gary’s current research includes hosting the bi-weekly Design Edu Today podcast that discusses the current state of interactive design education at institutions of higher learning. Gary’s past research activities include identifying contextual methods of creating solutions through inquiry and problem-based learning, and his findings have been presented at international and national peer-reviewed conferences. Gary’s personal work ranges from responsive web design to letterpress.