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Category Archives: Outside

The refugee crisis as a design problem

OUTSIDE

The Refugee Crisis
as a Design Problem

We are facing a humanitarian crisis. There are 60 million displaced persons in the world (source), and every ten minutes a stateless child is born (source). Millions of people that have no access to water, food, housing, work, education, and are caught in legal limbo. This refugee crisis has inspired many designers to do projects about refugees, the most recent of which is the What design can do (WDCD) Refugee Challenge. Designers that address such complex issues as the refugee crisis have to be aware of their responsibilities, since approaching the refugee crisis as a design problem without the proper context can be problematic, even harmful. I want to examine the role of designers in the refugee crisis using the WDCD Refugee Challenge as an example.

“The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening”- Teju Cole

Launched on February 19, the Netherlands-based WDCD Refugee Challenge invites designers, creative thinkers and problem solvers to come up with ‘bold ideas’ to help refugees. Proposals should be submitted before May 1, 2016, with a one minute movie to pitch the idea. The five finalists will be announced at the WDCD conference in Amsterdam on July 1, 2016, and all five receive a 10,000 euro reward to realise their ideas (source).

The WDCD Refugee Challenge should be praised for taking the initiative to create a platform for designers that address the refugee crisis. The involvement of the UNHCR as a partner shows the WDCD’s ambition that its outcomes could structurally improve the situation of refugees. However, the way the WDCD Refugee Challenge is communicated leaves a lot to be desired. This is important because it already sets the scene for the kind of solutions that will be submitted. I want to lay bare some of the blind spots in the design question that WDCD Refugee Challenge has proposed, and examine how designers could assume their responsibilities in addressing such a crisis.

THE DESIGNER AS A GAME-CHANGER

Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant compared the WDCD Refugee Challenge to Dragons’ Den, a reality television show from the BBC where contestants pitch their ideas to investors. During the WDCD Refugee Challenge five finalist will be chosen, all of whom will receive a 10,000 euro reward. They will go into an ‘accelerator’ in which they create a working prototype and a business plan. After a project pitch one of the five designs will be announced as the winner by the end of 2016.

The WDCD Refugee Challenge says the refugee crisis is: ‘A global challenge too big for governments and NGO’s alone’. Design as the ultimate problem-solving discipline coincides with the narrative of the neoliberal European policies. In recent decades, governments have cut spending on welfare, education, and foreign aid, advocating that free market—including design— can provide a better alternative. The ruling VVD party is implementing neoliberal policies in the Netherlands, and has recently proposed to close the Dutch borders for refugees completely.

First of all, it is absurd to suggest that design can come up with solutions for a crisis that is political and socio-economic at heart. European countries have been intervening in Middle East politics way before the Englishman Sykes and the Frenchmen Picot carved out most of the regions’ borders in 1916. More recently, the Dutch military was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the war in Afghanistan between 2006-2010. At this moment, Dutch F-16’s are bombing Syria and Iraq (source).

Another contributing factor to the refugee crisis is the situation of poverty and joblessness in the Global South. Income inequality has only grown with IMF policies, trade barriers, and EU subsidies, which have blocked the Global South from equal access to the world economy. As long as these economic barriers are in place, we will see more and more people from the Global South seeking a better life in Europe. By ignoring the history of the refugee crisis and the political reality of diplomacy and military interventions in the Middle East in the briefing, the WDCD Refugee Challenge keeps the root of the problem out of sight. Designers can not successfully intervene in the refugee crisis if the political and military interventions are not taken into account.

This should be part of the briefing and the debate surrounding the WDCD Refugee Challenge so that designers understand their agency or lack thereof.

Second, by emphasising the problem-solving capabilities of design, the WDCD Refugee Challenge supports the narrative that the free market is much better at solving the world’s crisis than governments are. Design may be able to come up with clever products or enlightening ideas, but only governments and NGOs can provide refugees with the resources, infrastructure, and laws that are needed in the long run. The WDCD Refugee Challenges’ good intentions could backfire if designs are used as an incentive for governments to cut their spending on supporting refugees altogether. Therefore the WDCD Refugee Challenge should inform designers about the responsibilities of governments and NGOs, and find out how and if designers can effectively intervene.

Read more on → untold-stories.net

Print isn’t dead, so enjoy it!

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Print isn’t dead, so enjoy it!

Prendiamola larga. Nel 2011 all’International Book Festival di Edinburgo lo scrittore scozzese Ewan Morrison dichiara che tra 25 anni la rivoluzione digitale porterà alla scomparsa dei paper books. Cancellati, completamente. Il futuro di libri, riviste e giornali sarà solo nell’e-publishing. Amen. Ma solo guardando alle statistiche di un paio di anni dopo si scopre che sul mercato americano (decisamente più aggressivo del nostro da un punto di vista delle strategie di vendita editoriali) gli e-book hanno una percentuale di crescita sul mercato del 5% e che il 75% dei libri venduti negli Stati Uniti è, ebbene si, cartaceo (qualche statistica aggiornata al 2013, PewResearchCenter). 

E non sembra che questo sia destinato a cambiare così in fretta come molti sostengono.

Anche i più accaniti fan dell’e-reader cedono alle dispendiose lusinghe della carta stampata, soprattutto se si tratta di qualcosa che sta a cuore, che si vuole conservare fisicamente, che si vuole regalare (il pdf non funziona) o banalmente che si vuole sfogliare e percepire come oggetto esistente.

Ecco, nella comunicazione funziona nella stesso modo. I vantaggi dell’online sono fuori discussione. Raggiungibile da (quasi) chiunque, tutto in un unico spazio, meno dispendioso (anche se su questo bisognerebbe aprire un capitolo a parte), più attuale, sempre aggiornabile, e via dicendo. Ma come ogni lettore sa, c’è libro e libro (che si vuole avere o semplicemente conservare sulla memoria dell’e-reader), E così c’è strumento e strumento, messaggi diversi che necessitano di medium diversi. E non sono interscambiabili, solo perchè si pubblicano.

Quindi si, evviva l’online, ma evviva anche l’offline (cartaceo), dato che gli scopi di una campagna o di un progetto editoriale possono essere ben diversi e soprattutto possono veicolare messaggi che richiedono attenzioni diverse. Ecco perchè.

Tangibilità /

Un oggetto stampato è un oggetto che esiste. Un progetto stampato è quindi un progetto che esiste nello spazio, qui e ora, e da questo trae una grande legittimità. E può restare in circolazione per molto, moltissimo tempo. Come quel libro che tutti vogliono avere in casa, o un manifesto che qualcuno decide di appendere, o la cartolina che funziona proprio bene come segnalibro.


Target /

Per certe realtà (e certi progetti) è più utile (e semplice) conoscere il proprio target e sapere come raggiungerlo nei luoghi che abitualmente frequenta. Non parliamo di persone che devono acquistare un detersivo ma un (anche potenziale) pubblico che sceglie un concerto, un evento o una mostra. E che magari può essere più o meno invogliato a seconda di cosa si trova tra le mani. Con il cartaceo si può. E si può fare bene.


Flessibilità /

Dalle dimensioni dello strumento al tipo di materiale usato, dove diffonderlo e come distribuirlo. Le possibilità e le flessibilità di uno strumento cartaceo sono infinite e si possono adattare perfettamente alle più diverse esigenze. Vale anche per l’online certo, ma a volte ci si dimentica di quante opzioni si possono avere per dare il giusto impatto ai propri materiali.


Credibilità /

C’è un non so che nel print che conferisce serietà immediata al tutto. Provate a pensarci. Una pubblicazione (ben fatta) resta impressa e viene più facilmente legata all’Ente, al Museo o all’Associazione divulgante. Molto utile se si vuole costruire un’efficace identità visiva e fidelizzare così target e pubblico. E prestare attenzione ad essi. 


Attenzione /

Un lettore (di news, quindi pensiamo a un volume, degli articoli di approfondimento o altro di meno immediato) dedica in media dai 30 secondi agli 8 minuti ad articolo online. Quando va bene (parliamo di Gazzetta dello Sport e La Repubblica). Poi clicca altrove. E legge il 30% più lentamente. Quindi non tutto è adatto per andare solo online. Su carta il grado di coinvolgimento è decisamente maggiore. Magari si legge meno, ma si legge meglio.


Stile /

Un articolo o una pubblicazione cartacea possono invogliare alla lettura anche attraverso un preciso layout editoriale, l’uso di font diverse per titoli e testo, accostamento di immagini e colori. Portando questo stile online si perde circa l’80% degli elementi che caratterizzano il materiale. E con essi anche personalità e riconoscibilità.


Tasto dolente, l’eco-sostenibilità. In generale diciamo che comunicare ha un elevato costo ambientale. Numeri interessanti, otto e-mail equivalgono ad un chilometro in macchina, il traffico web mondiale produce il 2% delle emissioni annue di Co2, (se volete vedere quanto consuma il vostro sito, www.co2web.it), 100 dipendenti per 33 e mail giornaliere sono 13 viaggi Parigi – New York (A/R) e via di aneddoti simili. Il cartaceo è per definizione poco sostenibile, ahimè. Ma ci sono stati cambiamenti importanti: l’ormai frequentissimo uso di carte FSC (per la corretta gestione forestale e la tracciabilità dei prodotti derivati), il fatto che i prodotti cartacei sono sempre riciclabili, che dal 1990 il consumo di energia e l’emissione di gas per una tonnellata di carta si è ridotto rispettivamente del 21 e del 23%, che l’uso di acqua nel processo di stampa si è ridotto del 63% e viene riciclata fino a cinque volte, e anche qui via dicendo. Quindi si, stampare eco-sostenibile si può.

Detto questo, a noi l’online piace, davvero! Sarebbe quantomeno ingenuo fare comunicazione pensando solo in termini di cartaceo. E a volte è la soluzione perfetta, punto. Ma per certi progetti, certi materiali di comunicazione portanti e importanti (per far sapere al mondo che si esiste, e in un certo modo), il cartaceo rappresenta ancora un insostituibile fonte di attenzione verso il proprio target e i propri stakeholders, perchè più diretto, mirato e curato. 

La chiusa giusta potrebbe essere questa: se siete arrivati sin qui, tanto di cappello. Almeno il 90% di voi avrà abbandonato prima (2 minuti?). Se questo articolo fosse stato stampato, magari corredato di immagini e di un layout editoriale interessante, forse ve lo sareste portati con voi per leggerlo bevendo un caffè.

Communication Design

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Communication design

Sono molti anni che a livello internazionale non si parla più (solo) di Graphic Design per definire ciò che facciamo. Perchè non ci occupiamo solo di immagini, font e colori …

 

Design with a message.

→ Communication design is a message-driven design discipline that involves the structuring and presentation of verbal and visual content to enable better understanding among people.

→ Communication designers create and combine all of the necessary elements of modern messaging (concept, text, image, colour or sound) to produce static or animated layouts for print, electronic or three-dimensional applications.

→ Communication designers work across and/or specialize in many fields such as branding, marketing, advertising, packaging and publishing.

Today’s graphic designer has moved beyond graphic. The term “graphic” fails to accurately describe our profession to the business community and the public. We should consider replacing it with a more relevant, accurate description of what we do today.

→  As graphic designers, we’ve been so busy defining our client’s identities that we forgot about a far more important identity: our own. Ironically, the entire communications industry is in a state of self-inflicted confusion: marketing, advertising, corporate identity, branding, web design, new media, multimedia, interactive, packaging, graphic design. We have accumulated so many terms – old and new – that people in our own industry don’t understand what we do, yet alone our clients. Many of these titles have become obsolete – especially “graphic design”.

→ “Design” once replaced the term “art”. The term “design” communicated that the work we did was more than artistic. Now it is time to replace “graphic”. A term like “communication” may be best as it deals with all of the communication elements that today’s professional must work with: concepts, words, type, color, sound, animation and, of course, graphics. It also suggests that we help clients communicate in many mediums – not just print but also digitally and 3-dimensionally.

→ The term “graphic” limits the advancement of our industry. Graphics refer to pictures and images – not strategies, concepts, words, sound, or animation. With the digital revolution, graphic design has truly moved beyond graphics. Today’s graphic designer has outgrown the job title. Some have tried to combat this by dropping the descriptor and calling themselves “designers”. However, this is a vague term that confuses people and bundles us with other types of designers (interior, industrial, fashion etc.).

→ “Communication” conveys that the work we do is functional and not just decorative. A “communication designer” must not only be creative, but strategic as well. Our work must deliver a message, not just a “look and feel”. We can work visually and verbally in all media because our talent is communication, not technology.

Social Design / Wajha Project

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Social design — Wajha Project

Wajha is an independent social initiative that uses design and branding knowledge to help the community by offering design services for FREE. Taking its name from the Arabic word for ‘facade’, Wajha’s design work mostly takes place on shopfronts. By bringing design into the public arena, the work aims to create a shared experience around these focus points.

Founded by Hussein Alazaat and Ali Almasri. The project offers support to the community. Creative interventions are applied where they are needed. This is especially important in a culture where ‘design’ as a concept is not a priority. In many communities it is an unaffordable privilege, and therefore almost completely absent. Innovative artwork is created on view for everyone.

Wajha uses the city’s facades as an empty canvas for experiments in typography, illustration, and graphic design. Another goal is to redefine and reshape the city’s identity through signage design. Wajha hopes to stimulate the local community to talk more about ‘design’ and to use social networking to respond to these creative interventions.

Discover more

Un buon approccio

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Un buon approccio

What are some of the biggest challenges design studios will face in 2015? And what steps should studios begin taking to prepare for what lies ahead?

One of the biggest challenges for us will be convincing potential clients that while we may not have a technology or capability right here in our office sitting in a chair at the moment, that we are collaborative and that that’s the best model for them. We bring in the right people at the right time. Fortunately, I do think that will become less and less challenging because clients don’t want the stickiness of paying for a lot of stuff they don’t need every day. But it is still a challenge, and I think it will continue to be a challenge. We have to find a way to say, “We don’t develop apps and we don’t develop these kind of things, but we know people who do and we’ll collaborate with them. Our ideas, from a branding perspective, will inform how that happens. And then we’ll have a cohesive message.” And that way, we don’t have to be experts at everything.

Besides, anyone who says they’re an expert at everything is probably not really an expert at anything. Going forward, we also need to remember humanity in our designs—and not the touchy feely part. I think people are at the point with Facebook and Twitter where they feel like they’re engaging with other people, but on some level they’re not really engaging at all. It’s not personal, not face-to-face. Perhaps design could help facilitate those social interactions a little bit more: real relationships and real social interactions. For that reason, I think experiential design is going to be big. I think clients have a tendency to say, “Oh, we need a Facebook page. We need to do this. We need to do that.” That’s all well and good, but we need to create some real interactions, too.

Q&A with Sharon Werner (read it on AIGA website)

Kalimat Magazine

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Have a look — Kalimat Magazine

Kalimat is a non-profit, independent, media production organisation that features bold, engaging political, design, film, fashion, literature, musical and new media content.

Launched in 2010, the magazine is a social, cultural and political publication committed to providing an outlet for open expression for Arab creatives worldwide. At the same time, it is a visual communication tool that serves to educate both those who read it and work to create it.

The purpose is to be an open outlet for expression and to increase participation within the cultural/creative scene, providing a platform for Arab creatives to engage in thought and action around ideas, people and business, moving the world forward. Through the value of design-focused thinking, data visualisation, education and conversations with influential Arab creatives, Kalimat transcends and redefines mainstream media, challenging the status quo.

The name “Kalimat,” which means “words” is inspired from the Majida el-Roumi song of the same name, originally a poem by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.

________

‪Why is it “by Arabs for everyone?”‬

Kalimat is a platform for Arab creatives to engage in thought and action. Here at Kalimat our mandate is and always has been “by Arabs, for everyone.” This might seem exclusive, or a bit cliquey, but we’ll tell you why that’s not the case. For a long time, Arab writers, journalists, designers, artists, producers (creative and cultural people) have been a part of the English-written world. However, more often than not, this tended to be in a way that wasn’t exactly in our interests. At worst, our presence was used to justify one agenda or another that didn’t end so well and our image was far from accurate – that is the basis of our motto “Challenge the Status Quo.”

Kalimat is not simply an outlet to write “about” the Arab region, but a space for Arabs interested in current affairs, media, literature, music, fashion, art and design to get creative and better their communities.

See www.kalimatmagazine.com

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