"I’m relearning what it means to be a graphic designer"
Years before I was here, I dreamt about being here. I prayed (and still do) for the things I have now. This bike, this place, this MA, these friends—I wanted all of this. Almost shy of a year ago, I wrote some text on the responsibility of the graphic designer. I recognised that where I was as a commercial designer is not where I wanted to stay, at least not full time, and so I did something about it.
My oh my, how the time has flown by since writing that text. I’m in an incredible space right now where I get to create without fear of reprimand, without discussion of whether it’s right or wrong, and I’ve never had this. Not at Secondary school and certainly not when I did my Bachelors in London. I feel like I have no authority anymore, you know? For some reason, being in London, everyone felt they knew everything about design; how to mend it, perfect it, sell it and swallow it whole. I would go to conferences to hear about how these massive agencies had ‘made it’, I’d have guest lecturers come in and talk about how charming I had to be as a person in order to secure a job, that I should be a good girl and stay late at my internships. I have no authority on design anymore, but I never did—and it’s this illusion of superiority bubble that I’m glad to be coming out of. It makes me very insecure about what I perceive to be good design, why is it good? who says it’s good? what even is good, should it even be labelled as anything?
I’m relearning what it means to be a graphic designer, and I’m unlearning parts of the hardened pieces that London left in me. I am aware of the privilege I have to be able to study again, and it really is by the grace of God. I recognise excitement breeding in me but also fear. I try to look to my tutors or peers to criticise my work, so I can feel structure again, but there isn’t much of that, if any at all. This “trash" educational model is a new concept that takes getting used to. I feel a certain warmth and anxiety that I haven’t felt since choosing the design path when I was 16. It’s a giddy experience of learning new things again. It’s like when I first learned about the difference between Akzidenz Grotesque and Helvetica, and learning that the straight line was ungodly through Friedrich Hundertwasser. I remember the Art Movements where I’d decided that I was a Dadaist. I remember when I learned about colour mixing in primary school, and I remember using watercolours for the first time. I remember screen printing at 16, calligraphy classes at 17 and I remember being so sure that I was going to be a typographer at 18. I remember all those things because I feel those things similarly now. To be intrinsically curious is a privilege not afforded to many, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Somewhere along the line whilst studying for my BA in design, I lost this essence of fun. Design became an academic burden, in which I had to form myself into this charismatic character (at which I failed more often than not). Where recognising typefaces moved you higher up in the ranks, where working ridiculous hours meant that I might one day move from a Junior Designer to a Middleweight designer...enzovoort enzovoort.
Today, during a discussion with one of my tutors Daniel, he asked me why chose the Sandberg, why I wanted to be in this space. I had a really hard time compiling an answer, and I don’t remember if I did. But if I didn’t, then I suppose I’d say that I chose to be here because I couldn’t imagine another place where grades aren’t a measure of my intellect, and where the hierarchy between students (whether they be first or second years) and tutors isn’t so glaring and finally where we can have an open and honest discussion about things that matter to us. It’s a place where I have the freedom to roam my own intellect and have the respectful permission to dig into the minds of my classmates too. There’s trust between us, our group I mean, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because all of us are simultaneously unlearning the art of critique for the sake of it. Criticism in art and design is a performance art—it very quickly becomes petty. Because it’s like, how politely can you tear down someone’s work and call it constructive criticism? Another thing I’m unlearning is not being afraid of tangling myself into my work. It’s an intensely peculiar place to be in. To be able to be vulnerable and say, “Well I created this piece of design or art because it affects me, my culture or my personal wellbeing" is foreign concept to me.
One of the first things I inhibited whilst studying at Ravensbourne was the ability to separate myself from my work. To be able to distance oneself from their work is important, but that isn’t the only type of design there is. We need to make room and agency for another type of design, one that observes the designer’s opinion as its own audience. We have to analyse why claiming personal vulnerability is a faux-pas in design. Finally, we have to reclaim whatever design speaks to us the most.
"We Have To Analyse Why Claiming Personal Vulnerability Is A Faux-Pas In Design"
For these two years I intend to create work that I may not always be proud of. I intend to fail in every sense of the word, I intend to soak up new processes and concepts as much as possible and immerse myself in studying my craft. I intend to read manifestos and have my brain rile up in anger or intense passion. I’m excited by design because old processes aren't keeping me confined anymore. Instead, the possibility of including new techniques into this ever expanding box called design opens my mind to new ideas and possibilities. My intentions are to be intent. Intent with my words, intent with my friendships, my religion, my body and food. I also intend to be extremely lazy. I intend to procrastinate. I intend to be angry. I intend to explore my youth and naivety, gone are the days of holding up maturity pretences—God willing, I have the rest of my life to be mature. I intend to cry. I intend to be silent when I should speak up and I will speak up when silence is expected. I intend to sleep in on most days and forget about appointments. I no longer hold habits against myself. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself…and I consider even that as a subject of debate.