Design/Lockdown/Hyper-Connected

Following my first tutorial session for this module on Wednesday, I feel I have a solid idea of what my editorial piece will be based on. Prior to that I feel I was getting overwhelmed with research. Although this was good as it allowed me to see the hyper-connected world from numerous perspectives, some pieces of research were too science or art based rather than design (for example, Philip Beesley’s work and MMOMA). Having realised this and discussed it with my tutor who agreed, I found that through all of this research I found the direction that I needed to go in.

Previously, having researched The Silicon States by Lucie Greene I was intrigued by the impact that the tech giants have on the world, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. This lead me to researching about brands and companies and how they have adapted to the current situation, especially how they are continuing to communicate with their target audience and attract potential new customers. An example of this was the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. However, this was more product based and my case studies were too small and not design related, but I took elements of that research (along with the science/art based research) and formed the theme that I am now looking.

My essay and editorial work will cover a number of themes, everything linking back to the hyper-connected world. My essay will be on:
- The social responsibility of designers during a pandemic
- How designers have coped during lockdown and how they have used their online platforms to document their experiences, give advice, comfort their audience and connect people
- How the design world has adapted to encourage collaboration and creativity during the pandemic

Limbo Magazine was created as a reflection of the times we are in. Founded by Nick Chapin, Francesca Gavin and David Lane, the aim of this magazine was to support artists and creatives who faced unemployment during lockdown. Any funds generated from sales and advertising was given to contributors directly. As the magazine includes work from both more established and less established designers, those who are more established donated their work so that money raised went to those who needed it the most.

Contributors include: Wolfgang Tillmans, Miranda July, Tyler Mitchell, Richard Kern, Peaches, Vivienne Westwood, Scott King, William Wegman, Scott King, Anthony Burrill, Annie Collinge and many more.

Understanding that a lot of people are struggling financially at the moment, there are three price options at the checkout. £14 is the general price of the magazine, £19 is for those that want to give a bit extra and £9 is for students or those who are out of work. This inclusivity is encouraging, seeing that the design world is understanding of the circumstances and making the best out of a bad situation.

Christopher Hartmann is a painter. Within his work he presents the body as an empty figure as he alienates the relationship between emotions and relationships. This disassociation creates an eeriness as the people within the paintings look still and uncomfortable. Hartmann paints the skin as a blemish-free surface, giving everyone bright and “perfect” tones to emphasise the hyperrealism being created.

This series of paintings was chosen as I feel Hartmann’s style of giving the humans “perfect” skin and giving everyone the same look is representative of society and the digital world. Instagram filters give everyone the same look, giving people bigger lips, bolder eyelashes, a smaller nose and new cheekbones; Hartmann does this but through the form of painting. Taking it out of the context of the digital world emphasises how wrong and dark it really is. These lockdown paintings put into perspective the version of ourselves we present online, someone with perfect skin and perfect hair. The fact that online we distort our faces with filters and nobody bats an eyelid but putting it in the “real” world and changing that context gives it a completely new meaning. The people in the paintings look miserable and bored, this could be representative of how some humans are in the physical world compared to how they present themselves in the digital.

This case study successfully gave me a different perspective on how we convey ourselves online versus how we convey ourselves offline in the physical world. I feel these paintings are unsuitable for my project as I had to manipulate the meaning behind them. Hartmann removes all emotions from his paintings, but I had to apply this to the hyper-connected world which took away from the original purpose his work. In design a message is clearly communicated, setting it apart from art that is open for interpretation. As I had to interpret the painting and link it to my hyper-connected theme, I believe it is too artistic and is therefore unsuitable to use in my project. I feel there are better, design related examples that I can use instead.

Robert Götzfried created a series of photographs called ‘The Lockdown Diaries’. This series was not initially intended to be representative of people’s lockdown experiences, but as Germany went into lockdown and Götzfried could not capture anymore photographs the subject was changed. It was through coincidence that the photographs fitted the circumstances of lockdown, as people spend their days doing nothing but watching television, scrolling through the internet on their smartphones.

Each photograph captures people in their homes with the light from their phones illuminating the room. This can be interpreted in a physical sense of these people not really being bothered about their surroundings as their focus is their phones. This series is representative of how technology-focused we are as a society, as well as how lonely we are. A big issue in our society is people’s obsessions with their phones and digital devices and their lack of attention to those around them. People are becoming ignorant towards those in their close relationships (family and friends) and being too focused on what everyone online is doing, when in the grand scheme of things these people are completely irrelevant. What is more important, looking at sponsored ads on Instagram or spending time with your family?

This case study is a good example of how the digital world is impacting lockdown life and how technology-focused people have become. This form of documentation can be thought-provoking for the audience, making people come to the realisation that they spend too much time online and not enough time living in the moment with those around them.

Feed The Ghosted is an animation directed by Pia Graf with sound design by Mamiko Motto. The animation illustrates the hypnotic, dark and consuming nature of the virtual world. It was inspired by the ominosity of the internet and how overwhelming it can be when you are fully immersed in the online world. People have the power to remove themselves from the internet by putting their phone down for a few hours but this animation demonstrates what it could be like if we lived in a world where we couldn’t. The illustrations are abstract and move in a psychedelic manner, being hypnotic and representing the information overload.

Particularly now during the pandemic, information from online is more overwhelming than ever with everyone voicing their opinions and views. Due to this I feel this is a suitable piece of work connected to the hyper-connected world. The colours and psychedelic illustrations I am particularly interested in and shall use when finding inspiration for assets in the editorial design.

Designed by Pentagram’s partner Paula Scher, the Mental Health Coalition’s new symbol “square peg in a round hole” is aiming to be a global symbol for mental health. The square counter in the O is representative of there being no “normal” when it comes to mental health. During the pandemic people are becoming aware of mental health issues as more people are struggling every day as we live in lockdown and isolation.

How Are You, Really? is a platform where people can safely share their stories regarding mental health, where it be their struggles or their achievements. The aim is to remove the stigma behind mental health issues by collaborating with US mental health organisations, creative and media platforms, mental health advocates and celebrities.

This case study successfully shows how the digital world is helping during the pandemic. With designs and backing from Paula Scher it a good representation of designers using their platform to put positive messages into the world, advising people and making them realise that they are not alone.

Monique Jackson’s (illustrator) approach to the pandemic was using her Instagram account to document her experience with COVID-19. She contracted the virus just prior to the national lockdown in the UK in March, she was still experiencing symptoms six months after. Jackson realised that mainstream media do not talk about the prolonged effects of coronavirus therefore wanted to use her own voice to communicate this with the world.

Following the death of Transport for London worker, Belly Mujinga, the Black Lives Matter movement and the government’s failing to quickly respond to the BIPOC community’s worry during the pandemic, Jackson felt more confident than ever as a black woman to share her experience.

Personally, I had not heard about the prolonged effects of coronavirus until someone shared a post on my Instagram page about it. This emphasises the importance of Jackson’s work as it communicates to the world information that the news and mainstream media fail to tell us. The digital world gave Jackson the platform to voice her opinions and share her experience. If it were not for the internet the only people that would know about Jackson’s story would be her friends and family. The ability to connect globally has been vital during the pandemic, allowing people to find as much information as possible about the virus.

Jean Jullien’s (illustrator) approach to the pandemic was through posting pandemic related illustrations to his audience of 1.1million followers. His humorous approach to the pandemic is comforting to both the target and wider audience. Creating light-hearted visuals of life in lockdown is relatable and creates an authentic relationship between the creator and audience. These illustrations remind people that they are not alone during these times; if your glasses steam up every time you breathe with a mask on, that’s okay so do everyone else’s and if you haven’t moved from the sofa in days, that’s okay too.

Mono Chalabi uses her Instagram page to inform her audience of coronavirus related information. She created a set of illustrations that are both humorous and educational, showing what percentage of people experience certain symptoms. Other work includes more infographics that simplify coronavirus statistics and advice. Chalabi is using her platform successfully to make coronavirus information more accessible and understandable for the audience. Often on the news you can be overwhelmed with graphs and statistics that only the highly educated can understand but these are much easier.

Toby Morris (cartoonist) and Siouxsie Wiles (Microbiologist) have created numerous infographics, animations (GIFs) and illustrations regarding coronavirus. The purpose of this collaboration is to educate the audience, advise them and help them understand government advice.

I feel the cheese analogy (“Emmental Model”) is particularly effective in helping the audience visualise the spread of the virus. By relating the transmission to cheese it makes the information humorous and memorable, making the logic behind the spread understandable for a much wider audience.

This is an example of how designers are able to collaborate with workers that they would not usually associate with to educate and send messages to the public.

Through my research I feel I have enough examples of work to demonstrate the topics being covered in my essay. Paula Scher working with the Mental Health Coalition to create How Are You, Really? is an example of designers using their skills and audience to raise awareness of growing issues during the pandemic. Limbo is an example of designers understanding their responsibility within the community to support other designers, encouraging collaboration and creativity in lockdown. Jean Jullien, Mona Chalabi, Monique Jackson and Toby Morris/Siouxsie Wiles used their online platforms to advise, educate and comfort their audience through sharing their experiences, infographics and relatable illustrations. All of the communication between creatives and their audience would not have been possible throughout lockdown if it wasn’t for the digital world. The internet has played a vital role in people coping throughout lockdown, it acts as a place of escape and where people to communicate with friends, family and find entertainment. As well as this, the information shared by designers can be more captivating than the infographics seen on the news. The news can become mundane, boring and repetitive whereas the internet does not hold back and discusses all topics, no matter how ‘sensitive’, simplifying where possible and often in a more creative and engaging way than the news.