Media Design: Techonomy, Blind Man, Economist, Role of Design in SV
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design from South Africa and around the world:
- Independent print: Techonomy exposes the face of Facebook’s failure to take responsibility for a global issue that it caused through the best of intentions
- Iconic: The Blind Man created awareness around conceptual art practices during the early 20th century, using arguably the most important artwork of the century to do so
- Commercial print: The Economist effectively illustrates a complex situation plagued by division and dissent
- Online: The Role of Design in Silicon Valley, by Baunfire provides an education in how important design is to tech-based companies in Silicon Valley and, by proxy, the world
The Economist (US), 10–16 November 2018
The recent mid-term elections in North America on 6 November 2018 was insightful as it revealed a clearly divided United States. The Democratic party won the House of Representatives, and the Republicans managed to keep the Senate, holding a larger majority overall. With this, however, the Democrats have gained an oversight authority over the Republicans in the new Congress. More so, this divided America has confirmed that it also has a divided government, practically split down the middle
The cover, illustrated by Italian illustrator Luca D’Urbino, portrays US president, Donald Trump, sitting backwards on a Democrat Donkey, attempting to coerce it to move with his infamous, red, “make America great again” cap. A poetic depiction of an uncanny situation at hand in one of the world’s most-powerful nations.
Techonomy (US), fall issue, November 2018
Implied by a clever bit of alliteration on the cover to the fall issue of Techonomy, the failure of Facebook to foresee, and to take responsibility for, the harmful effects of its global platform — specifically the way in which it can be abused — has placed historic levels of pressure on the tech company. Facebook now needs to remedy a global problem that it caused with the best of intentions. That said, the best of intentions is often the result of sheer ignorance or a lack of foresight, and inadequate levels of comprehension about any given situation.
The cover for this issue is art-directed by Rob Hewitt and Illustrated by the prolific Mike McQuade (who also illustrated some spreads inside). This cover is reminiscent of the latter’s earlier work, riffing off his cover for The New York Times Magazine in April last year, where he also uses emoticons as a narrative device. The key here is how Facebook seems to lack any form of ethical foundation, aiding in the proliferation of cultural destruction and perceived loss of values globally. Yet this is merely one case study among a plethora of other corporations which simply can’t see how they impact people’s lives the world over.
The Role of Design in Silicon Valley, by Baunfire (US), November 2018
Design is one of many pivotal mechanisms in society for the creation of values and the production of culture. With the problems facing Facebook mentioned already, Silicon Valley is one geography that certainly can’t afford to lose sight of the important space that design fills in our lives. The Role of Design in Silicon Valley is a microsite produced by Baunfire, a digital web design agency based in the Bay Area, that presents a series of opinions and perspectives from design-centered, technology-based brands.
The site illustrates six key insights about design in the context of tech-brands and their current values:
- Design is not a service; it’s a necessity
- Design is a leadership tool, seeking out and solving brand challenges
- Design breeds creativity, which gives any brand the upper hand
- Design implies clear intent, which further implies consideration and foresight
- Design nurtures diversity, and feeds off different perspectives
- Design produces culture, based on strong values and the creation of meaning
The microsite is an easy read and a pleasing user experience, thanks in part to the rad and off-beat Illustrations by Bay Area local, Ralph Buenconsejo.
The Blind Man (US) 1917
In last week’s column, in relation to Ordinary magazine, mention was made of the contribution that Marcel Duchamp made to the language of conceptual thinking and approaches to idea-based creative practices during the last century; the early 20th century saw the dadaist movement produce many publications linked to Duchamp. Of interest here is a lesser-known magazine called The Blind Man, the product of a network of proto-dada, avant-garde exponents living and working in New York. The Blind Man is considered one of the earliest publications to promote the New York chapter of dadaism.
Only two issues were published, edited by Duchamp, alongside co-editors Beatrice Wood and Henri-Pierre Roché, and included the work of key dada exponents practicing in New York and Europe, such as Francis Picabia, Alfred Stieglitz, and Erik Satie, to name a few. The first issue was published in April 1917, with the second issue followed shortly thereafter in May 1917. The Blind Man provided a platform for those experimental artists and writers who didn’t fall in line the status quo still dictated by the European cultural establishment. It attempted to enlighten the broader public about art that was produced outside the confines and norms dictated by highbrow art critics and snobbish scholars.
The first issue brought attention to the opening of the Independent Exhibition, and emphasis was placed on “the R. Mutt case” in defense of Duchamp’s “The Fountain”, which got a lot of negative attention at the time. The readymade ‘fountain’, signed using the pseudonym “R. Mutt,” was not included in the Independent Exhibition, and this caused an uproar amongst avant-garde artists. The second issue of The Blind Man again defended “R. Mutt”, creating a spectacle around this found object and its fictitious author, exposing the narrowmindedness of the exhibition’s selection committee.
The reason more issues of The Blind Man weren’t published was because of a bet made between Roché and Picabia. Picabia wanted to publish his magazine, 391 (featured in this column earlier this year), and The Blind Man must have been a deterrent of sorts.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio. Connect with him on Pinterest and Instagram.
Media Design, formerly Cover Stories and MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.
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