First semester junior year, second semester of being in the design major, I was thrown into an existential and philosophical tailspin (which I didn’t realize that’s what it was until later, though I remember my professor Ben, who was frustrated at my struggle, asking me if I was having an existential crisis) in trying to make an editorial book containing “The Crystal Goblet” (the required text) by Beatrice Warde and “Paradox on the Graphic Artist” (my chosen text) by Jean-François Lyotard. When I struggled before, it was no big deal. I moved on and improved, in bliss of being in design school, but thinking in the back of head, when will I be jaded by all of this?. Pretty soon apparently.
But this struggle was less about skill and more about deep critical thinking about design and my place in it. And because I was not prolifically producing and iterating, the project felt like a failure, even though it was not a bad book. There seems to not be room for theory in undergrad, or I just didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. In any case the thinking was crucial to what was to come, and I regret nothing.
For some reason I thought back to this time and a message I wrote that I wanted to print photocopies of and distribute on my peers’ desks anonymously. But I was too scared to do it. It probably would have been confusing and weird anyway. Manifestos are the language of patriarchal white supremacy.
Notes that followed that writing:
Cool if you like it in the end, but I myself need to feel proud of what I’ve done. I’m over all the neat, well-done stuff because, well, I’m not learning that much anymore. I’m just doing what I already know. What an uninspiring way to live. I almost avoid confidence in pursuit of staying humble. There is so much I still don’t know. Endless solutions. That’s the addiction of design: there is no single, definite solution like there is in math. So the solution, the perceived ending, can always be improved, which means there is always something to learn. But I guess I’m done learning all the little things that don’t significantly matter in the long run. A lot of those little things are in pursuit of perfection that that don’t really benefit anyone or anything. They’re kind of just a way of showing off how anal you are and how good you are at spotting little things. But what about the big things? Yeah, what you’ve made is nice and neat but what does it say? What can I learn from it? What questions does it raise? What do I now see or know after looking/reading your design? That’s what I care about. I hate wasting my time on things that offer nothing. Especially those things that are parasitic or selfish. So that’s why I’m wary of ad agencies and the paradigm of the job search. Because the goal is for yourself to get a job, and that involves using other people to get there in a way. This artificiality is rubbing off on me. So is this why I isolate myself? Because I can feel myself becoming all like them? If we’re all the same, how the hell is this world going to change. It’s not being different for the sake of different but to offer another perspective, to expand the visible field of possibilities so that a better solution — always temporary and changeable — can be discovered. Then we can take what we’ve learned from that and continue onward.
I’ve noticed that I tend to forget what I’ve written as it becomes ingrained in my actions instead.