Another massive topic, and where to start? One could write a whole book about each of the given examples, the reasons behind them, the history, the future, the abuse, the impact
Pasteurisation is named after Louis Pasteur, except a Hungarian doctor wrote about the problem and solution years before Pasteur, but because Hungarian is not widely read, it was not shared and many more died before Pasteur came along. Another Hungarian Doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis’s discovery of the need for washing hands with chlorine also never had the impact, or saved the lives that it could have, had more people known about his research and discoveries.
Why do we write?
Why do we write at all, why do graphic designers publish? Surely we have our hands too full of doing our actual work as designers to spend time being scriveners. Where is the value in that? And of course, it is complex and there are many reasons – and there are noble reasons, and less noble ones, important writings and less important ones. But surely, complex communication and reflection are what define us as humans. (And cooking). And it is most professions that write, not just designers. This is the way we discuss, analyse, share and progress.
Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press was an “epoch making event;” (Eisenstein, 1969 p.18) that lead to the end of the Middle Ages. As Marilyn Gilmore suggests “The invention of printing with moving type brought the most radical transformation in the conditions of intellectual life in the history of Western civilization…Its effects were sooner or later felt in every department of human activity.”
The printing press was an agent of change. (Eisenstein, 1979) Not only did the press allow for the shift from script to print, but it also revolutionized Western culture by filling Renaissance Europe with new information and abstract ideas. The printing press inspired individualism and undermined the authority of the Catholic Church. Essentially, the printing press grew scientific and conceptual thought, as well as stressing the need for clarity, sequence and reason. The tradition of spoken information and stories was replaced by a literary one.
Since Gutenberg, publishing has become exponentially faster, easier, cheaper, and accessible – I am doing it now. But one of the challenges is of any writing is getting it read. Many a children’s book is languishing on hard drives never to be seen by a child or a parent, manifestos are great, but you shouldn’t have to bomb people to publicise them, news is now under threat from fake-news – actually, it always has been, we just didn’t have an annoying hashtag or jargon to describe it.
The actual mechanics of writing is not the hard part, the hard parts are having something to say and saying it in a way that people to care enough to read it, and more importantly, in a medium that they will notice it; especially now when we are inundated with information via marketing messages, news stories, personal communications, satire, and social media messaging (not messages).
Children’s stories are interesting as they frequently have multiple stories within them. There is the obvious moral for the child, as well as the learning of reading, recognition of words, and encouragement of imagination, but there are often other stories buried within the stories, sometimes for the adult and sometimes to have the book grow with the child. Where the Wild Things are is not a story of monsters and Max, but about the author Maurice Sendak’s weekends in Brooklyn with his Eastern-European immigrant relatives with large ears and noses and strange accents hovering over him and saying that he was so cute they could eat him, and in the story, it is Max leading the monsters around, but I digress. Is Hansel and Gretel antisemitic propaganda and a sign of things to come, with fair-haired Germans pushing old women into ovens?
Any ‘Bible stories for children can surely only be seen as indoctrination.
Most, if not all of the examples are examples of written communications that have a hierarchy built-in. They are all ‘at’ texts; the author is talking at, not to the recipient, they are not inviting feedback, they are not even really inclusive.
A manifesto might encourage or ‘invite’ others to join, but it is on the original terms, there is no affordance for inclusion or debate once it has been drafted, something that might actually encourage acceptance. it’s all rather radical. Radical can be good, it can be useful and bring about change, but it also is always a bit destructive.
A love letter is really just a stalker with a way of words.
A news story – propaganda, at best the reading from a very narrow point of view with facts interpreted in different ways.
A launch document for a new brand, all lies in a capitalist effort to get money from a bank to sell stuff to people that never wanted it int the first place.
A diary, self-indulgent emo ramblings.
A speech, performance art, lies and psychological tricks, to raise my heart rate and sweep me up into its vortex of half-truths and lies.
A business plan. agreed-upon jargon and optimistic guesses.
A children’s story, not the first lies they hear, last thing at night.
Except, none of that has to be true, it could be, and frequently is, but they can all be well-meaning and valuable. Words have power, they can change behaviours for the good, but in recent times mostly for the worse. Most of my friends are now in more danger now than they were 3 and half years ago – not because anything has changed fundamentally, but because of the words that are used by the American president.
Once rules have been established, they are then broken to have the effect of propagating information in a subversive manner; this is seen in faux-news comedy shows, that ironically have developed into actual news outlets and in many ways more trusted sources of information. Diaries are interesting, as they are typically intended for an audience of one; is it about the writing, or the memory, or do diarists all fancy themselves as Samuel Pepys for their times.
Why do we write? Because words are powerful, they change sometimes minds most mostly enable latent behaviours. Preaching to the choir, makes the choir sing, dog-whistling is heard by dogs. Gutenberg’s press may have changed the world, but so has Trump’s rambling hate. We write, we talk, we communicate, and we shout because that is really the only way change, good or bad, has been brought about.
I want to write about my belief that design should have no disciplines, that disciplines are dangerous when tasked with a goal. Goals should not be tied to a medium or an object. An app developer thinks the solution is always an app. Design should be taught in a holistic manner, with specialities coming later, much like medicine, there should be General practitioners, who recommend specialists.
I had initially thought of a manifesto, and I am still playing with that idea, but it feels a bit…dangerous, to write a manifesto (on this topic) in four days, seems a bit arrogant. Also, I am not sure if manifestos frequently are glorified advertisements and driven by ego. Do they really encourage change?
I was also thinking about how I could take my stone tablets and put them in a children’s book. Is talking about design within higher education too late, should children fall asleep thinking about how design influences every aspect of their life that lies ahead? Was animal Farm not digestible by children and planted anti-Stalinist/Communist seeds? Or could it be a news story, could it be an opinion piece masquerading as a news story? It could be a love letter to design, extolling all the things design does and can do. A speech, given at a conference actually seems like a good place to start and then based on the reception of that speech, it would grow into a book.
much like my topic, the choice of medium is important. To whom am I speaking?
Ten reasons why design has no disciplines.