Friends, Allies, Readers:
Summer is fading, leaves are changing and so let us reflect. I started this blog nearly ten months ago as a way to document and comment upon a shift I saw happening in design. That is, a shift towards a more socially responsible practice, a more community-centric practice and a design that contributes to the betterment of society. I became interested in these ideas (or ideals) having spent the beginning half of my post-undergraduate years entrenched in projects and processes that, for a long time, I felt where situated somewhere near the front lines of this shift. I moved to Detroit to examine these notions as they were unfolding in a post-industrial city, and I began teaching to explore my assumptions that change in the design profession would/could/should begin in the classroom. What I’ve come to understand, as I continue to traverse this arching, twisting road, is that I’ve been looking in all the wrong places.
Aside from aesthetically successful artifact, the profession of design is not showing me anything new. Likewise, my classroom experience is not provoking me to consider design as anything more then a process to some end, where the end still remains posters, website, experiential installation, data visualizations, etc. While I still very much appreciate the beauty in these results, my overall disposition towards the work remains fairly unmoved. I am dealing with an utter loss of inspiration.
What does seem to continually stir me however, are projects that contribute to the betterment of place, that is making places more engaging, more accessible, more usable, more fun, etc. These projects can vary from one-night events, to month-long pop-ups to bigger picture infrastructure/systems redevelopment. While these efforts may seem different from the onset, they are similar in that each are endeavoring to improve the human experience by enhancing aspects of our everyday surroundings. I do believe this factors in heavily as I consider why I’ve chosen to continue living in Detroit; projects like these continue to develop daily.
I would like to let it be known that my typical incessant need to question, analyze and scrutinize has been waning lately. While this post may seem mildly scathing, it is not intended to be. Being overly critical, I’ve learned, is quite useless and stewing too much just wastes time.
Presently, there are three things that matter to me in relation to my professional work. They are: (1) the investment in individuals (teaching plays a large part in this, though as stated, the current context within which I’m teaching isn’t yet fulfilling this aim); (2) helping others do their work better (specifically inventing processes and methods that others can use to implement change across their spectrum of work); and (3) contributing to efforts in Detroit to make this a more livable city.
I have two goals to achieve before Thanksgiving. They are: (1) take a woodworking or gardening class; and (2) begin working on a publication aimed at citizen, civic education. If anyone has any insights on either, please share.
It is mid October and I must make some decisions. Will I teach next term? I’ve been offered two classes, one a typography course, the other a graphic design history course. Yet, how can I effectively teach something I’ve become so apathetic towards? Does my desire to be in an educational environment outweigh my indifference towards the subject matter? Should it? Are there other opportunities I could create to teach outside the classroom? I am co-running a problem-solving laboratory that also presently doubles as my house. How long before this set-up wears on me? What steps can I start taking to move towards a storefront environment? Who do I seek to serve? The man in the boardroom or the man who lives under the viaduct? How do we get more talent in this studio? Per usual, I have more questions then answers.
While I have no idea who (if anyone) reads this blog, I will continue to post here as its proven to be a useful forum for me to sift through my own thoughts and ideas. It is also very valuable to me to keep this platform as a record of this time in my life. The onset of autumn tends to breed many more musings. So, onward. There is much to do, more to learn and plenty to be grateful for.
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