Friday, March 26, 2010

Class of 2010

We were asked to brand the senior show in groups or individually this year, a radical break from that past that added a much needed emphasis on how we present ourselves to the world. This process generated a wide range of very viable options that really harness the spirit of the quality of the education we receive at this institution, what it means to graduate, and how this transition means a new creative life for each of us.
However, due to the fragmented way we approached the branding process from the beginning, we all have ownership of our own specific vision for how we believe it should unfold. In my opinion, that makes voicing dissent with present circumstance a fragile situation. It’s easy for our peers to think “Oh, they’re critiquing the show because they wanted their concept to win.” However, that isn’t what’s happening in this short treatise. The senior show is something we have to collaboratively work on and get excited about individually (every one of us).

Before I begin to voice my concerns, I’ll explain my attraction to the initial concept. At first, I didn’t get it. But after the presentation, I saw myself buying into it for a few reasons. I admired the flexibility, but also the statement that it made. It represents changing the way we understand the world. As designers, we’ve been trained to do this. To examine existing paradigms, to shift our idea of what they mean, and through process and careful experimentation, provide meaningful design solutions that have the potential to affect society in meaningful ways.

But moving forward with the selected show is difficult for me, and several of my peers for several (I feel) valid reasons.

Reason #1: The Mom Test

With my work, I always do what I call the Mom Test. It’s pretty simple. I’ll call my mom, explain what I’m doing, and see if she gets it. If she doesn’t, I keep working. This show didn’t pass the Mom Test. Im not saying that Mrs. Masri should choose the show concept -- but -- I think its important to remember that as students of KCAI, we live in a pretty thickly-padded bubble. What may seem brilliant to us, may not float outside of our little world. To people outside, un-think is esoteric. It needs explanation to be appreciated. Without this explanation, its pretty easy to not get behind, or be attracted to. As designers, our audience is the people. I’m uninterested in design masturbation. Im uninterested in preaching to the choir. Our audience as designers is the masses. It bothers me that this show title won’t appeal to this audience. Limiting our audience to creative professionals (I believe) loses sight of our true purpose and audience. Why can’t we get the public in this building? Why can’t we affect them in the same way we hope to affect the design community? It’s not all about getting hired, but about sharing what we’ve done with our fellow students in other departments, and the community.

I think a good way to move forward would be to do some audience testing on people from other majors, people outside the art community, and creative professionals.

Reason #2: Stereotypes

Our school is commonly critiqued for its unabashed emphasis on concept, and lack of formal sophistication. This stereotype is common amongst both design professionals in the community, as well as other schools. This concept does nothing else but affirm that stereotype. Can’t we let our audience make the conclusion that unthink so boldly proposes without spelling it out for them?

Reason #3: The Work

One thing that was difficult in branding the show was making sure to always keep in mind that the emphasis of this event is a focus on the work. While I understand the aesthetic of this show can change, I feel like it doesn’t reflect the work that will be in the show. While I appreciate its “un-designed” quality (and personally find it appealing), I don’t think that its an accurate reflection of what visitors of the show will experience while they’re here. Perhaps conceptually it is, but I believe that the statement is something our audience should come to a conclusion about on their own.
While it’s important to make sure that the brand doesn’t overshadow the work, I think that the way the show is handled will dictate this. For example: the Nelson’s interior is neutral and allows the work to stand out. But do they send out gray postcards? The whole argument about the brand not being too flashy is moot concept. This show’s gonna be a spectacle! And we have to visually express that in the way we advertise it.

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So I hope that this isn’t read with the opinion that I’m an asshole. I only hope that this show is as best as it can be, and the above concerns articulate my critique of the intended direction. As I said in my Ampersand article -- we shouldn’t be afraid to critique anything or voice concern. It’s about making the best show possible -- together. This critique comes not from anger, but from a passion to make sure we’re presented as best as possible to the community. Excuse this disclaimer, but I felt it was necessary in preventing any kind of divisive arguments or thoughts.

Feel free to use the comments section of this post to talk about what you think. My thought is we could use this section as a record of how to move forward on Monday.

9 comments:

Cassie said...
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Corie Chambers said...
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Meredith Adams said...

1. How would you like to see this issue resolved?
If there isn't an overwhelming consensus within this post, I think the best solution would be another shoot-out between the top 3-4 choices... with accompanying team members within the class. That way they don't have to do a bunch of extra work.

2. The KFC title is an issue, but it probably could be worked out. Corie does bring up a good point though-- it'd be nice to see more about the future. Also, the whole identity/feel seems somewhat limiting. It might be hard to make it our own.

3. Unusual Behavior. This idea, in reality, is the most open and the most customizable. We can take Laura's idea and make it our own as the class of 2010. She gave us the basis of a scientific lab, therefor we can show the "results" of our experiments in a myriad of graphic and interesting ways. I would though, like to develop as slightly different identity. I like the visuals of un-think and the playful IDEAS in Ripe. Giving "unusual behavior" a blatant scientific look might seem redundant and could take away from the appeal. There should still be a sense of discovery.

Also, the name is catchy and interesting. It can be used on several levels.

Josh Eithun said...

I agree with Cassie in that we just need to choose a new one.

The KFC thing wouldn't be that big of a problem if it was only the name that was similar. But it's the concept as well. KFC is saying Unthink chicken. We're saying Unthink design.

Considering our audience (not only design professionals but the community who watch TV and eat fast food) this comparison is a problem, and honestly contradicts what we are trying to say with the title. We are not doing a good job of "unthinking" if there is something so similar already out there, and so prominent.

its unfortunate. From the presentations i was instantly sold on this concept. I loved what it said about this department, the work we do, and who we are as designers. It was thought out, and the elements worked well together the way you presented them. I think it would hurt the idea if we tried to alter it at this point. (too many captains in the captains seat.)

i vote for my own, Ripe. The colors were pretty overwhelming, and that was the point. (but that can be changed really easily.) i think what was interesting about it were the wide variety of possibilities of illustrations / transitions that could be made with the collective minds of our class. It allows for a lot of flexibility, it would be fun to work on for the next month, and do the job of getting people to come to our show. The sticker is unique and could help in really getting a buzz going for our show.

Sheila W said...

I think that the best option at this point would be to choose a different theme. That's not to say I didn't like Unthink. I love it, both conceptually and visually. It's obviously very well thought out. But at the same time, I feel that there are aspects of it that could prove problematic. All this KFC Chicken talk aside, I feel as though branding our finished works with a theme that emphasizes process might send out mixed messages to our audience about what to expect at the show. While I do believe process is a key part of what we do, we're presenting ourselves as emerging professionals. So I feel that an identity that adequately reflects that would be more appropriate.

During the shootout, the themes that I felt were very strong as well were Multi and Ripe. Mostly because both were very versatile. But with some aspects of both I couldn't help but wonder if they may overshadow the show's work. (No, I'm not asking the theme to be a crystal goblet.)

Laura Berglund said...

1. How would you like to see this issue resolved?

uugh I don't know.... The only reason that makes sense to me to change the theme is the whole KFC relation, and I feel that it's pretty minor. The theme Un-Think fits absolutely perfectly with our school and our class, and shows everyone that we are thinkers, not design robots like other schools in town... I don't think it's important to emphasize the fact that we are graduating, and moving on into the real world, because, well, that's why we're having the show in the first place (as is every other school in the world). Do we really need to point that out twice?

I don't think it's at all our short-coming that we are centered around concept, as Ramzy made it sound in his post. Rather, I feel like that is what the majority of design professionals are looking for, and we're doing a good job meeting those desires. We should call that out!

2. What would you change about the current theme?

Only the title. Just because KFC's already got it. Everything else fits too beautifully for me to want to change it!

3. What is your second choice, and why?

I'm not trying to give myself a leg-up here, but I honestly feel like the theme Unusual Behavior had a lot of similar qualities to the Un-Think idea. The emphasis on our concepting abilities, and how we are different from what people expect from students fresh out of college are both important things to present. And both themes do it. I think I was just bad at presenting my ideas... I know we talked after the shootout about the possibility of melding the Un-Think concept with the Unusual Behavior concept, because they fit really well, and I think that could still be a valid idea. I just have a hard time seeing Ripe as our senior show theme, because of it's strong sexual connotations, and the overtly silly aesthetic.

Cassie said...
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Veronica said...

I think this is an issue now, not so much because of the KFC thing (although I do think it is a bit of a concern), but because I feel that the decision was rushed. We basically had four or five projects that we responded to. We were all keyed up from presenting and with all the fantastic ideas we had flying around, I don't think we really had time to process. Many of these issues surfaced the next day once we all had time to think about it.

I agree with Ramzi that Un-Think doesn't currently have popular appeal. While I don't think we should dumb our show down by any means, I think we should consider our secondary audiences in addition to Kansas City's design professionals. I feel that many of the themes that we favored would appeal to the designers in the area, but we should also consider how this will appeal to our family and friends as well as to the other students on campus. In this respect, I think Ripe and Unusual Behavior are stronger themes.

I also agree with Laura that I don't think that our reputation for conceptual thinking or process is a bad thing. I think it is something that is desired by professionals, however I think we could also emphasize our flexibility and diversity as well.

Right now, for a second choice I'm split between Ripe and Unusual Behavior. I feel they have everything we like in Un-Think but have a broader appeal that will get the KCAI students to wander to the north end of campus and help our parents feel like art school hasn't totally warped our brains. ;p

For a proposed solution, I would suggest a re-shoot-out like Meredith suggested between the following (possibly during Friday's class or lunch hour):
Un-Think
Ripe
Unusual Behavior
Multi
possibly one or two others (?)

Ultimately, I think our success will depend primarily on how well the theme is implemented, so this needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

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