My degree project has evolved significantly since its inception and initial proposal. Originally, I was interested in exploring how the creation of domestic spaces that embody the cultural language of various ethnicities might begin to shape others. In other words, my job as a graphic designer was to take an environmental and multi-disciplinary approach to what a "package" can mean: in this case, a carefully curated room with a didactic purpose. I had planned to infuse various objects (both traditional and non-traditional to the field of graphic design) with informative subtexts about other cultures. To quote my initial research question:
"Through an investigation in spatial design and packaging, how can a holistic, interdisciplinary experience be created for an ignorant majority, that encourages a new open-mindedness and appreciation for ethnic minorities in Kansas City?"
However... experimentation early in the project changed my planned route. I was instructed to make a list of small experiments that could inform my project, and pursue a few of them. One of my questions reads as follows:
If a map was made more entertaining / visually interesting, would it encourage a better understanding of geography?
This question led me in a lot of different and unexpected directions. I made map placemats, map blankets, map furniture, most of them were pretty stupid. At the time I felt confident about them, though! The experiment that I made as a joke actually ended up being the course that this project ended up taking.
I had an extra silhouette of Iraq, that I drew a beak, legs, and tail-feathers onto. At the time I saw it as process-filler, but after meeting with Jamie, was able to see the potential in it.
Animals carry with them all kinds of semiotic baggage & connotations. By making a country into an animal, the country then absorbs those connotations; which [in terms of rhetoric] makes a kind of metaphor through personification.
So I continued my exploration by creating a full gamut of 'country animals,' (pictured below).
But how could these anthropomorphic studies be applied in some way? For this question, I returned to my list of experiment questions:
Will telling the story of an ethnic refugee in a meaningful way yield empathy?
To help me tell this story I met with Farah Abdi, a Somalian immigrant who runs an organization in town aimed at helping the Kansas City Somali community. He told me all about the Somali civil war, through this starbucks napkin:
He broke down the territories for me, and explained how European imperialism was the cause of the civil war, and the following Somali diaspora, which moved millions of Somalis to this country after 1992.
So I applied my anthropomorphic studies to this subject, intending to create a book that illustrates the story of the Somali civil war, in a playful, imaginative way.
So I developed a cast of characters (pictured below) that embodied the attitudes and history of each territory, as described by Farah, and started to tell the story in book form.
But how could my original idea see new light? Could these characters start to live outside of this book?
In the same way that Disney creates a spectacle around their movies (in terms of merchandise), I hope to apply these characters to various forms that will enhance their meaning, and encourage interactivity.
Moving forward, I plan to design a myriad of things that these characters can live on, while also looking at how I can create awareness towards a broader audience. The poster I designed (pictured below) helps to spread this awareness through a bold, illustrative means.
Perhaps it would be helpful to re-write my research question, clarifying my direction for after the break:
How can the complexity of the Somali Civil War be clarified, and its story retold to a youthful audience in a playful, multi-disciplinary way, that creates a spectacle around the narrative?