Some things may change…

Below is an essay that I recently wrote for an entrance application to York University’s joint Bachelor of Design Undergraduate program with Sheridan College.

Entrants were asked to read an excerpt from an essay, summarize in our own words, the points made and then pick two of the points and find 2 examples that illustrate the points.
Needless to say, I did a lot of hack and slashing.

Chris Pullman’s essay “Some Things Change… concisely emphasizes some of the fundamental and unchanged attributes that are vital to designers.

The essay illustrates the difference between designers and artists, noting each profession’s unique method to solving problems. Artists create solutions for internally conceived problems, whereas designers create solutions for externally driven problems.

Highlighting the beneficial relationship of designer and content, Pullman states that broader exposures to formal expression and creative style increase a designer’s options towards any form of content. He reveals that a designer must ‘communicate with a conscience’, deciding which problems to solve and how best to influence change.

Graphic design influences society through the use of images and typography. These two elements share foundations in language, and when combined effectively in design, convey spoken thoughts and intonation. Thus, a designer concerns themselves with the underlying properties of contrast to help distinguish, group and organize ideas that are easily recognizable and usable. Should the tools of the trade change, a properly educated designer would rely on ingenuity and these aforementioned basic skills to create an experience that is clear, engaging and accessible.

I was captivated by Pullman’s two topics: the social influence of design, and graphic design’s large dependence on language.

In some cases, companies like Ford Motors shamelessly use design to boost their image and sales by associating their brands with a good cause (Figure 1). The negative impact lies where “car exhaust contains chemicals that are linked to breast cancer, yet companies like Ford, Mercedes, and BMW urge consumers to buy and drive cars in the name of breast cancer awareness and research.” Organizations like Breast Cancer Action monitor and hold these companies accountable, designing counter-advertisements to inform the public of these deceptive campaigns (Figure 2).

Comparing two historically different examples, we can see design’s fundamental foundation in language. The first example, an eighth-century design: “Folio 27r” of the Lindisfarne Gospels (Figure 3), reveals a typographic context in biblical literature that is ornately illustrated with images of divine impression. The second example, a present day design: Royal Bank’s “Your Future by Design – Health” advertisement (Figure 4), uses clever typographic manipulation of numbers. Interchangeably they form a designed duality that focuses on two concepts related to the context of retirement planning.

Good or bad, in the past and now; some things may change… but the discipline of design will always require an educated and creative toolset.