The traces of our experiences, sensual or linguistic, are a major component in our creation of constructs, those tidy little bundles of complex, abstract ideas — love, peace, poverty, gender, freedom — that help us make meaning of our lives. As social beings, we create mutually-agreed-upon collections of ideas or events that are defined through common language — both verbal and visual. While we are constantly tweaking our constructs as we acquire new information and experiences, we often continue to use the same language we have always used to describe them.
When we consider that much of our communication, visual as well as verbal, is based on these abstract constructs, it is little wonder that using these languages to exteriorize our interior experience is an inherently faulty system. The intention of our communication is sometimes held captive by our systems of communication. The last layer of trickiness is that we are often unaware of our own idiosyncratic constructs and communication methods.
An awareness of this deceptively unstable “common” ground is vital for graphic designers who act as the conduit and translator of ideas between clients and audiences. It is a critical awareness for educators as well. This extra-personal awareness requires active and often intentional pursuit.
Deconstruction is a philosophical and critical movement that suggests a distinct avenue for this pursuit of growth. It questions the ability of language to represent reality as words essentially only refer to other words. To remedy this, a reader must actively approach a text with the intention of eliminating any metaphysical or ethnocentric assumptions and finding new, more objective language with which to construct meaning. The philosophy promotes an awareness and dismantling of text.
Deconstruction also has a definition in the material world where it is defined as the selective dismantling of building components, specifically for re-use, repurposing, recycling, and waste management. What possibilities could a hybrid definition of deconstruction present? What can be learned and revealed from UNmaking?
I would answer that physical, material, text-based deconstruction can be a method of facilitating intellectual deconstruction and the increased awareness of personal, social, and cultural constructs. If we deconstruct something, effectively objectifying all the pieces and parts and inner workings, it is possible to see the effects of their interactions more clearly. In theory, any meaning embedded in subsequent creative efforts is responsively more informed and considered as a result of this self-aware deconstruction.
It may seem odd to include a teaching section in my design portfolio site, but it is an absolutely integral part of who I am as a designer as well as a person. Teaching undergraduate design students has forced me to think deeply about my fundamental skills as well as my core values as a designer. Teaching is a dialogue and I have learned as much, if not more, from my students over the last few years than they may have from me!
I also had the unique pleasure of teaching K-12 art for a year at a small international school in Xi'an, China. I've included some of their work here, too, because planning these projects was an intense learning process for me. I had to integrate grade-level appropriate teaching/learning objectives into interesting projects all while acquiring the materials in China. We can talk about it over beers sometime...
I sometimes describe myself as a designer on the outside and a writer on the inside. As such, books, magazines, calendars, annual reports, brochures and so on feel like my sweet spot. On more than one occasion, clients have told me how much they appreciate the fact that I actually read and process the content of what I am designing. In our Pinterest-obsessed world, it is easy to forget that good design isn't just about decorating, it's about communicating clearly and effectively.
If you ever want to truly understand something, teach it to someone else. For the past five years, I have been teaching undergraduates the ins and outs of good logo design. My approach changes from semester to semester as I am constantly re-evaluating and redefining what does, indeed, make a good logo. There are, however, some adjectives that remain constant: simple, memorable (preferably with a dash of clever), and versatile. These are a few of my logo designs that I believe hit that mark.
I am reluctant to use the word "branding" here but it rolls off the tongue a little more easily than "the development of brand through the consistent application of visuals and messaging over time." Because a lot of my work has been with either smaller clients/businesses with limited budgets or larger clients who are often too busy to get truly invested in a branding strategy, a great deal of my "branding" work has been by stealth. It usually starts with something as simple as a consistent color palette or typeface and builds from there. A handful of projects and few months or years later, clients often look up from whatever they're doing and go, huh, wow, we really have a great look and message going for us now. It has been a pleasure to be a long time freelance designer for Kindermusik International and I think they would agree that my long term influence has been of benefit.
As the trend in web design continues to move toward cleaner and more consistently templatized layouts, the opportunities to "splash out" visually have become fewer. Content has rightfully become more important than container. I started my web design career building HTML sites from scratch. I had a brief and unfortunate fling with Flash. And I had an early introduction to WordPress by way of customized CMS in Joomla.