First Draft of Thesis (preliminary design)


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First Draft of Thesis (preliminary design)

  1. 1. Experimentationin CommunicationsDesign:Moving Toward aMethodology ofInnovation 1
  2. 2. PrefaceMy interest in this topic stems largely from my own attempts at parsing myexperiences as a studio artist versus my experiences studying design andworking towards merging my practice as a visual communicator so that what-ever ends the projects that I am pursuing come to: they always come froma place of sincerity and autonomy that I hope will better communicate to myviewer. I once saw a lecture by Jerry Saltz where he claimed that in order toreally move people, you must be “naked” in your work. I think this statementmeans different things for different people, and certainly for me, indicates acertain amount of emotional vulnerability regarding personal work. However,I think this statement still translates to the designer who is mediating for aclient. That is, people respond to sincerity no matter what the intention of thefinal outcome. And of course, this is related to the idea of empathy in design.Because empathy and sympathy are two different things. One who sympa-thizes merely pays lips service to the idea that they intellectually understandanother persons’ experience. Empathy is more like being a medium in asense. One who is empathetic, actually feels the psychic energy of the personor group that he or she is conferring with. It is funny that we use the termmedium both to describe a vehicle for transference of psychic energy and asa tool for creating visual objects, because when we are creating visual workswe are using the tools of paint, pencils, paper, and bits and bytes to transferthe energy of our emotions. So the empathetic designer actually absorbsthe emotions of the client and transfers them to a visual medium in order toprovide a conduit for others to experience the work. It is those communicative pieces that really hit home emotionally with theviewer, that ultimately resonate and stand the test of time, whether it be anadvertising campaign or a painting. For me, experimentation, in a sense, is theidea of coming by something honestly. That is, I feel that if I can really get myhands dirty and get into something by tinkering, that I can better understandit and connect with it. For me, connecting with a medium is the surest way toensure that I can be sincere in my work and hence, become a more effectivevisual communicator.By connecting with the medium, I hope that it will also bring me full circleback to connecting with my viewer. That is, aside from being a mediatorbetween the client and the audience, I hope to procure a separate relationshipwith the medium itself, so that I can serve as a translator between the clientand the media. 2
  3. 3. introductionThe conventional approach to commu- new tools and innovative means fornications design is to elevate prac- production can be discovered.tice over theory; it is pursued with Aesthetic explorations area commodified end result in mind. typically most successful and innova-However, communications design tive when pursued in an open-endedwould benefit from a greater empha- manner, where the ideas and ques-sis on pure research outside the tions posed are the focus as opposedconstraints of commodified produc- to the product. Although this typetion. Free exploration of materials, of research has long since beenmethods and context would allow embraced by other fields such as artpractitioners to make profound and science, the field of design is justdiscov¬eries such as new visual beginning to embrace this mode oflanguages, new substrates and inquiry. This is largely due to the factnew mediums. that design, particularly in the 20th Communications design is century, was frequently employed incurrently studied primarily as an advertising, and many have come toapplied art. Since the late 19th centu- view that as its sole function. Conse-ry, the profession has undergone quentially, a debate has emergeda great deal of change. From early within the design community thatprinters to the poster design of the questions the role of theory-basedearly 20th century, communications inquiry as opposed to product-design is often relegated to a role focused activity. The opposing pointsprimarily as a communication tool for of view inherent in this debate havecommerce. However, communica- typically been referred to as practicetions design has a far greater role in versus theory.society in general. From governmen-tal and administrative communica-tion to a widely disseminated toolfor public discourse, the modes andmethods of communications designhave always played a large role inthe dissemination of information insociety. For this reason, communica-tions designers must actively pursuea method of practice that allowsfor freedom of exploration, so that 3
  4. 4. The Debate:PracticeVersus Theory “The commercial artist who wants to bemore than a “stylist” must either becomeclear as to what his cultural contributionmay be, or else be overwhelmed by thedemands of clients, myths about publictaste, consumer research surveys, etc. ”–Paul Rand 4
  5. 5. What is practice over theory? It is the ideathat graphic design is merely an activity that has thedirect intent of producing a polished, commodifiedoutcome. It is the idea that graphic design existsstrictly to serve the needs of the client and to func-tion as a voice for corporations and commerce. It isessentially part of a world view that emerged in theearly part of the 20th century and is closely associat-ed with Modernism. This type of thinking emerged ata time in which idealism was high, and many creativethinkers across the globe sought to contribute to theshaping of a new world view that was revolutionary,expansive and universal in its political aspirations. Aquick survey of historical events of the time periodreveals a world, which was in constant flux. Rapidlydeveloping technologies and political upheaval werethe norm, and many divergent ideologies formed as aresult of reactions to these activities. Cultural move-ments such as Futurism, Constructivism and De Stijldeveloped on the heels of rapidly changing politicalenvironments. Manifestos were written and ideolo-gies touted and expressed through works of art,poetry and other communicative mediums. It was atime of truly uninhibited exploration that reflected thetumultuous nature of the time period (Meggs). However, after World War II, the politicalclimate in Europe and the United States becamemore stable, and this ushered in the appearance ofthe International Style in graphic design. Loraine Wilddiscusses this time period in her essay, “That Was
  6. 6. Then: Corrections and Amplifica- courses, students quickly move intotions. She talks about the fact that ” the realm of producing iterations thatafter World War II graphic designers mirror the applied results of profes-“championed a hidden process that sional practice. (McCoy). This model iswas supposed to deliver a visually an extension of the apprentice modelpotent-product” and espoused the that was commonly used at the turnbelief that the designer should be of the century and probably reflects a“invisible. Designers were consid- ” holdover from the days before designered mediators that created a seam- was established as a profession, andless line of communication between printers piecemealed books and publi-the client and the audience (43). cations in an indiscriminate fashion to Andrew Blauvelt, creative quickly produce materials and massdirector at the Walker Art Center and disseminate them.curator of the recent international It also seems to be a viewexhibition, Graphic Design, Now in that many seasoned designers fromProduction, discusses this phenom- the turn of the century still hold. Andenon. He describes a “schism, which ” when one considers the Mad Mencrosses generational boundaries. He era of big business, big advertisingnotes that many view theory as anti- and the United States, expansivethetical to practice due to the inher- post-war elation and egotism, itent disconnect between thought and seems proper that designers whoaction and also due to the common were indoctrinated into the professionvagaries of design theory. Those who during this era would have such anhold this opinion, consider the act attitude. After all, weren’t the citizens,of designing to be “external” from after WWII, asked to do their partthe design process and ultimately by actively participating in the U.S.counterintuitive to the flash of insight economy? (put in some post-warneeded for creativity (102-3). posters) If design was considered an In her essay, “Education in an adolescent profession at the time thatAdolescent Profession, designer and ” McCoy wrote her article in 1998, iteducator, Katherine McCoy discusses can be considered a profession thatthis phenomenon in relation to educa- was in its infancy in at the turn of thetion. She discusses the fact that century. It rightly follows that graphicthe study of graphic design is often designers of the time were focusedfocused on application that simulates on the physical, the here and now.professional projects. The Bauhaus Not unlike a real-life infant firstBasic Course was the first course discovering her toes, designersto establish the idea that all design focused on the physical productsproceeds from a basic foundational that they were producing and theirunderstanding of aesthetic principles, practical and lasting effects andand this has become the model potentialities for bolstering thefor most graphic design education. newly reformed economy.However, upon completion of basic 6
  7. 7. The remnants of this kind of that fail to contribute anything ofthinking are still ubiquitous and can value to society. He states, “we havebe found simply by looking around. reached a saturation point at whichThe artifacts of communications the high pitched scream of consumerdesign continue to riddle our visual selling is no more than sheer noise”landscape with a litany of ephemera (Garland,154-5). He goes on tothat seems a hollow replication of suggest that there are more mean-aesthetics divorced from any depth ingful uses for the talents that areof meaning, historical context, or wasted on these pursuits. Although,cultural significance. A simple trip this essay was published in theto the subway serves as verification sixties, it still rings true in theof this fact. (add photos of subway present Subway posters alone account However accurately Garland’sfor an entire category of produced sentiments reflect and describe thematerials that offer images and type almost assured indignation of manythat is divorced from any meaning a contemporary designer, it remainssave an immediate association with that his argument is a bit more of ana product that screams a message emotional response to the the viewer. These messages tend But what are the actual consequenc-to range from being incoherent to es of this phenomenon?indiscriminate, and likewise offer By many accounts, the conse-even less to their audience in terms quences are a minimization of publicof visual appeal. discourse, and especially in the Unit- In his seminal essay, “First ed States, many see this as synony-Things First, Ken Garland, a British ” mous with allowing the majority ofgraphic designer, offers an intense our mass communications materialsdiatribe against this litany of vacuous to be generated by and for, or as acommunication. His manifesto was voice for, the omnipotent corporation.originally penned during a meeting In recent years, a derisive criticismof the Society of Industrial Artists in of the activities of major corporationsLondon in 1964. In this manifesto, has become more and more evidenthe discusses the fact that, at the in mainstream culture. Particularlytime, graphic designers were indoc- in the wake of recent events involv-trinated into a profession that touted ing economic and political issuesthe production of work that directly surrounding the use and abuse of thesupported the function of advertis- power of corporations, the generaling. He caustically describes this public has come to mistrust the cleanphenomenon as a system, which and morally inculpable message oflauds the exploitation of a designer’s the all powerful and ubiquitouscreativity and skill in service to such corporation (Lavin).banal items as cat food, detergent, Cultural critics such as Kalletoothpaste and more. He argues that Lasn have emerged in dissent ofthese pursuits amount to trivialities what are deemed to be, the major 7
  8. 8. social inequities that have resulted online petitioning and “tv jamming, ”from the abuse of the power of the which is basically subvertising on tele-corporation. As founder of Adbuster’s vision (131-3). Lasn suggests that thismagazine, Lasn has been fighting the type of activity can effectively, breakhomogenization of public discourse the “media consumer trance andthrough disruptive communication for momentarily challenges […] wholeyears. He suggests that the United world outlook[s] (Lasn).States, and in fact the rest of the Lasn expounds on theseglobe, has been subjected to such concepts in his more recent book,an array of manipulative media that Design Anarchy, a book whose“a continuous product message has intended audience is graphic design-woven itself into the very fabric of ers themselves. The book raisesour existence. He goes as far as to ” many questions about the role of thecompare our relationship to media graphic designer and their influenceas being similar to the substance on culture and overall is experimental“soma, which was used to control ” in its layout and conception. Through-the masses in the Aldous Huxley out the book, handwritten narrativesbook, Brave New World. He compares comingle with typeset pronuncia-our fixation on media as an addic- tions and splashes of color, crudelytion to cool. He describes our media scrawled illustrations and neatlyaddiction as a “global pandemic” placed logos. The layout presentsand a “monoculture. He discusses ” juxtapositions of both ideas and ofconsumer capitalism as inherently imagery in such a way that certainlyunethical, and suggests random acts seems to jar the viewer and inciteof civil disobedience to jar the participation. It does so not onlysystem. Lasn ascribes to the view- through its overall message, which ispoints of the Situationists, led by Guy a call to action for designers to breakDebord, who believed in instigating their own media trance, but alsocivil disobedience to fight what they through its combination of surprisingtermed the “society of the spectacle” and incendiary visual elements that(re-quote p. xvi). As an answer to this represent a certain ambiguity thatphenomenon, Lasn promotes the use calls for the reader to form their ownof “subvertisement” to jar the viewer judgments (Design Anarchy).into action and awareness. Subver- Dutch designer, Jan Vantisements involve mimicking the Toorn also criticizes one-sided publicdesign elements of a corporate ad, discourse in both his ideas and in thehowever, imposing a message that physical manifestation of his in effect at odds with the values He deems the type of messagingof the corporation and instead draws that is typical for large corporations,attention to the negative aspects a “closed message. He argues this ”associated with consumerism. He type of work merely reflects thealso advocates the use of “cyberjam- attitudes and beliefs of the propri-ming, which involves the use of ” etors of that information and for that 8
  9. 9. reason designers typically create interpretation and cause the viewermaterials that offer a clean and clini- to think and engage their critical facul-cal interpretation of a corporation’s ties in a way that ultimately leadsmessage. He argues for disruption to participation.of expected outcomes and like Lasn, Van Toorn’s complex ideology“breaking the charm of the spec- regarding the practice of communica-tacle” to increase the time it takes for tions design is influenced by manya viewer to parse information. In this progressive philosophers and think-way, he suggests that a viewer may ers and is the result of his intensebe more aptly engaged in the process study on these topics. Van Toorn isof interpretation, and his or her criti- influenced by the writings of Bertoltcal facilities will stimulated and thus Brecht, Magnus Enzensberger, andhis or her intelligence awakened. Victor Schlovsky just to name a few.(requote-Stam) Enzensberger’s was a poet and cultural critic, and one of hisVan Toorn states, key philosophies focused on the differences between repressive and In our culture, the tradition is to emancipatory media. He defines strive for a closed product: a kind repressive media as that which has of statement composed of form a central source, a single sender or and content that is somehow communicator and many recipients. complete in itself [..] graphics Emancipatory media, by contrast, designers find themselves in involves decentralization and treats a situation which supports the every recipient as a potential commu- institution and that becomes part nicator. The theory of emancipatory of the product. If you strive for media states that each recipient is a closed message, both in form encouraged to mobilize. He states, and in content, then you are not “repressive media encourages being true to the communicative passive consumption and depoliticiza- character of the message, to the tion and is produced by specialists real aim of the communication. and kept under bureaucratic control. Producers of information try to Emancipatory media encourages hide their real aims and motives. interaction and feedback, contributes Information becomes a commod- to the political learning process, and ity. Design is the ultimate answer is collectively produced and autono- to that. (97) ” mous” (Poyner, 95). These ideas reflect Barthes’Van Toorn ultimately ascribes to the ideas that the receiver becomesideologies of Roland Barthes and plac- author, through interpretation. Receiv-ing authorship with the viewer. He ers bring the meaning to the messagebelieves that by offering the viewer and hence play a part in authoring it.something more challenging that you Barthes believed in “polysemy, which ”thereby slow down the process of is the idea that one object or image 9
  10. 10. can have many meanings, and the ideas of Bertolt Brecht, a playwrightmeaning is created when the viewer who thought that audiences shouldinterprets the image. He referred to view plays with emotional detach-images as texts and postulated that ment. Brecht felt that plays shouldtheir meaning was literally created not function as transcriptions ofin the process of being read by the reality but instead that they shouldviewer, thus placing authorship with retain characteristics that make audi-the viewer instead of the creator ences aware that they are viewing(Baldwin and Roberts, 34-5). a representation of reality. He used These ideas are based on disruptive techniques, to reveal thethe basic concepts of semiotics as mechanics of making a play, such asdefined by Charles Sanders Pierce, having actors speak stage directionsan American philosopher from the aloud. This demystified the act a bitlate 19th century (13). Pierce used and drew on participatory elements,the term semiosis to describe the such as having the actors addresstransfer of meaning from author to the audience directly. He termed thisviewer and acknowledged that the act type of activity as, “the alienationof signifying, or creating meaning, is effect” (97).not a one-way process. He suggested Van Toorn’s ideas of engagingthat the meaning of a signifier is the viewer in an act of participa-effected by the background of the tion is evidenced in one particularviewer or reader, and their personal spread from his book, Design’sinterpretations and experiences will Delight. In typical Van Toorn fashion,influence how it is read (Crow, 34). he has composed a series of photos The writings of Victor together in the same layout that areShklovsky, a Russian formalist seemingly unrelated. A photo of acritic, also influence Van Toorn’s work. family on a train is superimposedSchlovsky’s ideology centers on the by a smaller photo of a newscastnotion that people need to be jarred that depicts a young African Ameri-to break out of their normal percep- can boy hugging Mickey Mouse.tual modes and “habitualization” that The caption of the newscast reads:lead them to fail to question or recog- America Under Attack. At first thenize their surroundings. He touts grouping of images are difficult to“defamiliarization” in art or “making discern and are seemingly nonsen-strange. He calls the process ” sical or unrelated. However, uponostranenie (Crow, 95). inspecting the caption, one realizes Van Toorn typically is known that the newscast was from Septem-for creating forms that reflect this ber 11, 2001, and the photo of thetype of process. His constructions family on the train is an Iraqi familyare intentionally awkward, and their on their way to Disneyworld Paris.manifestation reveals the process by This knowledge immediately helps towhich they were created. This aspect construct the narrative, but it is stillof his work is also reflective of the ambiguous enough that it requires 10
  11. 11. the participation of the reader todecode. That is, one must bring theirown knowledge of the events andimages depicted to realize the rela-tionship between the photos and theinferred meaning. There is other texton the page stating, “ideas becomemarkets, “five media giants … ”strengthens the influence of marketand politics on journalism. Max ”Bruinsma comments on the impliedmeaning in this spread stating, “closereading of this spread can be summa-rized as ‘the war on terrorism hidesgenuine problems of clashing culturesbehind the repressive narratives ofthe global (western) entertainmentindustry” (Bruinsma). However, thepiece is open enough to allow fordifferent readings, and ultimatelyplays on irony and the suppositions ofthe viewer to achieve its communica-tive effect. In this way it is exemplaryof his theories about communicationsdesign as a participatory media. Overall, Van Toorn’s workand his philosophy is decidedlyexperimental and focused on theoryrather than outcome. He createsopen-ended statements that offerthe possibility for different readings,and thus his overall message is notset in stone. Instead he allows theviewer to interpret his work in a waythat is not always completely predict-able, and this sense is always freshand innovative. His work, as a resultdoes not feel formulaic but instead isreflexive and fluid. 11
  12. 12. SomeProposedMethods ofInquiry:Pure Science “Design: Where Science and Art BreakEven” -–Robin Mathew 12
  13. 13. To discover new means and create a strategy to consider sourcesmethodologies that promote break- and options. Use visual diagraming -ing out of the typical functions of depicting ideas, concepts and rela-design, and hence nurture creativ- tionships in pictoral form.ity and innovation, we can look to 3) Generate Ideas and Select Solu-other disciplines as a model. The tions - prototyping stage. Come upnatural sciences employ a number of with ideas and solutions and decideresearch methods that bear a relation- which ones are most appropriateship to those that are often pursued to design. For instance, probably the 4) Implement Solution and Evaluatebest known method for scientific Result - apply an outcome and gaugeinquiry that exists is the scientific the results. Gauging results couldmethod. The scientific method begins take the form of informal discussion,with defining a problem, creating a market research or observation ofhypothesis, testing the hypothesis how people interact with a form.and forming conclusions basedon the experimentation that The scientific methodis performed. follows a similar approach, and Communications design this method is frequently taughtis frequently pursued in a similar in schools. The scientific methodfashion. Many define the activity of follows this basic structure:designing as problem solving, andthus a problem solving methodology 1) Define the problemis employed. 2) Gather background information In his book on the fundamen- 3) orm a hypothesis (or educated Ftals design, Introduction to 2-Dimen- guess about the outcome)sional Design: Understanding Form 4) Make observationsand Function, John Bower outlines 5) Test the hypothesisthe typical process of problem solving 6) Draw conclusionsas related to communications design.This methodology is akin to problem One can quickly see thesolving in other disciplines and is similarities between a problem solv-derived from psychology: ing approach to design and the scien- tific method. Bower identifies two(partial transcription) different problem solving approaches1) Learn Conditions - familiarize your- in design as research and strategy.self with all aspects of the situation. He states that these methodologiesThink of the audience that the project are particularly effective in situationswill be directed towards and the of applied design. That is, in situationsphysical environment in which where a specific product or outcomethe work will exist. is clearly definable, methodologies2) Identify and Define the Problem - that more closely mirror the scientificexamine the information gathered and method can effectively assist the 13
  14. 14. designer in creating systems that a method of teaching that isproduce a desired effect such as not merely about accumulating knowl-increasing sales. In these situations edge but instead should stimulate thedesigners can use specific tools such discovery of novel approaches thatas ethnographic research or market fundamentally change that knowledgeresearch to create effective strategies (74-5). William McComas’s articleto solve such problems (33-44). “Ten Myths about Science” furthers However, not all communica- reiterates this point. McComas pointstions design is geared towards such out that, “close inspection will reveala cleanly definable goal. Bower notes that scientists approach and solvethat other qualitative, as opposed to problems with imagination, creativity,quantitative methods are desirable in prior knowledge, and perseverance.the creative process. Intuition is one These, he suggests, “are the samesuch methodology that relies more on methods used by all problem-solvers. ”the designer’s own personal insight. Both scientists argue that science isBower notes that both methodologies a discipline that requires the creativ-can be successful, however, intuition ity and idiosyncratic response of itsis a large part of the creative process practitioners and that true innova-and at times can yield more compel- tion cannot be developed withoutling results (17 Bower). , allowing for unexpected outcomes Many scientists seem to (McComas).share this viewpoint in regard to Although, neither authorthe pursuit of science as a creative states it outwardly, the overall argu-discipline . In fact, many scientists ment seems to support pure researchfeel that the scientific method is as a more viable way of approachingalmost antithetical to actual discov- problem solving. Although, differingery. Alexakos Konstantinos, in his methodologies may exist within thisarticle “Teaching the Practice of category, pure research is defined asScience, Unteaching the Scientific an approach to inquiry in which theMethod, advocates for the use of an ” overall aim is not necessarily to solveapproach that involves open inquiry. a specific problem that is posed, butHe argues that the scientific method rather to explore possibilities withinis an overly formulaic approach that the context of curiosity. That is, pureis limiting and does not take into research, involves open-ended inquiryaccount the creative and at times about the natural world, simplyidiosyncratic aspects of humanness for the sake of understanding thethat are involved in science. He notes world. Pure research, in contrast tothat students who are constantly applied research, therefore does notdrilled with this approach, lean on it necessarily result from a predeter-as a cookie-cutter method and do not mined purpose.employ true creativity. Similarly, the Scientists frequently employNTSA (Standard’s for Science Teacher pure research as a viable method forPreparation) also advocates for inquiry. That is, scientists explore the 14
  15. 15. known universe in order to answer breakthrough in applied science.questions about the way it works. Another example of a purePure research, by its very definition science discovery that was lateris more exploratory and open ended. applied to practical results is theHowever, it frequently informs appli- discovery of the photoelectric cell bycation later. Pure research defines George E. Hale, whose discovery waslaws by which applied results can based on his observation of the sun’slater be gleaned. For instance, pure corona in 1894. No immediate use forscience discoveries often furnish laws this knowledge was found, however,that are later used in application of it was later applied to the creation ofapplied science (Feibleman, 306). In motion pictures (307-8).science, laws are defined as observ- Although, pure research oftenable facts about the known universe, leads to practical application, Jamesand theories are hunches at explain- K. Fiebleman argues that researching these laws (McComas). Without should not be hampered in light ofobserving the known universe, predicated applications. He arguesthere would be no laws to test and that the “seriousness of purpose”hence, no science to apply, as in involved in pure scientific researchapplied science. For this reason, pure is comparable to religion or art andresearch is a necessary step toward that while scientists focusing onachieving practical results. Without application and technology may bepure research, or what is sometimes very skilled, they equally tend toreferred to as “pure science, ” have “lesser imagination” (309). Heapplied science could not exist. goes on to eloquently sum up his In the scientific world, there thoughts on these matters in a wayare many historic examples of the that is reflective of the assumptionssuccess of pure research. For exam- asserted in this document: “In theple, Louis Pastuer discovered the effort to extend knowledge it is notbasic principle that dead or attenuated strategically wise to hamper investiga-organisms can induce the produc- tion with antecedent assurancestion of antibodies in the blood. Later, of utility” (307).virologist and medical researcher, Lawrence Berkeley Lab isJonas Salk, applied the inherent logic a currently active institution thatof this theory when he discovered employs pure research as a large partthe vaccine for polio. He literally built of their research curriculum. Berkeleyupon the groundwork of knowledge Lab is a sprawling 200-acre facilitythat Pasteur had already established, located in the hills of California nearmoving beyond Pasteur’s original the UC Berkeley campus. Fundedconclusion to develop an unexpected in part by the U.S. department ofoutcome that had hugely positive energy, Berkeley lab hosts thousandsresults. Had he not been aware of the of scientists and researchers whoprevious work of Pasteur, he would have made many discoveries over thenever have had the means for such a years. The lab was founded by Ernest 15
  16. 16. Orlando Lawrence, a physicist who Boson particle, or the “God Particle. ”invented the cyclotron. The cyclotron This discovery is considered a mile-is a particle accelerator that helped to stone in scientific research, withsignificantly advance our understand- broad reaching implications about ouring of high-energy physics. Lawrence universe and how it works. Althoughwon the Nobel prize for this discovery confirmation of the specifics of theand founded Berkeley Lab in 1931. particle and whether or not it carriesThe facility was based on his belief the exact attributes predicted bythat research is best approached scientific theorist, Peter Higgs, is notfrom collaboration between teams entirely clear, the discovery has beenof people with different backgrounds a cause for a great deal of celebrationand expertise. Thirteen Berkeley and is the ultimate testament to thescientists have won the Nobel prize, power of pure research.and thirteen have won the NationalMedal of Science. The New York Times said this of Berkeley Lab has made many the discovery:discoveries of applied science butcontinues to maintain hundreds of Confirmation of the Higgs bosonprojects globally that employ pure or something very much like itresearch and seek to help us better would constitute a rendezvousunderstand our world. The Supernova with destiny for a generation ofCosmology Project one example of physicists who have believedan international collaboration led by in the Boson for half a centuryBerkeley scientists, which was devel- without ever seeing it. The findingoped in order to investigate super- affirms a grand view of a universenovae and the principles of physics described by simple and elegantsurrounding their creation and symmetrical laws — but oneand existence (LBNL). in which everything interesting, Berkeley hosts or contributes like ourselves, results from flawsto a number of other experiments or breaks in that symmetry.globally including The Large HadronCollider, a device located in Geneva The Higgs Boson isSwitzerland, where protons and ions presumed to be the physical mani-are collided in order to study the festation of an “invisible force field”debris created from the collisions and that essentially imbues all objects insubstances such as quark-gluon plas- our universe with mass. It is respon-ma (LBNL). At the time I began writ- sible for the existence of life. Withouting this document, the Collider was this material, nothing in our universein operation but had not produced would have physical integrity, andany dramatic results. Since then, objects would whiz around and passthe Collider has been responsible through your hands like air (Overbye).for confirmation of the existence of Among other pure researchsomething very similar to the Higgs projects, Berkeley scientists also 16
  17. 17. study dark matter and cosmic rays In the book, Drive, authorat the South Pole, using a telescope Daniel H. Pink talks about the factlike device called IceCube which that people need personal autonomyprobes the surface of the earth. The to tap into their drive or motivation toHomestake Mine is another project in do something. He cites a study withthe works, located in South Dakota, monkeys, in which the animals actu-which will house an underground ally seek to solve puzzles without alaboratory called DUSEL where astro- banana reward, for the pure pleasurephysics and physics experiments will of it. Pink coins the term “intrinsicbe conducted. Geoscience and motivation, to describe this phenom- ”microorganisms that inhabit extreme enon. He defines intrinsic motivationenvironments will also be as motivation that comes from within.studied here (LBNL). He says that “if-then” rewards actu- Pure research is an ally require people to forfeit someextremely important aspect of many of their personal autonomy, and thatof Berkeley’s projects, and this is is why this particular type of rewardevidenced not only through their system does not work.dedication to pure research experi- Pink also cites another studymentation but also through their that follows a group of artists for adevelopment of outreach programs period of time. Some of the artistsaimed at educating students about created work for which they receivedthe importance of experimental commercial recognition and henceresearch. Among them is a project monetary compensation. Othercalled ESLI, which stands for, ethical, artists received little or no compen-legal and social issues in science. sation. Over a period of years, theThis project exists in the form of a artists were studied. A group ofweb page that is intended to gener- curators was asked to blindly judgeate discussion about ethical, legal and the works. The artists who initiallysocial issues in science and is recom- received no compensation producedmended for educators and students in more creative work than those whojunior high and high school. The page received compensation. However,is dedicated largely to discussing pure this does not necessarily indicate thatresearch and to educating students the production of less creative workon the importance of pure research was caused by the receipt of money.(LBNL ESLI). The fact is that some of the artists, But why is pure research so who received little compensation ateffective? Essentially, it is because the beginnings of their careers, laterthe practice offers practitioners the became successful and did receiveability to explore, unhindered by the compensation. The study concludedpressures of producing an immediate- that the fact that the artists werely useful product or solution. It allows intrinsically motivated was the causefor the use of abductive reasoning, of their creative work. That is, theas opposed to inductive reasoning or artists that were dedicated to makingalghorithmic thinking. work, due to internal motivations, 17
  18. 18. rather than extrinsic rewards, were For the children, the offering ofmore likely to weather the difficult payment seemed to indicate thatperiods of receiving lower incomes. there was something undesirableTherefore, they remained dedicated about doing the their work, despite the lack of Overall, Pink’s research seemsexternal rewards and were hence to indicate that creativity thrivesmore creative overall in their execu- when it is self-directed. Practitionerstion of work. are more inspired when they feel Another study cited in the personally compelled to pursue thebook, involved young children in answers to their internal questions,a classroom setting. Researchers hence internal motivation, as henoticed that some of the children in states, is the best foundation for truethe classroom chose to draw when innovation in creative practices. Thisgiven free time in class and seemed relates to the philosophies that areto enjoy drawing. The researchers at the core of pure research. Purebroke the children into 3 groups. research suggests that a scientistThey told the first group of children may pose questions about the naturalthat if they drew, they would receive world out of sheer curiosity, whicha reward. The reward was a “good naturally arises from a place of inter-player” certificate. The second group nal motivation. Regardless of thewas asked if they wanted to draw. payment structure (or lack of paymentThe children who chose to draw structure) in scientific laboratories,were later awarded with a certificate, the initiation of projects based onalthough they had not been told about pure research tend to arise from anthe possibility of receiving one. The internal source that naturally predis-third group was simply asked if they poses the practitioner to bear somewanted to draw and did not receive kind of internal motivation and hence,an award, nor were they told of any autonomy regarding their pursuit.possibility of a reward. The research- When no specific intended outcomeers returned a few weeks later to is immediately foreseeable, thesee if there had been any change in practitioner may align his or her goalsthe children’s behavior. They found more acutely with answering thethat the two groups who received questions at hand, rather than relyingno reward or who had received an on monetary or commercial systemsunexpected reward were still drawing of approval as a goal, and this atmo-just as frequently as before. However, sphere can lend itself to increasedthe children who had expected innovation and creativity (Drive).and received a reward had almost Additionally, Pink seems tocompletely lost interest in drawing. suggest that somehow the commodi-Somehow the experiment had turned fication of the creative process canplay into work for the children, and tend to lend itself to an inhibition ofthey chose to avoid the activity as innovation. Here we find an unknow-soon as it was deemed undesirable. ing dissenter to the traditional 18
  19. 19. design-as-product-as-commodity process. In his book, Change byconundrum. This viewpoint has impor- Design. He also suggests thattant implications for design. As successful design projects follow adesigners who are bound to merely process that is open-ended and lessemulate toothpastes and continue to rigid than some scientific or problememit that “high pitched scream” that solving approaches. He envisions theKenneth Garland so aptly referred to, steps of this process as being akinrun the risk of producing less creative, to a series of overlapping spaces ofless innovative work. This dichotomy activity, the order of which can betends to pit the artist against the rearranged based on the needs of thebusiness man in a never-ending tug project. He identifies these spaces ofof war of whose activity/motivation is activity as, inspiration, ideation,more valid? Of course someone like and implementation.Kalle Lasn has his opinion, but some During inspiration, many ideascompanies are more interested in are produced. During ideation, ideaschanging this relationship to better are narrowed down and prototypesfacilitate innovation. One such are generated. And during imple-company is Method. mentation, the final ideas are chosen Method co-founders were and implemented in the practicalinterviewed by Good magazine, world. Overall, he defines the designwhere they expressed a somewhat process as an exploratory processdifferent viewpoint about encourag- that should allow for “unexpecteding cooperation between designers discoveries” along the way (16-17).and business. Typically, people use However, Brown also notesinductive or deductive reasoning to the need for constraints in experi-solve problems. That is, in induction, mentation and suggests that whatconclusions are reached based on distinguishes designers from artistsa set of observations. In deduction, and some scientists is that, in addi-conclusions are reached based on tion to experimenting, they embracegeneralized facts that have been constraints (18). He uses legendarypredetermined. However, in abduc- design team, Charles and Ray Eamestive reasoning, novel solutions are as an example of an extremelyinvented without a known or prede- successful duo that implemented antermined source. “While an engineer experimental approach that producedmay study problems and devise extremely innovative from a known set of tools, However, he also notes thedesigners must imagine solutions extremely methodical nature of theirthat don’t come from a preexisting experimentation. That is, they hadset of techniques” (Ryan, Eric, and strict parameters within which theyAdam Lowry). experimented. This relates to his This relates to Tim Brown’s discussion about the use of conver-theories about convergent and gent and divergent thinking in design.divergent thinking within the design In western culture, specifically, we 19
  20. 20. are trained to use deductive reason- brain, and linear problem solving froming or convergent thinking, in that the left. However, scientists notedwe frequently draw upon a series of that when some sort of brain damagedata, analyze it and converge to one had occurred, and the two parts ofchoice. However, he suggests that the brain communicated differently,divergent thinking is the phase of that more novel creative solutionsthinking in which ideas are generated, were produced. That is, the two sidesand the more ideas are generated, of the brain are thought to inhibit eachthe larger the base from which there other in certain ways. However, whenis to choose. He suggests that design those inhibitions were removed,thinking is a process of moving different talents were developed. Forbetween convergent and divergent instance, some people who developmodes of thinking to continu- an aphasia or other language difficultyously produce innovative ideas and later in life experience the instanceconversely narrow the possibilities to of increased musicality or artisticobtain an ultimate solution. He also talent (Erikson).adds that analysis and synthesis are All of this research seems tosecondary components to the design point to the fact that designers, asthinking process and equally impor- creative thinkers, are using their orga-tant (Brown and Katz). nizational as well as intuitive faculties All of this seems to suggest to approach problems and projects.the continuous interplay of struc- However, when constraints aretured left brained thinking verses, released, and the intuitive portion ofopen-ended right brained thinking as the mind is allowed to freely explore,hallmarks of the creative process. This more creative solutions can beechoes the findings of neuroscience reached. This supports the idea thatresearchers. According to the theory experimentation is vital to the devel-of representational change, one of opment of new solutions. As creativethe preconditions for creative prob- thinkers, if we cannot disrupt thelem solving is letting go of perceived typical view or constraints of a visualconstraints. This idea was demon- communications problem, then howstrated when scientists used an MRI can we arrive at novel solutions? Forscan to digitally visualize the activity that matter, how can our audiencesof the brain. When subjects were arrive at novel solutions if we cannotgiven a visuospatial problem to solve disrupt their typical thought patternsthat involved divergent thinking, MRI as well? If we look to the audience asscans confirmed that activity occurred author and truly value their participa-in both the left and right hemispheres tion, then we have to offer them theof the brain, suggesting that both opportunity to stretch their facultiessides of the brain are involved in and meet us somewhere beyond thecreativity– as opposed to the more horizon of typical solutions in a realmwidely held belief that most creativ- of higher thought and consciousness.ity comes from the right side of the 20
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. PureResearchin Art =VisualResearch“Information presented at the right timeand in the right place can potentially bevery powerful. It can affect the generalsocial fabric…The working premise is thethink in terms of systems: the productionof systems, the interference with and theexposure of existing systems…Systemscan be physical, biological, or social. – ”Hans Haacke 22
  23. 23. Pure research has long been Additionally, Pollock is a greata traditional method of inquiry in example of an artist who developedthe world of fine art. Of course, this a unique and innovative style throughphenomenon is largely championed pure visual research. His “actionby the myth of the fine artist itself. paintings” represent a stylistic andAside from situations in which processual departure from anythingcommissions are exchanged, at that was being done at the time, suchthe request of the client, most fine that he inspired many documenta-artists function within a tradition that ries and writings. Pollock was apt atultimately champions the genius of explaining his technique, and therethe artists themselves and leaves the was a great deal of interest in filmingprocess of creating and discovering his process. In one particular video,solely to them. This type of inquiry is Pollock is shown painting outdoorsgenerally termed “visual research” on a large canvas on the ground. Heand is particularly touted in academia. moves around the canvas in a veryVisual research generally falls under physical way, pouring paint or atthe heading of pure research, in that it times even using a stick. He statescan be defined as research where the that, “technique is just a means atpractitioner him or herself initiates the arriving at a statement” and feelsquestions or goals, and this stems that his paintings are imbued with hisfrom curiosity or inner drive instead of emotions. He states that he sees afrom a client or request for a solution painting as “having a life of its own”to an external problem. and seeks to allow it to take its own Some of the best examples course accordingly. Furthermore, heof pure research in art and how it has describes the fact that he wishes tomanifest itself ultimately as innova- “express [his] feelings rather thantion can be found in the process art of illustrate them” (Jackson Pollock onthe 1960’s. Process art encompasses His Process).a genre of work in which the processof making the work is central to thesubject matter of the work. That is,the process of making the work isnot only evident in the final product Process Art: Visualbut represents the goal or intended Research as Reflexivesubject matter of the work. Artistssuch as Richard Serra, Eva Hesse Experimentand many more are attributed withworking in this manner, and JacksonPollock is considered to have played akey role in planting the seeds of this Jackson Pollock’s methodol-movement (Process Art). ogy can be traced to influences such as Surrealism and Jungian psychology. Specifically, Surrealist 23
  24. 24. Automatism bears a close relationship experimentation and the combinationto his process. Pollock’s early experi- of varying systems of application fromences studying art at the Art Students different disciplines, he developed anLeague in New York City under Thom- extremely unique style and methodol-as Hart Benton led him to work as an ogy that are still studied and emulatedeasel painter for the Works Progress 60 years after his death (O’Connor).Administration’s Federal Art Project, Another group of artists whowhich offered him a steady enough employed open-ended experimenta-income to allow him to experiment. tion that led to important innova-In 1936 he joined an experimental tions was a loosely defined group ofworkshop where he learned about conceptual artists whose activitiesindustrial paints and enamels such spanned largely from the time periodas as duco. He later applied these of the mid sixties and into the midexperiments to the poured and spat- seventies. Lucy Lippard was onetered paintings that he is known for. of the most prolific art critics andIn 1938, Pollock underwent psychiat- theorists of the time period whoric treatment and worked with Jung- documented these activities, andian analysts who used his drawings her seminal publication Six Years: Theas part of their therapeutic process. Dematerialization fo the Art ObjectFrom here, he began exploring uncon- from 1966 to 1972 is probably onescious symbolism in his work and of the most thorough collectionsdeveloped a personal iconography of documentation about this work.surrounding his mental processes. Lippard lived in New York City during Although Pollock’s process at the time and was deeply involved inat times seems chaotic, he actually documenting, curating, and collaborat-employed a measured and intentional ing with artists such as Sol le Witt andmethodology to the implementation Robert Ryman, who are closely asso-of his paintings. He tended to “write ciated with minimalism. In her words,them out” from left to right on long this interaction led to her affiliationpieces of canvas and at times was with many other artists who wereknown to go back and correct certain actively experimenting and subvert-areas so that they would “work” ing art world norms through theirvisually (O’Connor). He is even cred- exploration of immaterial or “littleited with utilizing a grid system that c” conceptual art, as it was dubbedhe learned through his experiences by Le Witt. The work of this periodas a mural painter. Additionally, his “focused on the de-mythologizationmethod of painting (particularly his and de-commodification of art” andcharacteristic method of painting questioned authorship through owner-on the floor with unusual tools such ship from the perspective of art as aas sticks), bears a relationship to commodity (xiv). This movement in artthe methods of the North American is closely related to communicationsIndian sand painter. Overall, through design through its immediate goals 24
  25. 25. of communication, its largely textual active during the period that Lippardbasis, and its focus on proliferation discusses. One of his most famousand inexpensive means of production. pieces was a series that was actu-Lippard states “for me, conceptual art ally censored form an exhibition atoffered a bridge between the verbal the Guggenheim museum becauseand the visual, and she toyed with ” of its incendiary content. The piecesyntactic experiments in her writing, was related to Ruscha’s in the sensesuch as replacing textual paragraphs that it presented factual photographicwith pictorial information that was information. It consisted of a seriesintended to communicate verbal of photos of New York City tenementnarratives visually (x). During this time buildings accompanied by docu-she sought to create hybrid forms of mentation collected from the publiccritical communication that reflected records archive at the County Clerk’sher influences from this movement. office. The documentation merelyAt one point, when she was asked to reflected real estate speculation andwrite a text about Marcel Duchamp the relationship between differentfor the MOMA. Instead she produced investors and partners related toa series of ready-mades chosen those real estate holdings and offeredrandomly with a system she devised no personal reflection on the informa-involving the dictionary (Lippard). tion being presented. Another portion Similarly, Ed Ruscha, an artist of the exhibition included demo-whose work frequently employs the graphic information about museumuse of typography and methods of go-ers, gathered through a poll thatmass production associated with Haacke circulated and updated onsite.communications design, toys with Although the piece did not openlythe notion of image as text and vice make any inflammatory assumptions,versa. In one particular series of the work was deemed to be extreme-projects created 1962-66 he produced ly offensive by the proprietors of thebooks of photographs that catalogued Guggenheim, and Haacke’s exhibitionimages of buildings, gas stations, was cancelled. Haacke consideredsmall fires, and apartment buildings. the piece to be a an example of aThe books were entirely without text, social “real time system. Although ”and he considered them to be strictly the piece did not follow any traditionalfactual and more akin to the idea of formal qualities associated with finereadymades than to art. He purposely art, it has remained an influential andemployed the use of mass production memorable piece.techniques to create the books and Lee Lozano is another artiststated that this was, in part, the inten- who was among the most influentialtion of the projects (11-12, Lippard). conceptual artists at the time, and Hans Haacke is another she considered the fact that her workartist whose work bears a relation- was unsellable to be more democrat-ship to the practice of communica- ic. She was known for documentingtions design, and he was also very common daily activities as art, and for 25
  26. 26. pushing the envelope in the art world that illustrate the inherent strengthsin such a way that, like many of her of an exploratory method of inquirycontemporaries, “bordered on hostil- and how this can be transformed intoity. One piece in particular consisted ” innovation. Although, these artistsof her throwing up a number of Art activities are definitively locatedForums and letting them fall to the within the realm of the profession ofground. The piece was aptly named fine art, the knowledge gained andwith the snarky title, “Throw-Up questions posed are clearly related toPiece” (Smith). communications design. Lippard states “For artistslooking to restructure perception andthe process/product relationship ofart, information and systems replacedtraditional formal concerns of compo-sition, color, technique, and physicalpresence. Systems were laid over lifethe way a rectangular format is laidover the scene in paintings, for focus.Lists, diagrams, measurements,neutral descriptions, and much count-ing were the most common vehiclesfor the preoccupation with repetition,the introduction of daily life and workroutines.. ” Despite this works’ focuson communication, however, sheobserves that at this time, commu-nication was largely associated withdistribution. And while distributionand accessible formats suggesteddemocratic communication, thecontent did not (xvi, Lippard). Thatis, the content of the work remainslargely obtuse, self-referential anddifficult to access, and in this sensebears a relationship to the workof Jan Van Toorn. In an attempt atmore solidly fusing the connectionsbetween this work and the practiceof communications design, I havechosen this sampling of artists,’because their work clearly reflectsan intersection of methodologies 26
  27. 27. 27
  28. 28. VisualResearch inCommunica-tions Design:“Experimentation is an anticipation ofinnovation” –Russel Bestley (check source) 28
  29. 29. While pure research seems to She states,be a method of inquiry that is more “Unburdened by any consid-closely associated with fine art, it is erations of practical application,not without precedent in the field of [an] uninhibited play with materialsdesign. Aside from Jan Van Toorn, resulted in amazing objects strikingwhose experimentation is paramount in their newness of conception into his practice and reflects methods regard to the use of color and compo-very closely associated with those sitional elements– objects of oftencentral to visual research in fine art, quite barbaric beauty […] such a freemany others have made experimenta- way of approaching a material seemstion central to their design practice. worth keeping in mind […] Courage Anni Albers (1899-1994) was is an important factor in any creativea textile designer, weaver, writer, and effort. It can be most active whenprintmaker who inspired a recon- knowledge in too early a stage doessideration of fabrics as an art form, not narrow the vision. ”both in their functional roles and It was Alber’s belief thatas wall hangings. Albers studied at creative possibilities must bethe Bauhaus, beginning in 1922 and explored freely before considering theeventually began teaching there. utility of an object. She states thatShe is known both for her innova- in later stages, utility can become ative approach to textile design and necessary constraint to experimen-also for her teaching methods. In her tation. Annie was married to theessay, “Weaving at the Bauhaus” influential teacher, writer, and colorshe discusses experimentation in her theorist, Joseph Albers, who alsowork. Her innovative methodology taught at the Bauhaus. After the clos-included the following steps: ing of the Bauhaus, the two went on to teach at Black Mountain College, 1) Begin at the beginning. another influential and experimental 2) Discard traditional ideas. art and design school. Their innova- 3) Focus on the materials. tions continue to be influential today 3) Disregard any previously (“An Introduction”). employed device for In more recent years, graphic handling the materials. design, as a discipline has embraced a more experimental approach. IanShe notes that the among the Noble, Director of the MA and MFAreasons that such innovative work programs at Kingston University incame out of the Bauhaus weaving London, has been a central figure incourse is due to the fact that the writing and discussing this phenom-students came in without any enon and in ushering in new think-former training. ing about design practice. He is the author of multiple books about this 29
  30. 30. topic, including numerous books versus legibility has become a centralabout visual research and one book issue, and designers have begun toentitled, Experimental Layout. He is embrace ‘disorganized’ visual organi-strongly influenced by the work and zation. Appropriateness for particularideas of Jan Van Toorn. He is primarily approaches is linked to the audience’sconcerned with the process of graph- sensibilities, however there remains aic design’s impact on society, visual newly found embrace ofresearch, and “a reflexive process ambiguity (32).exploring the relationship between In addition to stylistic play,making and reflecting on the theory new theoretical frameworks haveof practice that is directly concerned begun to emerge as well. Designerswith a user-centered approach to have begun to analyze their practice,designing. (The Design School: ” embracing the notion of their activi-Ian Noble) ties as being intellectual. Designers His book, Experimental are attempting, more and more, toLayout, begins by discussing early look beyond their formal sensibili-experimental design in Europe, in ties and generate new meaning forwhich white space, asymmetry and their activities. They are reflecting onsans serif type became stylistic the practice of designing itself andtropes that were widely used. This therefore constructing validity to theirearly work also focused on the use activities outside of the role as merelyof grid and the geometry or propor- a vessel for information from antion of the piece. The experimental unrelated field.nature of graphic design at this time As communicationshad its conceptual roots in ideal- design grows as a discipline, thisized notions about society and the reflection and re-examination of thecreation of a new social order. It practice has naturally led to experi-was based in avant-garde thinking mentation.and the utopian ideal of universalityin visual communication. However, Katie Salen states,these ideals became more and morediluted as they were more widely “Research and exploration are keyadopted, and were eventually not elements in the growth of a disci-much more than a visual style that pline. Graphic design continues towas increasingly associated with adjust, and to accommodate newcorporations and industry with little approaches, which define the activ-to no connection to its original values. ity of what has been called visualIn more recent years, graphic design communication. The breadth of thehas begun to embrace the notion of field is now no longer only contained “multiplicity of meaning, and layer- ” by the vocational demands of techni-ing and complexity have emerged cal rationality and competence. Inas stylistic components. Readability fact the discipline has to an extent 30
  31. 31. become its own benefactor, andthe more eclectic and idiosyncraticmethods of designers and designgroups […] have become significantfactors in the further development ofthe subject in general.” 31
  32. 32. TheExperimentationof John Cage 32
  33. 33. Having established the that the larger parts of a compositionimportance of experimentation in had the same structure as smallercommunications design and examin- ones, the same proportions. He founding the existing precedent for it, that the components of a song couldthe next step is to look at how an be replaced with any sort of sound.experimental research approach Cage was confounded bycan be framed in a way that allows the academic notion that music wasa structure for extracting the maxi- meant as a means of communica-mum benefit of the activity. That tion. He felt that at times when heis, by examining specific research purposely sought to evoke a specificpractices rather than merely theories, feeling in his work, that peoplewe can establish a starting point that tended to have the opposite reaction.acknowledges the achievements of He vowed to find a reason for makingthe past and charts a course for music, other than communication. Itthe future. was then that he began to study Zen John Cage, although not a Buddhism and was exposed to thegraphic designer, was an artist and Indian singer and musician, Giramusician who is known for experi- Sarabhai, who believed that the func-mentation and for creating systems tion of music is not to communicateto assist him in his creative process. but rather to calm the spirit and openHe studied architecture in Europe it to divine forces. At this time heand developed an interest in modern was also exposed to the writingspainting. However, around that time of Ananda K. Coomaraswammy,he decided to dedicate his life to who believed that art shouldmusic. When he returned to the US imitate nature.he studied under Arnold Shoenburg Before he left the Cornishwho believed that harmony was struc- school, Cage invented the preparedtural, not just “coloristic” as Cage piano. It was his way of mergingputs it. After studying together for a percussion with the piano. He wastime, Shoenburg decided that Cage confronted with a situation where hewould never be able to write music was asked to compose music for adue to his basic lack of a “feeling” for performance with an African theme,harmony. It was then that Cage began however there was no room for theto experiment with percussion instruments, so he had to devise acompositions. His wife at the time way to achieve the sound of multiplewas studying bookbinding, and they percussion instruments with onewould have small concerts at the instrument. He created the preparedhouse with all of the bookbinders piano as a solution. He created it byplaying instruments. placing objects between the strings. While working at the Cornish In this way, the piano functioned asSchool of Music in Seattle he discov- a sort of “percussion orchestra” butered “micro-cosmic-macrocosmic with a lower volume.rhythmic structure, which suggested ” 33
  34. 34. At this time his interest in experiments including experimentsmusic experimentation was strong, in visual art and visual research. Theand he spent two years trying to details about the specific methodol-establish an experimental music ogy he used are a bit foggy in areas,program, sponsored either by a and Cage himself admitted at times,college or some other funding source. forgetting the process. However,However, his idea never received the basic principle that he employedenough support to be actualized. involved removing his own intentionHe ended up joining the faculty for in his work. That is, when makingMoholy Nagy’s school of design in decisions about creative projects,Chicago and went on to work with one tends to bring their own subjec-Merce Cunningham. Like Anni Albers, tive experiences and tastes to thehe also taught for a time at Black equation. This was his attempt atMountain College, which was devoted circumventing those types of subjec-to experimentation. It was there that tive selections. He used it to attempthe met Buckminster Fuller and other to free himself from making decisionscontroversial innovators. At Black and instead made his sole responsibil-Mountain College Cage organized an ity that of asking the questions of theevent that is by some considered the IChing (Marshall).first “happening. The event included ” The IChing itself is a visualan exhibition of paintings, poetry system of 64 hexagrams. Each hexa-readings, dance performances, and gram has 6 lines. Each line has fourlectures, the timing of which was all different possibilities. The line canbased upon chance operations. be solid, broken, solid “changing, ” In the late 40’s he found out or broken “changing. The lines are ”through experimentation that “silence formed through a process of selec-is not acoustic” and instead attributed tion that is based on randomization orit to an altered decision or changing chance as Cage prefers to call it. Oneone’s mind. His work then became an can use either coins or yarrow stalks,exploration of “non-intention. It was ” which are dried stalks of the yarrowthen that he developed a complex plant and resemble, long smoothsystem of composition, which includ- sticks. One begins by concentrating,ed the use of the chance operations asking a question, and then proceedsof the IChing, in his words, “making to divide the sticks into sections. Inmy responsibility that of asking ques- determining the character of the firsttions instead of making choices. One ” line of the hexagram, the questionerof the projects that exemplifies the places one stick to the side, as aexperimental spirit of his work is his symbolic witness to the act. Then the“Music of Changes” piece. This piece stalks are divided into two sets. Thewas created using the IChing. first set is laid to the side, and the ( second set is counted out. The group-cal_statement.html) ing is counted in sets of four, and laid Cage used the IChing in many on the table until four or fewer stalks 34
  35. 35. remain. These stalks are clear whether Cage used the “yarrowplaced between the ring finger and stalk” method for divination or thethe middle finger of your left hand. “coin method” which is slightly lessThen the questioner picks up the laborious. Regardless, he embracedgrouping of stalks that was first laid the idea of chance and of changes,to the side, divides this group into which is a central theme ofroughly half (without counting, this is the IChing.part of the randomization) repeats Cage was at times vaguethe above process. about how he used the IChing in his After all of the sticks have methodology. However, in her book,been counted through, the questioner John Cage – Visual Art: To Soberends up with either 9 or 5 stalks. The and Quiet the Mind, Kathan Brownnumber is always the same due to discusses the process that Cageprobability and the number of stalks used in creating one of his first printthat were started with. If there are projects. Brown owned a printmaking9 stalks, the value of 2 is assigned, press called Crown Point Press, andand if there are 5 stalks, the value 3 is Cage began making etchings thereassigned. The questioner rights down towards the end of his life– for thethis number and begins again, until last 14 years. He would number thehe or she has done this three times. tools and ask the IChing which onesThose numbers are then added up. At to use. Then he would ask how manythis point the only possible numbers marks to make, and how many shouldthat can be produced are 6, 7 8, or 9. , be particular lengths. He would askEach of these numbers determines the questions ahead of time andwhether the line is broken, unbro- bring a printout of the answers token, broken changing, or unbroken the studio, so that he could quicklychanging. This process is completed make decisions and work on the6 times to produce a hexagram. spot without throwing coins or usingThe hexagram is a visual symbol the yarrow sticks each time. Appar-that corresponds to a text. The text ently he also at times generated ais intended to answer the question reference sheet with a listing of theoriginally posed by the questioner. hexagrams and simply selected the The length and laboriousness next one on the list to make a choice.of this process is intended to ensure His methodology usually focusedthat the questioner is truly focused on the number 64, since that is theon his or her question and is intended number of hexagrams that compriseas a sort of meditation. John Cage’s the IChing. At times he would decidefascination with this oracle is probably that the first half of the numbers,related to his study of Zen Buddhism say 1-34 would determine one itemand to the idea that music could be or alteration, and 34-64 would deter-a means for calming and mediation mine another. (Brown, Kathanas opposed to a communicative and Marshall).endeavor. However, it is not entirely 35
  36. 36. EmbracingChance:The CreativePotential ofRandomization 36
  37. 37. Cage’s process was Parisian poets. The poet Guillaumemethodical and obsessive, which Apollinaire coined the term Surreal-makes it by its very nature interest- ism, and although he left the defini-ing. However, the most interesting tion of the term somewhat vague,part about his process may be the he seemingly defined it as a formintentionally produced element of of expression that not was not onlychance. By its very nature chance, or hyper real, or exceeding realness, butrandomization can present creative also involved a “strong element ofpractitioners with different possibili- surprise. This intention was decidedly ”ties that they may have otherwise to be achieved through “unexpecteddiscarded or failed to consider. Unex- juxtapositions” (Ades and Gale).pected adjacencies may be observed The central ideas of thewhenidiosyncratic outcomes are Surrealists were largely based on theembraced, and truly new and innova- ideas of the poet André Breton. Hetive ideas can be discovered. penned The Surrealist Manifesto and Chance = the x factor that described Surrealism as, “Psychicproduces unexpected outcomes. automatism in its pure state, byAn apt metaphor for this phenom- which one proposes to expressenon can be found in the mathemati- -- verbally, by means of the writtencal concept of chaos theory. Chaos word, or in any other manner -- thetheory suggests that deterministic actual functioning of thought. Dictat-systems can produce unexpected ed by the thought, in the absenceoutcomes. Cage’s experiments set up of any control exercised by reason,deterministic systems– systems for exempt from any aesthetic or moralwhich there is a decided outcome i.e. concern” (Surrealist Manifesto). Thea song or print or painting and uses a Surrealists believed that the mostvariable factor to alter the outcome. potent juxtapositions that arise are Historically there is a from unconscious, rather thanprecedent for this phenomenon in conscious deliberation. Breton and hisvisual art. Randomization was a key colleagues used ‘automatic writing’theme in the development of work to tap into this unconscious flow. Theby the Surrealists. The Surrealists first experiments with this methodfrequently played games of chance took place around 1919. They wereand participatory games to create influenced by the automatic writing ofworks of unusual potential. Surreal- spiritualist mediums, who would fallism was an intellectual movement, into a state of hypnosis and continuewhich spread internationally around to write or communicate in a mannerthe turn of the 20th century. It was that was perceived to be drawn frominspired by psychoanalysis and the a mystic or supernatural source.ideologies of Marxism. The move- Although, the Surrealists were awarement began primarily as a literary of the similarity of their practice tomovement, and its core theories that of mediums, they believed thatwere formulated by a group of their writings came from an internal 37
  38. 38. unconscious source, as opposed to a visualization and crowd sourcingsupernatural source. (Wikipedia) He uses online mechani- The second source of inspira- cal turks to randomize data collectiontion that precluded the formulation of and also tends to call upon unknownthese experiments was derived from participants for input, as anotherFreudian psychoanalytic techniques. form of randomization. In this senseBreton developed an interest in these Koblin plays on the ideas of Cagetechniques specifically through his and the Surrealists, puttingexperience as a wartime psychiatry randomization to use to producespecialist. He had tried psychoanalytic unexpected outcomes.techniques on soldiers who sustained In one particular project, calledshell shock, and found that their Bicycle Built for Two Thousand, Koblinseemingly “irrational monologues” used Google’s online Mechanical Turkwere extremely imaginative. Surreal- to collect audio clips of people imitat-ists also believed in the “poetry of ing notes from the song, Daisy Bell.chance encounters. Surrealism in the ” Participants were not aware of whatvisual arts developed many different the outcome of the project would be.manifestations over the years, and When they entered the site, a tonemany artists that were supposedly was played, and the participant wascreating in this prescribed “automat- asked to mimic the tone to the bestic” fashion were criticized, because of his or her ability. The result wasalthough their subject matter was an eerie amalgamation of overautomatic, in the sense that it drew 2800 voices singing the song.from dreams and the subconscious. In two more recentSurrealist purists argued that their projects Koblin, utilized the Exquisiteexecution or process was deliberate Corpse method specifically. Oneand therefore not a true representa- project called, The Johnny Cashtion of the core theories of Surrealism Project invites visitors to the site(Ades and Gale). to create one frame of an ongoing Surrealist Automatism was video portrait, accompanied by theamong the most important tech- last song that he recorded before hisniques that were developed, although death. The result is a continuouslymany systematic games of chance changing stream of imagery thatwere used. The Exquisite Corpse overall creates an idiosyncraticgame was one such game, which and beautiful portrait.drew upon the elements of chance ( produce the final outcome. In another recent project Aaron Koblin is a multimedia entitled, The Exquisite Forest, he alsodesigner who utilizes chance in his uses the Exquisite Corpse game towork and specifically has utilized the realize an exceptionally imaginativemethod of the “Exquisite Corpse” outcome. This project involves crowd-in his most recent undertaking. He sourcing a series of animations basedis known for innovative uses of data on similar themes, which are 38
  39. 39. then archived into an interactive“tree” formation. The result is amulti-faceted, idiosyncratic narrativethat continues to grow and changeas users submit online (ExquisiteForest). Overall, Koblin’s work isa great example of how randomizationand chance operations can enhancecreative projects, and in that sensehis work is decidedly experimental.The unknown factors produced byhis crowdsourcing techniques bring afresh approach to the chance opera-tions that John Cage implementedand also draw on the experiments ofthe Surrealists in an unexpected way.His work is a great example of howrandomization can produce unexpect-ed results that garner innovation. As designer’s if we are toachieve innovative results it is clearthat pursuing our activities in an open-ended way that allows for randomunexpected insights and novelsolutions must be pursued. Visualresearch should be approached in asuch a way that allows practitionersnot only to explore the answers totheir own, self initiated questions butalso that allows for the appearance ofresults that might otherwise not havebeen considered. Randomization isone way to achieve this, and shouldbe incorporated into visual research. 39
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