Mary Lim

Monday, August 24, 2015

va: visual advocacy

"Design Thinking: A Useful Myth" by Donald Norman – Response
In Norman's concise redefinition of "design thinking," I found myself humbled as a designer. Often times, being in a department solely for graphic design and being surrounded by designers makes one think that perhaps what designers do are truly unique, when in actuality, design at its core is problem-solving. The one virtue that sets apart designers are their ability to look from the outside in. I don't particularly agree with his use of the word "outsider" because designers should be completely immersed in society in order to understand it, but I get the concept. What's interesting is that designers must be both the outsider and also the native, where they observe and also engage. As Norman points out, the myth that designers, "possess some mystical, creative thought process that places them above all others in their skills at creative, groundbreaking thought," though false, is advantageous for us designers. It's a powerful "public relations term," where suddenly the creative way of thinking called "design" has substance and structure.

An illustration from Every Person in New York by Jason Polan
http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/24/jason-polan-every-person-in-new-york/


What Does Designing for Good Mean? by Daniel Francavilla – Response
As Francavilla pointed out, design for good began with the modernists, which later shifted into consumerism, and then back to social responsibility. "Good" is used in both design and non-profit work, and can have different meanings. Though it can mean effective, attaching "for" to a phrase clarifies it as the desire to help the greater good and create a sustainable future.

One of my projects for Tyler's Applied Communication Theory course.
These signs use index in order to raise awareness about subtle racism.
Titles of each from left: Stereotyping, Ignorance, and Impact of the Media, respectively

"Designing for Social Change" – Response
Key Points:
  • Immerse yourself – spend time with the community; organization and community should be one
  • Build trust – you can't help without the community's trust; be personally invested
  • Ex. Studying Stereotypes
    • a project to dispel negative stereotypes against different ethnicities by Ramsy Mazri
    • to counteract discrimination, targeted children between 8 and 10
    • created children's books to visualize the difficulty in accepting differences
    • his inspiration was El Lissitsky's About 2 Squares
    • by the end, students and teachers were exchanging contact information, making new friends in the process
  • Promise Only What You Can Deliver – it's tempting to want to solve all the community's issues, but it's important to be realistic and aim at solving the problem one step at a time
  • Prioritize Process – feedback is most important, don't be afraid to bring new ideas to the table, 
  • Confront Controversy – conflict is valuable and reveals underlying issues, keep a good rapport with community members with controversial topics
  • Ex. Stories of the City
    • Tyler Galloway sought to bring neighborhood communities together
    • the initial connection was the most difficult - taking neighbors out of their comfort zone and giving them the motivation to learn more about their neighbors was an obstacle
    • Tyler found that societies prioritize common interests as opposed to geography as shown in Morgan Allen's failed experience with her community
    • quote by Tyler: "a designer needs a solid point of entry into a community to have credibility and trust with them."
  • Identify the Community's Strengths – instead of focusing on weaknesses, focus on the community's strengths
  • Utilize Local Resources – use what's already there; look out for available talents/skills community members have and utilize it
  • Design with the Community's Voice – remember to keep consistent with the community's already set style
  • Give Communities Ownership – focus on long-term goals and make sure community members can run it in the future
  • Sustained Engagement – build lasting relationships with the community
In general, what stood out to me the most in this reading was the level of trust a designer needs with the community they're assisting. Though this seems intuitive, a desire to help the community should be sincere and empathetic. It should not be from a superior standpoint of "giver" and "receiver," like one of the interviewees commented in We Are Superman. Rather, it should be a collaborative effort where the designer almost becomes one with the community.

"We Are Superman" – Response
Ever since coming to Kansas City four years ago, I learned to be wary of Troost Avenue. One of the first things a Kansas City resident told me was to "be careful along that street." When driving from the west of Troost to the east, it was strange how drastically the apparent income of each household dropped in certain areas and skyrocketed in others; the racial demographic seemed unbalanced and concentrated with certain types of people in specific areas. Though confused, I did not question it, nor did I feel the necessity to point it out as a problem. I noticed that Chicago, too, has the same problem of segregation, where there are racial pockets and natural divides between them.

After learning about the history of Troost and how it became the "wall," I was shocked at how little things have changed over the course of sixty years. I realized that segregation is indeed not a thing of the past; it is very much a current reality and continues to prevail. Looking at a map visualizing the races of residents in Kansas City, there is a clear divide between white residents (to the west of Troost) and black residents (to the east). The film revealed the complexity of the issue, which spans from legislation to familial environments. Needless to say, there is no one clear solution.

As the film progressed, it delved into specific people's efforts to eliminate segregation: a Catholic nun, an Orthodox Priest, a computer engineer, and a community leader. Though they all address different aspects of the issue, each tackle the problem in their own way and instigate social change. One of the interviewees commented that "we can no longer wait and depend on the government to solve the issue."

Like Kelly said in class, design cannot necessarily solve world hunger. But it can influence the way people behave, and therefore also change the way people think. In what ways could design raise awareness or solve the issue?

This visualization of 2010 U.S. Census data shows Troost as a racial divider in Kansas City, Mo.
(Blue dots represent white residents, green dots represent African-American residents.)
http://kcur.org/post/how-troost-became-major-divide-kansas-city

Organizations of Interest
  • HALO
  • Assistance League of Kansas City
  • Kansas City Rescue Mission
  • Stonelion Puppet Theatre
  • Rose Brooks Center
  • Cultivate KC
Kansas City-based Challenges
  • What is the existing situation?
  • What specific problem are you wanting to solve or change are you trying to make?
  • Why?
  • What changes could improve the situation? (this will evolve as you do research)
  • Change of conversation?
  • Shift in understanding?
  • Identifying a need?


Sources

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