Between complexity and poetry, Civic design and global citizenship

Briefly Noted

Dans le cadre de Design City 2016 – LXBG Biennale

Yesterday / Gestern / Hier / Ieri

Ruedi Baur, Between complexity and poetry, Civic design and global citizenship lecture organized by Design Friends at Mudam.

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Existing political, economical, ecological and even social structures are widely questioned. … As a consequence design can no longer only be defined by just technical performance, aesthetics, or creativity. …

Dennis Elbers, London Calling, Dee, Issue 3, 2014

It is still quite rare to see a design exhibition in a museum. But thanks to Dennis Elbers and Sven Ehmann’s initiative, and the sensitive approach to design of Nadine Clemens, the president of Design Friends Luxembourg, it is now possible to see Resolute–Design Changes exhibition at the Casino Luxembourg–Forum d’art contemporain. The projects presented in Resolute and Postscript Luxembourg give us insight into how socially responsible designers approach social problems and how they try to solve them on a bigger scale. What’s interesting is that these designers always work in, with and for a community. Their work is no longer just about staging provocations; it is about involvement and finding solution.

Design for Social Innovation applies the abilities of talented individuals to collective creativity and to the transformation of complex systems at great scale. In this new role, the designer’s practice takes place not in private studio but inside an organisation or community. It the invisible dynamics of individuals and their relationship with each other instead of material resources. Its method and value are in collective participation and creativity that engage organisations in finding solutions that work for them.

Cheryl Heller, The Social Innovation Revolution

An interest in social matters has become a hot topic in the world of design. Dutch design, for example, aims to make an impact on a society rather than show off strong visual concepts. With Works That Work, Peter Bil’ak, a Slovakian graphic and typeface designer based now in The Hague, quietly revolts against the usual magazine publishing models and promotes design that happens in most unexpected places and circumstances. Alice Rawsthorn in Hello World casts light on the new challenges we all face when it comes to solving delicate social issues using design systems. In her book she showcases fantastic examples of projects concerned with communities. Everyday Rebellion documents social movements that speak up against inequality, injustice and fraud. And, last but not least, the V&A curators have recently shown Disobedient Objects, an exhibition which explores the role such objects play in grassroots movements.

Conclusion? Designers and people involved in design fight to be sustainable; they put their efforts in growing something, often intangible, rather than creating objects that you can buy and throw away when obsolete.

Translate, Translator and Translation


Designer as translator

…the act of design is, in essence, the clarification of material or the remaking of content from one form to another. The ultimate goal is the expression of a given content rendered in a form that reaches a new audience. …

The translation becomes a second art. Translation is neither scientific nor ahistorical. Every translation reflects both the character of the original and the spirit of the contemporary as well as the individuality of the translator…

Like the poetic translator, the designer transforms not only the literal meaning of the elements but the spirit, too. …

The designer is intermediary.

Michael Rock, Multiple Signatures

Translation is a kind of impersonation, … As a translator … I am keen to observe the world consciously, and notice dialogue, notice dialect, notice personal styles of speech, notice tics. …

A book is not only a text, and I don’t see translation as an exclusively literary activity, but as a human exchange. …

Translation is primarily performance, interpretation, more than it is “creation”…

Peter Biľak in conversation with Linda Asher, Works That Work, No. 1

…the designer transforms and expresses content through graphic devices. The score or script is enhanced and made whole by the performance. And so the designer likewise becomes the physical manifestation of the content, not author but performer, the one who gives life to, who speaks the content, contextualising it and bringing it into the frame of the present.

Michael Rock, Multiple Signatures

Connect, Shift, Translate: Appropriate and Manipulate

Without sticking one’s neck out too far, one may predict that things of vital importance depend on the practical testing of theories, on the unfolding of experiments, on tentative, searching behaviour, on heuristic, makeshift solutions. …

Design is the repetition of attempts… Even when attempts prove successful, design is and remains… always re-design. This never rules out a pre-existing solution. … But it, too, will be subjected to an ongoing, far-reaching play of displacement. It remains subversive and disconcerting. The object of design theory can never be clearly or rigidly fixed. It calls for a capability that cannot be regulated in advance, but that must prove its excellence and validity within a process.

Hans Ulrich Reck, On the State of Design Theory, Form, No. 250