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.
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.