Michal Maciaszczyk (GMD)
Over the course of the last year, we all had way too much time with our own thoughts and surely many of us spent it on "living on the internet". Like everything else, it has its pros and cons. The internet helped us to stay in touch and allowed me to continue my work remotely. But as a graphic and media design student, I realized an alarming increase of my screen time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was interested in how it influences my everyday well-being and mental health in general. Unfortunately, with more online news I followed, the more anxious I felt. Consecutive spikes in sickness, huge numbers I didn't really understand, government assurances that were changed every now and then. Overall, I very often felt this strange feeling of stress, anxiety and lack of control over what I couldn't really change.
Black Lives Matter movement assigned to Nike's products. The equality movement is not a fast-fashion slogan.
The peak of this complete online confusion came at the time when everyone was posting black squares on social media to show their solidarity with the Black Live Matter movement. All my woke friends became experts in the topic. One day I saw a Nike advertisement - 'For Once, Don't Do It' and on the same day, my friend posted that all white people are racists. It made me feel confused and concern at the same time. Based on gained knowledge, Nike’s campaign is nothing more than a good real-time marketing move and most of my friends opinions are nothing more than modern populism. Even if I support the idea of this movement, the pace at which the movement was capitalized simply shocked me.
That was the moment when I realized that it's so hard for me to find focus and also I figured out that my online presence affects my mental health. As the result, I decided to significantly reduce my media consumption.
The rainbow Apple logo during Pride Month, real support for the LGBT community or marketing tricks?
Politicians, designers as well as marketers, they are all specialist in what emotions to arouse to achieve their goals. Is it possible that they do not have scruples to count on someone else's harm? Sadly, I doubt they care very much. That's why a somber Instagram post is meaningless when it comes from a multi-billion dollar company. Knowing something about branding and marketing, I know very well that such campaigns are not put into action unless they are to be profitable. This is the truth about capitalist reality we all live in - profit over everything.
Big brands are speaking up on social equality, but are they taking action behind the scenes?
Does Nike’s campaign change the world for the better? It is certainly meant to look like this. I don't think I am the right person to judge, but what I see (as a designer) is definitely using someone's pain to gain profit. Nike is not the only one, almost every big company change their colour for the pride month but what does it really mean?
I remember Tinder's #singlenotsorry campaign. This corporation used the person of Chider Eggerue (@theslumflower - a feminist and author of valuable books) to promote their dating app by benefiting from feminist woman’s image. It supposed to be a celebration of single culture and the important role being single plays in people's lives but here is my question...
how does choosing women based on their picture based profile relate to the philosophy of feminism? In marketing, a big brand always stands for great cause, but in many cases it's just a cover-up for their worse parts. I am sure that anyone who uses Tinder before can also relate to the same feeling, it is an extremely toxic environment. It may be true that Tinder want to convey something positive but it's definitely true that, like social media, Tinder causes body confidence problems because you are continually aware of your online competition.
To explain my confusion, I must say that I do not deny actions of activists but just question the pure intentions from corporations...
Using the same narrative in a new context. 'Western civilization saves the whole world' - humanitarian catholic aid in Africa (old) or the enlightenment of ethnic minorities by conviction to western, progressive values. (new)
Hence my thesis in the context of - profiting off the pain. I do not judge activists for their decisions - everybody needs money to maintain, but what’s the solution in my case? Where do I see myself as a designer? What do I stand for? The creative industry seems just ruthless and manipulative. If I once knew my views were progressive, now I don't believe in any of these political illusions.
At a young age I moved out of Poland where the Catholic Church has influence on the government's decision. After a few years of living in London, I can see that the opposite is not so different. I recognize the same sociotechnical methods where people blindly believe in certain 'saint' and undateable values without any chance to question it - as is the case with any religion.
In London there is completely opposite but somehow similar way of mass indoctrination. In this case, there is a constructed narrative which draws from something as positive as social activism. (In Poland, the equivalent of this could be catholic social service organizations such as Caritas.)
Such activism was the main reason why I joined UAL, because I still believe that we (designers) could change something for better through our actions, but I don't accept to believe that our efforts are just a corporate product for sale.
Corporations are increasingly involved in contentious social debates – such as race discrimination – that are not the business of business. Companies will always be dependent on the market needs, therefore social justice initiatives shouldn't be capitalized by venal sponsors.
Unfortunately, I see it everywhere... ignorant celebrities promote body positivity, fast fashion brands pretend to be sustainable, liberal politicians use LGBT community for their political propaganda and many many more. No doubt, activism became a profitable trend. It all became very popular in the time of social media rise and the rich wanting to profit on it. In my opinion it is earning money based on someone else's harm or discrimination. What does it have to do with change for the better?
The family model according to Volvo in Poland and in the rest of Europe. Brand values should not depend on the audience.
This is one of the most interesting examples showing the scale of the problem. Marketing specialists decided that the same content must be conveyed in a different way depending on their target audience. In the same post, Volvo Cars in Poland changed its original post with gay couple into a 'traditional family' which in Poland represents popular ‘traditional values’.
Something that is ultimately obvious to me as a marketer seems to be a scam to me as a human being.
Here is the problem that affects me as a designer. Big brands such as Apple portray themselves as great supporters of the rights of sexual minorities but see no conflict when selling their products in Saudi Arabia where the penalty for homosexuality is being beheaded.
Again, I am not here to judge or reveal the truth, I am simply trying to find right approach to my specialization. Isn't it that activists are trying to fix something and when we succeed, it is sold as a ready-to-wear product?
I'm not a fanatic and I am not looking for any conspiracy theories but clearly something is wrong here. I just don't know what to make of it all. It deeply hurts me when I see it in the world of art, there is a certain set of topics considered right to present, does it not kill the freedom flowing from art? Can I be correct and wrong at the same time? Is it not obvious that positive discrimination is still discrimination? If politicians would be disastrous artists, why are artists so keen on politics today? Is political art the only art that matters now? How interesting it is! How much I like to delve so deeply into such complex topics!
How should I approach my profession when a large company offers me a lucrative contract? I know that some brands are trying to change something for the better, but how do I know what to choose. During my year in industry, I faced my first moral design choices. On the other hand, I don't want to get paranoid, nowadays everything is political and maybe it can't be changed. Either you have to be on the right or on the left side... It's a pity choice because the world of art and design has always been an escape from what this machiavellian mindset represents.
My name is Belkiz Akman and I’m doing the Illustration and Visual Media course at LCC. I enjoy all aspects of art and design, which is why my illustration and visual media course is perfect for me, as it is a very open course and allows me to focus on anything that I am interested in. Nothing is off-limits in terms of materials I use or what I would like to make.
It’s been a unique year caused by a global pandemic so I have had to do all of my work from home and not at university. Studio access, workshop facilities and face to face meetings with tutors and other students have been moved online. I have had to adapt to this new way of working which I was very worried about at the start but then found it has been more productive. I have had to learn how to work independently on real life projects, adapt my studio practice to a new environment which has been from a home studio, and change the ways that I work.
I’ve been working on a number of projects which I have never had any experience with. I’ve learnt how to work with wood and lighting for the first time, and the technique of cut-out card designs which I produced for a greetings card competition. The pandemic has affected everybody in terms of making situations stressful and has created questions around how to carry on making work under these new circumstances, for example I now work in my home studio. The design industry is sustainable through technology whilst lots of other businesses rely on physical spaces to maintain business. If it wasn’t for technology it would be much harder to continue.
There are also good things to come out of this difficult year, such as I am saving time and energy that I usually use to travel into university each day, I have put this into my wellbeing and my practice. My confidence has grown through independently teaching myself techniques and researching information through online tutorials. It is more enjoyable for me to work within my own environment. My workspace is equipped with a large art desk, printer and everything that is necessary for me to create my work from home. However there are downsides to working like this such as not being able to meet physically with my tutors, students and clients and show them my work face to face. My work can only be shown through a screen at the moment which isn’t necessarily how it should be experienced. It is frustrating that I am spending money on a course and I cannot access the high-standard facilities, my learning has been compromised because the whole experience of university has been altered. Sometimes technology has its faults such as when it cuts out during conversations with tutors and clients, and it can be isolating to work so independently. I wonder how healthy it is for me to be so cooped up indoors and to be secluded from others. I have had to take out time from my practice due to my viral vaccination causing a bad reaction to my health, meaning I have had to catch up on my projects and workload. The news of this virus has impacted on my concentration levels and affected my ability to do my work due to the stress and constant news of this situation.
My practice has become professional by designing work for actual clients in the real world, rather than just for my degree. My designs will potentially be sold in a real life shop, and I have had to consider the environments where my work will go and the real audiences that I am designing for. I have learned how to price my products depending on how much they cost to construct, learnt how to be economic and consider how much things should sell for in the real world and how much my audiences are willing to spend.
My practice has changed through technology by replacing physical equipment such as paints, scissors and paper with digital software. I have learned new ways of working by gaining confidence with using my graphics tablet and have learnt different ways to colour my designs digitally rather than physically. It is easier to mass-produce my designs through learning software programmes such as Photoshop and Illustrator, and this has made it easier to transfer my designs into new forms. It is good that my practice can be digital and physical because it means my work is adaptable to different professional working environments.
In the Communities of Practice sessions on technology, we have gathered in a group and discussed how technology is impacting the design industry. It has been good to debate this as a group, and has made me aware of how technology impacts my practice and the design world. Design companies are also adapting their ways of working by not going into the workplace anymore. We are all relying on technology to continue our practices and businesses, and I wonder what would happen to design if we didn’t have technology during a global pandemic, everything would come to a standstill without it. We can only exchange artworks through digital means of communication, so I had to show photographs of my 3D light fixture from different angles in a PDF for my tutor to see the full design.
One way that the art and design industry has overcome problems with the pandemic is through allowing visitors to visit galleries and shops virtually. If needed I could use these methods to show my work in a virtual environment in order to be seen in a 3D way without it being real. By viewing artwork in this way, we are missing the atmosphere of being in a public place with other people around and missing out on the physical exchange and interactions we have with tutors, and with the artwork too. At times technology has its faults, such as the quality of images and connection faults whilst speaking to tutors and clients. This can be very frustrating, distracting, and it can cause misunderstanding. It can be worrying because we are so reliant on this technology and we can end up missing large parts of important conversations because of this.
With people working remotely, certain businesses have benefitted and made a lot of money such as companies like Teams and BBcollaborate. This has allowed tech-savvy and young designers to continue their practices through using these softwares, but has made it difficult for older generations and designers who aren’t as familiar. They have been forced to become informed with using these softwares in order to stay connected and less secluded. When needing help with how to use technology, people are less reliant on other people and may have used online tutorials on how to do things for themselves.
Technology can be very expensive, and not everybody has the equipment that they need to be able to work remotely. Certain countries can’t afford and don’t have access to technology which can make it difficult to run their businesses and livelihoods in an increasingly technologically-driven world. Economies have to prioritize the community’s health and basic needs before technology is even considered. Families and individuals living in poverty in these countries can also find it hard to access the same opportunities that those who do have access to technology can gain. The government has tried to supply individuals and families in this country that have limited access to technology, the equipment they need to expand, and to stay connected to their education and the world.
This year has opened up my understanding of product design. Special facilities are in the University and cannot be used. I was looking forward to learning how to do screen printing, I did a few lessons and started a project then half way through we had to stop because of the pandemic. I’m now not going to be able to use screen printing, it’s made it more difficult to enjoy making work because there are so many rules and regulations that come before the creative process. There was one facility that I was still able to access, which was the woodwork department. I’m really glad that I finally made it into the wood workshop as I had wanted to experiment in wood for a long time. It was very different being in the university at the time of the pandemic as the crowds that usually were in the building were not there, it felt eerie and weird. I had to complete health and safety inductions that were related to the pandemic, including wearing a mask whilst in the workshops which was very uncomfortable and limited what I could see in the workshop, and following socially distancing rules. I had to follow procedures such as placing tools I had used into disinfectant boxes, and everything about the experience impacted on the possibilities of my practice and my designs. It was difficult to forget that we were in a pandemic and it took a lot of the fun and enjoyment out of the creative process.
While preparing to make my light fixture, I made sure that my product wouldn’t cost too much to produce because that would affect how much I would sell it for, and how much customers would want to spend on it. I found it very challenging to find materials and a way of doing laser cutting in an affordable way, I searched on the internet and physically visited companies to find out whether affordable laser cutting would be in my budget. It was very difficult to find places to do this as during the pandemic many places have been closed and it made it inaccessible for me. Everyone I found charged too much money for the materials and laser cutting process. I felt disheartened, and questioned whether it would even be possible to create my idea. I had been very excited to produce my design and wanted to see the outcome of my new idea and the development of my practice.
Eventually the University technicians found a solution to making my light fixture at a more affordable price, and they helped me with ideas on how to construct my design in the most practical way. This made me learn a new way of constructing products from wood, and I learnt how to use lighting within my products too. I was delighted with the results and it turned out better than I expected. The LED lighting allowed me to create different light colours, creating new atmospheres and my design translated very well into the product. I enjoyed the process of translating a real life drawing of a flower into a 3D design, and how this really worked well for me. It is something that I aim to explore more within my work, it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of drawing and of what I can create.
I learnt that persistence can pay off, that I should keep going when things go wrong as it is all part of the creative process. It has also made me realise that I would like to go into product design in the future, and has allowed me to start developing a collection of products to go along with my light fixture. I’m growing in confidence with talking to tutors, discussing my work and demonstrating my independence. My communication skills have improved and I can discuss my work with clients much more confidently than previously. This experience has inspired me with confidence to approach shops with my designs to sell, and it may have opened up a new career path and taught me to believe in myself more. Even though this is a difficult time for everybody, what I have learned throughout this year I will bring through with me into my professional life.
Laia. Pons Fernandez