Having to come up with a topic for research have been rather challenging as I was not sure what I wanted to pursue for the dissertation research proposal. Yet, I was thinking of my degree and wanted to find out why is it that graphic design is so contextual and that everything we do carries a message across different cultures or backgrounds. Everything that we do has to be informed by something else such as what is the target audience or who the client is. However, graphic design is all about communicating to a target audience and designing visuals that are meant to inform a message brought by the client. Now the theory is what fascinates me about graphic design. Critical thinking is one of the prime elements along with the design style it must be visually powerful and imposing communication to a certain audience. We graphic designers use the power of design to inform and to promote certain products and lifestyles. We get under the finger nails of our theme in order to fully understand it and then use that to create a visual representation of what we learn and transmit a message to a given audience. We manipulate our audience to follow our design by understanding what their emotions and what their demands are. Although, there are things that we design that doesn’t just inform but even govern how some people do things. We, to a certain extent change the way society thinks or things they do. We take a full space in helping the society understand certain things such as transforming boring information into amazing visual representations that are easier to understand and faster to learn.
However, I am deeply immersed in the idea of design and how it works that I wanted to find out more, so I decided to pursue this topic for my dissertation research proposal to find out more. I have looked up for different writers and academic papers and read and try to understand what the elements of design are in depth. As I am studying graphic design I already have a basic understanding on the subject matter and this research has helped me to learn more and fully understand design as a subject. Things that have truly amazed me are the social experiments and studies carried out by different academicians. One study that really fascinated me and even provoked me to find out more was how the size of an image on a packaging can affect the subconscious mind and manipulate the audience into consuming more or less depending on the scale of the image on the package. Also, studies with colours and the importance of signage and way finding designed to inform the audience even if that audience doesn’t even speak the language.
However, the hardest part was to come up with an idea for the dissertation, after doing enough research on the theme I came to the conclusion that all this information needs more data to be backed up so I decided to conduct a test or a survey to prove people’s reaction to certain designs and how the elements that attract these people to it. I want to understand what provokes the people to follow up the designs and why is it that design affects the subconscious mind in different ways. Also, I have watched a documentary featuring a typeface called “Helvetica” which talks about why some designs are simply engineered to be appealing to the human eye and improve readability and legibility of the text. This could be one of the reasons or elements of why people get attracted by a piece of design. Other studies talking about the functionality of a design and whether or not can be used by a wider audience or just narrowed to one small audience.
Design has changed over the years quite drastically, together with the market becoming saturated design is what allows certain products to be more distinguishable and stand out in a word of goods and products of different kind. Today it is all about manipulation of certain target audiences and profit induced. Companies use different design strategies to stand out and dominate the market. With the colour coded designs representing a marque or a style identity of a specific company now design is the key to bringing a message across.
Overall, I think it is a good subject to pursue and it needs more research into, but I think it will be quite successful. I believe it will also be a little bit of a struggle but that is what university is all about and I am looking forward to it. It is what I do, and I want to take this topic further and analyse and identify key strategies through further primary and secondary research. The challenge is big, but I want to learn more about it as it will help me to inform my studies and help me to fully understand what my degree is all about.
From the start of Sustainable Lifetimes, I was very much interested with the topic. I liked the idea of sustainable design and as a practitioner I have always asked myself how to become more sustainable within my own practice. As a graphic designer I thought about of the possibility of creating sustainable designs and how can I inform it throughout my work. From the recycling of paper to energy consumption, ink and colour wastage to promoting the sustainability to other designers, and beginner designers and to the clients and businesses as well. The idea that designers waste so much of materials in the process of developing the work is clearly an issue there. However, the seminars have helped me to learn more about the sustainability and I have been given different perspectives regarding the theme. Being introduced to several theories and examples was a really eyes opening experience. At the seminars we have been taking part in group research and individual tasks where they have challenged us to think of different effects of sustainability. We have been presented different topics such as sustainable design, the ability to sustain, the origins of sustainability, objects lifetime where we have also done some hand on workshops as well. Also, we have talked about the different types of obsolescence and a brief history including videos and thesis of sustainable practices.
Overall, Sustainable Lifetimes gave me a deep insight into the theme and it helped me to understand the importance of a more sustainable life and it made sure to explain that well, Huw our tutor has helped us to understanding what sustainability really means through different topics and workshops by making us experience the sustainable design with our own eyes. After having an in-depth explanation of different topics regarding sustainability, I have also found very interesting the topic of planned obsolescence and the products lifespan. With the arrival of the new technology I always thought that newer generation of electronics must be better and improved in exchange for the older generation. I found it rather odd how electronics do not last longer than a year or two, so I was not sure how that is possible. Thus, I wanted to find out more as I could not understand why would electronics be designed to wear out after some time? I started to research into the theme in a broader manner. I started reading some online articles where they have talked about the issue in general, but it did not quite explain why it happens but rather just analysing it. I did not think it was enough to understand why and how it is possible, so I watched related documentaries as well where I have come across the word “monopolists”. Looking through the library I found out a bit about the business strategy of planned obsolescence, so I decided to study it further. However, having to write an essay I decided that I wanted to learn more about the planned obsolescence and the business strategy behind it, so I based my assignment around the planned obsolescence and object life time topic. I have then looked at articles and access the online archive where they provided me with journals and old articles surrounding the theme. As a result, I began writing about “The Notion Behind Shortening the Replacement Cycle and Object Lifespan”. In conclusion, sustainable lifetimes have helped me to identify and analyse the importance of recycling and sustainability. It has challenged me to understand and to see how sustainability can influence my practice and to see the truth behind big corporations finding ways to improve sales. Overall it was a good opportunity to learn about the topic of sustainable lifetimes. We then had the freedom to choose what we wanted to write about. I thought the issue of planned obsolescence it is a rather broad and a big problem right now especially with the mass production of electronics and the vast amount of e-waste being produced every year worldwide by the consumers there is definitely a concern regarding this issue.
For this seminar we have focused on the the objects lifetime. As part of a group following the week 2 research seminar, we had to put together a Pecha kucha style presentation where we had to talk about different sites that deal with recycling of products and sustainability. Places such as charity shops, Track 2000, Municipal Waste, Jacob’s Market etc…
As a group we have picked a place each, at least 6 together and talked in-depth about how these places operate and why are they good examples of sustainability.
A very interesting fact that Huw also bought along was that “98% of the products are thrown away within 6 months”. It seems like a crazy fact yet is proven to be real and that people do get rid of their products in a way or another. So with this we started to talk about the term, Planned Obsolescence. “Design to fail over a certain length of time”.
Interest in product life span and obsolescence of consumer
durable products was popularised by Vance Packard in his The
Waste Makers in 1964.
Cooper (1994b) identifies the contradiction between ‘consumer’
and ‘durable’ in the term ‘consumer durable’ – which by
definition are intended to be long lasting and resistant to wear
and tear, however, and give rise to disappointment if they fail
The introduction of Sustainable Lifetimes, started with a group work. We have been asked the question of “What does sustainability mean to us?” then as a group we had to came up with a few examples each.
Then everybody was asked to sort their examples into four general themes, process, ethics, waste and solutions and discuss about our examples.
Once did that, we were asked to group up with the people from the same course and discuss how we can make our practice more sustainable. My group and I were thinking of things such as paper wastage, inks, and the amount of energy used only by us graphic designers while using PC, scanners and printers. So, we came up with a few solutions such as, to improve the sustainability within our practice by trying to use less paper, get involved with organisations that deal with the recycling of inks and papers directly . Create designs that attributes the issue to other junior designers before they had become professionals and followed on our bad un-sustainable habits. Also, the idea of creating work that is mostly paper-free, such as sketch on a computer, reuse old paper and magazines. Base your work on the internet such as app design, web design etc… Yet, some of these are still debatable and we’ve only just come up with a few initial ideas.
Then we have been introduced to different types of obsolescence and the relationship between people and objects and “why do we throw things away?
There are different types of obsolescence:
- Component Obsolescence, such as some watches, smartphones and different technology that doesn’t allow you to customise, change or repair the components inside of them.
- Technical Obsolescence, as with the time passing some technologies become obsolete as with the new technology and gadgets come out every year which are better and faster the the older versions.
- Economic Obsolescence, in some cases is almost smarter, faster and usually more convenient to buy a cheaper item than go and repair an old one.
- Psychological Obsolescence, for this type of obsolescence its more like a trend, almost like a fashion where people buy stuff for the seek of keeping up with a certain trend and because its cool to have the newest model all the time.
So, we have discussed and engaged in discussions about the relationship between people and items and why do people decide to throw things away. However, we have also been given a brief history about the rise of Sustainability.
Today’s lesson has been very interesting as I have learned and understood the importance of sustainable practice and it was a good opportunity for me to engage in group discussions and bring my own ideas to the table. It helped me to understand why we need sustainable practice so much and especially nowadays with the mass-production and waste issues around the globe. As a graphic designer I believe I can use the skills I have learned to try and improve the sustainability by contributing and focus on sustainability within my own practice as well as maybe creating my own sustainable designs.