Why design?

Still brainstorming the question  ‘Can design feed people?’, and after a conversation with a fellow student I realised that this kind of questions is only discussed between the designers. I have asked friends as well, which don’t know anything about design and they didn’t know what I was actually talking about. One example was: “What do you mean, how can it help? By making a poster helping to raise money for the poor?”. So people don’t know what we are doing here, don’t know what design actually is – well they only know one part of it, advertising. By not knowing/ignoring IF design what design can help they are satisfied as they are just because they don’t have the knowledge. But should we give them this knowledge?

I believe that none considers design as something crucially helpful to social problems. Only people in the design world know what we’re actually doing. The rest of the people have a vague idea.

The question is why design? And does it have to feed people?

And if it doesn’t feed people, what am I doing at the RCA, having to pay such high fees?!

Can we ask the same question for art? For film? Do they ask these stuff at their courses?

Does philosophy ask this? Does poetry ask this?

Poetry feeds the mind. Music feeds ours ears. Graphic design/visual communication feeds our eyes? That would be so controversial between the design world, as they’ve been fighting for so long to establish a critical position in the society, being functional and all these stuff.

Can we/do we feed people in a different way?

Neville’s article talks about how the rich people have access to information – sometimes don’t know  what to do with the excess of mp3 – and poor people don’t have access to information.

Information is the food.

But the word ‘feed’ can be read as something else. News feed. Paper feed. Feed back. Data feed. RSS feed. All of these are not edible.

I’m so confused. This brief confused me so much that made me realise I don’t know either what I’m doing here. And maybe it’s because I haven’t done any actual work as a designer and not just studying. Or it doesn’t matter?


Can design feed people?

So this is the new brief, due to Wednesday. Still struggling with it.

Last week I haven’t produced anything, although I expressed my building-a-wall idea which had good feedback. It could be an exchange of ideas between a builder and a designer. There must be something in building my father has learnt in his profession that can I learn, and maybe there must be something I can teach him. Who knows. I would like to do this in the summer when I’ll have the time – I was thinking to devote a week for this project, so some days could be me explaining my father what graphic design is, what I’m actually doing, social issues, history etc and then the rest of the days I will be building a wall with him. Well it all depends if he has some work to do those days I will be in Cyprus. And also if he’s up for it. Anyway!

So, now, can design feed people?  Can it really help? What is we’re doing here?

From Neville’s introduction of the brief:

In today’s culture, we are bombarded with so much information every day, and if you don’t respond to them you will be probably considered dead. Also today value is added to ideas, concepts. money. Money does not exist, it’s an idea embedded in a piece of paper.

By designing more, the gap between the poor and the rich is getting bigger. We design only for a small percentage of the world who can afford it – iPhones, computers, TVs, they might seem easy to have, but actually the poor populations are more than the rich ones. Design creates manufacture need.

How do we justify luxury?

If everything shifts to online systems, how a poor person can buy anything? Without a computer, without ‘plastic’ money?

Is it about teaching people to be self-reliant?

The brief actually comes from an article Neville Brody wrote – access it here

The article disappoints me a little bit in the end, I find it a little bit dreaming (?). It ends up saying all we need is love, after giving to us many statistics. But the main things I outlined from there are:

Design can

  • educate people
  • reveal and publicise
  • raise awareness
  • empower people
  • help people be more self-sufficient

In ‘Design for the other 90%’ there’s a task set by a tutor to students (I don’t remember names, locations etc), asking them to live with only 2 dollars per day (or per week, not sure), just how people in third-world countries live. This actually interested me and I would like to test it too, record my experience (and my hungriness).

An idea also might come from home, as a student I’m a bit poor of course

Feed as in what? Information (we already got this, too much), visual pleasure, happiness?

Nothing in the market is produced for the poor people.

How to reduce consumerism? I remember having this expenses app which controls my expenses in a week/monthly basis. Never worked out. I always spend more than my budget limits I set.

In ‘Can designers save the world (And should they try?)’ article, by Nico Macdonald, talks about how the products of Disney, Calvin Klein are embraced by the users not because they like them or because the products have an intrinsic merit, but because designer puppet masters have hypnotised them with things like colours and typefaces. So we caused all of this.

What if we de-design everything? What could actually be consumed after that?

The view that designers can save the world it’s probably too arrogant – they’re the ones (sorry, we) that promoted consumption and helped technology to reach today’s level

Design can’t just stop be involved with advertising because that’s how designers feed themselves – design is fed by consumption



So how can design reverse this and feed people instead of feed from the whole consumption process?

Design: a discipline that orients itself around the experience of the user.

Design to help better management of self-reliance, sources etc. There’s more food to go round. How can design do that?

My simplest – and silliest – idea was to create a plate which, when holding it in your hands immediately reads how hungry you are and all your body properties – how much food you need etc. So, when you put more food than you need in your plate it starts alarming. Or turns red. Or something. This way it can prevent you from  throwing excess food in the bin. Because there’s always someone in the world that is hungrier than you.

But wait, you’ll have to make your saucepan filled up with the amount of the necessary food. Maybe you’ll have to set all the persons that will eat, then you let them touch the saucepan which will calculate how much food will need, then it will tell you if you put too much or not.

This sounds complicated.

It’s 21:14 and I’m still thinking of what to do for Wednesday.

Fingers crossed something will come up tonight or tomorrow morning so I can have the time to produce it.

Seven days in the design world

The new project was set to us after we had a group conversation/debate about our position as designers in the society.

The brief invites us to consider the phrase ‘Seven Days in the Design World’ and take as a starting point Sarah Thornton’s book ‘Seven Days in the Art World – an ethnographic critique of the artists, systems and institutions, which define the contemporary art scene. It asks us to open up questions regarding the current state of the design profession and its future and importantly what the social/political/cultural role of the designers might be.

The outcome presented has to convey/define our point of view or critical position, consider  our audience and what is the most appropriate way to convey this.

What can design be? What’s the social implement? what could the 7 days be? Create a scenario? Express it in a different form? A performance? A narrative?

Is life a way of design? Who are you talking to for those 7 days? What’s your methodology?  How do you communicate design to different audiences? for example to kinds has to be something playful and interactive – use cards or a game as a tool

What is that you want to say about those 7 days? It could be one hour contained or one thing revealed about those 7 days, something scopic.

Who are you doing it for? Who are you doing it with? What’s your position? What’s the point of what you’re doing here? Is design an institution? Is it more fluid than art? Are we in a space? Is it more process? Is there a different institution for design – for art it’s galleries and museums. Equivalent of art school for design? Equivalent of museum for design? Is it the same? What’s the impact of what design is and where is it going? Are we in advertising?

These questions find me in a transition phase, if I can say this, especially being in the RCA where design/visual communication is not really defines what it is, as we are here to experiment, well at least me – everyone is here for different reasons. Personally I’m here to experiment and expand my practice even more but this gives me the feeling that when I will finish this course I won’t be named as a ‘designer’ but maybe something else, something in between.

Searching on the web what Visual Communication is, it comes up with results regarding advertising and persuading/informing/enlightening/entertaining audiences. Wikipedia says it’s only two-dimensional. But really? Visual Communication is shifting so much today towards interaction and experience and also three dimensional, it’s even combined with sound and music. So, if Visual Communication is to title the multi-disciplinary practice of all the 2D work, what is the title to include all the work I’ce just said? (interaction, experience and 3D).

To the question ‘who are you doing it for?’ I could say I first do it for me, but secondly for the public – and that answers the question where does design exist – if we consider design in the visual communication context is everywhere: in the nature – nature communicates seasons and so many others things. Advertising and pictograms and moving image is communication constructed by humans for humans. For better order of information, for achieving deliver of specific information to specific audiences, to challenge, to interact, to make life better and better the whole time. And as the years pass the public sees the importance of design and communication in the world around us.

When the tutor asked to consider our audience I instantly remembered my dad and how little knows about what I’m doing – basically he doesn’t know at all, he thinks all what I’m doing is stuff for signs on the streets, leaflets, promotional pens, promotional t-shirts and stuff for printing/newspapers/magazines. Well part of it yes. But I think one reason this happens is also cultural. Every time I said to someone older from my home country I’m doing Graphic Design their response was ‘ah great, you’re an artist! Could you come and find me a nice solution for my house? I want to redecorate it’. Which actually doesn’t make sense – first you tell me I’m an artist and then you tell me to decorate your house! Anyway, concentrating on my dad, if I had to explain him what graphic design and visual communication is I would have to start form the very beginning with the pictograms in the caves and stuff. Also, the way and the tools I’m choosing to communicate all these to him have to apply to his education background and his profession – he has only finished high school and he’s a builder, so he needs more tangible stuff to see so he can understand what I’m talking about. The difficult thing is that in his profession he doesn’t use any conceptual processes, all he does is using his hands and some simple calculations. So how am I communicating something that has to do with ideas to someone who doesn’t work with ideas? That’s a big problem I think. Also I personally need to clear up what I’m actually doing here, than ‘a bit of everything’, maybe I have to go back to fundamental definitions about visual communication – but do they really apply today?

One way to communicate this with him is to take one of his processes and apply them to design – like a simple wall, how is it built? Maybe what he does is design too? Thinking about this I started looking how to build a wall, and understand it:

What’s the equivalent design process of building a wall? A good foundation could be a good idea. And building the wall the development of it. The finishing is the visual appearance of the design. A wall also works in a grid.

So, the perfect scenario is to find a tool of communicating this with him and do it, although I can’t do it right now as we can’t have this interaction – and as he needs things tangible I can’t do it through skype! So maybe the best I could do is to construct the conversation and the way of teaching my dad was design is? Let’s see..

Rubber band typeface – next step and feedback

So here we are, 2 weeks later and yet another unfinished project in my hands, but this time much more pleased with my outcomes. We had a meeting last Wednesday as a brief review but I had the chance to show my ideas for the FUSE project. It turned out that people were interested in my idea, the way I became so familiar with the rubber band and the gestures I do with my hands. I was encouraged to go beyond my hands and try it with my body, or even buildings, also it would be a good idea to remove the rubber bands and leave only the gestures, as I’m more interested in the movement than the actual material I’m using.

Other things I should consider:

-set rules: big bands or small? just me or bring more people in?

-“How fast can you type?”

One interesting thing I discovered is that different people make the letters in a different way. I”m intrigued to give to random people rubber bands and ask them to form the letters

These are some images I tried with big rubber bands created by putting together many small ones. A choreography can be made if the rubber bands are removed.
Photo on 2013-01-11 at 11.41 #2

Photo on 2013-01-11 at 15.07 #3

I was also thinking to create letters by stretching these rubber bands in spaces like here:


So here’s what I presented today:

I took photograph of all the letters, going through decisions of really basic legibility issues (mostly in the way I was creating the letters – how they could be more recognisable by everyone).

These are the letters created with rubber bands

composition with rubber bands

And these are the letters created… without the rubber bands!

composition without rubber bands

The last composition seems really funny and interesting, communicating the structure of language, becoming choreographical and performative. I also have some videos showing my hands creating the letters with the rubber bands and without them:

Without from Savvas Zinonos on Vimeo.

With from Savvas Zinonos on Vimeo.

I’ve also created the alphabet with a second person here:

Interactive alphabet from Savvas Zinonos on Vimeo.

Part of my experimentation was also playing something like cat’s cradle with a second person – communicate through a string. It was very interesting to see the progress of this communication especially when the string started creating a knot until it was so difficult to take it off our hands. Unfortunately the video is so long that my vimeo doesn’t allow me to upload it now – I will upload at a later stage and replace it with the images below:

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.50.46 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.50.54 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.02 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.11 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.23 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.36 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.46 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.51.56 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.53.26 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.53.43 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.54.15 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.54.46 Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 16.54.54



People at the crit responded very well to the video with my hands creating the letters without the rubber bands. I was encouraged to look at the consistency of the gestures, and make them even more powerful. Also I shall make the movements of each letter not just show the gesture like I do for some of them.


How would a conversation be constructed with these gestures?

Power of movement/ Choreographical.

The alphabet made with rubber bands

Trying to come up with an idea of an experimental typeface, I was thinking that either I want to do something performative, time-based or moving. A really simple, starting point idea came to me, to try and make each letter with rubber bands – not that something similar hasn’t been created before, but I tried to make them with my two hands. I tried it with a second person too, but that gets easier! It could also be developed as a performance with a lot of people, maybe having a massive rubber band and people create this. Or a little machine could be created that can create this on its own? I’m thinking too big now.

IN ANY WAY, this does not invent a new language, as I’m using the alphabet as it is – I’m not creating a new one, although this is a good play I had and I think I should include this here – maybe something else can be developed out of it.

Pictures of me trying to make the letters:

Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.37 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.38 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.39 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.39 #2 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.41 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.41 #2 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.44 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.45 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 20.56 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 21.11 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 21.16 Photo on 2013-01-02 at 21.16 #3

Fuse project

After a lot of food, drinking and uni people gatherings I have to say my first Christmas time in London wasn’t that bad.

It’s the 2nd of January and I felt I should get back in control, so after re-starting my morning working out again, and some house cleaning I re-arranged my room in order to inspire me (starting from the simple stuff) – I’m in need of real inspiration for my uni work, as my progress tutorial for the last term turned out that my ideas are not strong enough – How do you push ideas further?!!! !@£$%^&*

So the (christmas) project – I have 2 more weeks until the presentation – is about FUSE, a quarterly magazine launched in 1990 (it’s as old as me) by Neville Brody, Jon Wozencroft (both RCA staff) and some others, published by FontShop International. Each issue is devoted to exploration and experimentation with a theme in order to create an alphabet, a typeface a language.

I’m not sure if the outcome of our projects will be published as a new FUSE issue, in any case this is the brief as given to us:

Create a typeface that questions the core assumptions we make about our typographic languages. You can use any variable to create an alphabet – visual, coded, sound, light, etc. but must be ultimately usable on a computer

Theme: open

Maybe you wish to explore a language which is very personal, or you may want to explore something around the nature of language and structure. You might want to pursue more form-based experimentation, but remember in every case you should develop an interrogation or critical question that threads through your explorations. 

Interesting findings:

‘Whimcircle’ by Torre Terrasi (click the picture for more info). Typeface made using only one shape

Buchstabengewitter by Ingo Italic from lettersaremyfriends on Vimeo.

Modular typeface slideshow from suji on Vimeo.

Going Rogue – An Experimental Typeface from Ryan Ogborn on Vimeo.

Concrete from Christopher Çolak aka Chriak on Vimeo.

The Letter ‘A’ (above) from Alice Belgrove on Vimeo.

Univers from Ben Gaydos on Vimeo.