Week 44 - 12 February 2022

This term so far has been about mapping. Here are some general differences from the kind of mapping I've done as part of my job in the past:

Less focus on linearity

  • Lots of mapping I've done in the past has been focussed on a person's "journey" through something. Lots of the maps we've been looking at either have no temporal dimension (like in STEEP maps) or a weak temporal dimension (Multi level perspective mapping).

More focus on relationally

  • When we've made stakeholder maps, we've labelled relations (eg: this actor funds this actor). This has made power dynamics more explicit, and the maps more useful. This draws on the concept of domain modelling.

More focus on territory

  • This comes hand in hand with the first point, but feels specific. For example, a multi level perspective map considers 'landscape' and 'ecology' as context or drivers of a 'regime'. This broader lens helps to consider possible futures. Reminds me of Wardly maps.

We've also been having some classes in design 101. It's always good to get a refresher and I enjoy playing with the fundamentals. However, one of the lecturers keeps going on rants about 'UX designers' who 'just go to General Assembly but don't even know the basics.' My personal impression is that part of this tension is that a good art school education and a good bootcamp education are fundamentally different. Art school teaches from the bottom up - from fundamentals up to creating things. Bootcamps are the opposite - they teach from the top down - starting from the job and working down into things you need to know to do it.

I think teaching from the fundamentals up is ultimately more valuable and leads to good new things that you don't get when starting from the top down. Having said that, I do wonder whether there are some 'new' basics that should be added to art school education. Here are some things floating around in my head -


  • As part of design 101 we've been learning about hierarchy with the classic exercise of cutting up blocks type with scalpels to rearrange into posters. Everything everyone designed was specific to the A3 size of poster. Designers need to learn how to design in systems that work flexibly. What's an exercise that teaches about creating a flexible hierarchy?


  • Design education seems to still assume that designers are the passive receivers of content. This means that writing is seen as something 'outside' the design process. Text gets written stream-of-conscious rather than designed.


  • I'm still figuring this out - but it comes off the back of a workshop we had about visual communication. It was put to us that meaning is a neat combination of your intent and people's interpretation. My issue with this isn't the definition of meaning (although it is over simplified) but the focus on meaning. Let's take the brexit bus for example. The one that said £350 million would go to the NHS if we left. Just understanding the meaning of the bus misses a lot of why it was a successful piece of communication. It misdirected, steered the conversation, changed the rules of engagement. This thought is not completely articulate and there are bits where it falls over for sure...

Anyway. Beyond all that I've been enjoying reading about perception. I learned about a new sense in the process - proprioception - the sense of knowing where your body is in space. This can be proven by shutting your eyes and touching your nose.

I also saw a terrible Noguchi exhibition. Not the one at the Barbican, which was excellent, but at the White Cube. It included a boring and terrible facade he designed for a hotel lobby and a room where whoever's designed the exhibition decided to just engulf the sculpture into a sort of silly concrete landscape.

Noguchi at the White Cube

Last update: 2022-02-12 12:00:00 -0600