We are excited to share student projects, department news, event information, and photos from the MFA in Products of Design program. Check back frequently for updates.
On March 14th, the MFA Products of Design program will hold its 2014 recruitment event, welcoming some of the most progressive and influential organizations, companies, and brands in the world. The event will feature one-on-one meetings between potential employers and graduating and first-year students. They will discuss project work, internship opportunities, full time positions, freelance work and project partnerships.
Attendees confirmed for the event include: IDEO, Luminary Labs, Instructables, Google Creative Lab, IBM Design, Unicef Innovation, Apple, Big Spaceship, Frog Design, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, WhatIf Innovation Partners, Smart Design, Johnson&Johnson, MakerBot, SYPartners, Fjord, Quirky, Autodesk, Nike Foundation, eBay, Method, Fab.com, ESI Design, Tom Nicholson | Arc Angel Fund, ReBoot, and LittleBits.
We live in broadcast culture. The Internet offers us access to the sentiments of people from around the world, and invites us to contribute our own voices. We are simultaneously the audience and the photographers, the journalists and the graphic designers. And this means that we have access to unmediated content direct from the source, along with a variety of perspectives on every issue. Is there a role for design in protest? Is it possible to reimagine the activities, artifacts, and behaviors of protest through the products of design?
The graduate students of the MFA Products of Design students at SVA|NYC explored the theme of protest in a class entitled “Product, Brand and Experience.” Led by faculty members Rinat Arul and Johan Liden of the design consultancy Aruliden, students spent 15 weeks pushing and pulling on the conundrum of “designing for protest.” At first glance, of course, design seems positively antithetical to the commonly-understood notions of the grass-roots, the spontaneous, the proletarian, the “un-designed” around the act of protest. But that surface, once scratched, reveals myriad opportunities for design intervention. Certainly design can cast revealing wavelengths of light on any subject, and the challenge of matching the “frequency” of appropriate design to the riot of forms of protest proved both difficult and instructive. In the end, the students created 8 offerings of design for protest—some speculative and discursive, some immediately practical, some provocative, and some tongue-in-cheek.
Protesting can often come with the risk of physical harm, which can hinder participation. A sea of people can be empowering or terrifying, depending on the choreography of the group. Using directional guidance, Loop serves to connect the individual participants to the collective flow of the crowd—like the flocking behavior of birds or the swarming motions of schools of fish. [Learn more about Loop]
And despite the unifying strength of the collective, individually we are targets of censorship by simply showing up with our smart devices. Our data takes on new value in this context, and BlackBox inconspicuously scrapes and protects our personal information in the vulnerability of public demonstration. [Learn more about BlackBox]
And even if our personal information is secure, often the goal is to disseminate elements of it in real time. To facilitate the revealing of this media, Pix works around strategies that control the flow of information—such as signal jammers and confiscation— through simple camouflage. [Learn more about PIX]
Often, without a hierarchy to create a cohesive visual language, it can be difficult to convey a unified cause. This presents the need for tools that afford visual consistency on the mass scale. Kopi is a portable silkscreening kit for just that purpose. [Learn more about Kopi]
Our expressions manifest beyond the virtual world of course; we take them to the streets. For the activist, the whole urban environment can serve as the scaffolding for the display of posters and signs. Able allows us to post our messages with tools that are built to last, and left behind for others to repurpose. [Learn more about Able]
Speaking out can be a vulnerable experience—no matter how strongly the message is felt. B. Super gives would-be participants the confidence to get involved by offering a tool-belt ensemble of transformative accessories that allow us to access our inner superheroes, and to be ready for anything. [Learn more about B.Super]
The site of protest is not limited to the streets; it happens when we extend ourselves beyond the borders of convention. Where there is proscriptive play, for instance, there is an opportunity to liberate. Pure Imagination’s Possibility Pack is a grab bag of parts that encourages young minds to defy these boundaries, and to set patterns of independent thought early on. [Learn more about Pure Imagination’s Possibility Pack]
And finally, on the days after a protest, social energy and bonds can often deflate, and best intentions of continuing the pursuit of social change become more difficult. Wearing (and sharing) an artifact as a reminder of a social change pact can be a powerful motivator, and TrmTab is an accessory that keeps dedication to the cause top of mind. [Learn more about TrmTab]
Together, all of these products and services attempt to navigate, illustrate, and communicate the complex landscape of protest, all the while questioning the limits and opportunities of where and how design might play a part.
TRMTAB is a bracelet system that helps you and a friend make and maintain a pact for positive change. Designed by Mansi Gupta and Cassandra Michel, the product attempts to address the “loss of momentum” frequent in post-protest scenarios. Employing a buddy system, each upcycled leather bracelet comes as a pair, joining its two wearers in a kind of social action pact. On each bracelet is a series of six holes, allowing for six different pacts to be made. The stud that stands for each pact serves as a reminder for both wearers. For broader social support, TRMTAB also provides an online platform where stories, pacts and inspirations can be shared.
Throughout their research, the designers were inspired by the notion that small changes, collectively, can lead to larger impacts. Speciﬁcally, they turned to designer, architect, systems theorist, and futurist, Buckminster Fuller, who in a 1972 interview for Playboy magazine talked about the importance of the individual to make change. In the interview he made the analogy that the individual is like a trimtab—a tiny rudder on a ship—which can change the direction of a large ship with just a tiny amount of pressure applied. Fuller believed that a people could be trimtabs, and famously said, “Call me trimtab.” Henceforth the name of the bracelet system seemed apt: TRMTAB.
The bracelets, made from upcycled leather factory waste, and are packaged on 100% post-consumer cardboard. For point of sale, the designers identiﬁed Madewell as an ideal retail store for the product, and, recognizing a growing online marketplace for sustainable, purposeful products, proposed Zadie.com and Tom’s new marketplace for online purchase.
Designed by Emi Yasaka and Gaïa Orain, Kopi is a portable silkscreening kit for users who want to artfully express themselves on the go, allowing for individual expression while providing the assets needed to produce a unified visual language. Unlike most silkscreening kits (which are designed for arts and crafts applications), Kopi compacts the product and streamlines the experience so it can be taken anywhere. While the physical product helps people communicate their message quickly and repeatedly in real space, the product is supported by an online community—the Kopi Project—where Kopiests can share and learn the limitless potential of their toolbox.
Kopi was initially inspired by the cultural impact of the art of protest. The art of protest is located in the aesthetics in the orchestration of a social movement, and also found in the visual culture produced to promote a message and create awareness. Specifically, Kopi looks at that the successful impact of the 2012 Quebec student protest—also known as the Maple Spring. The Maple spring was most notable in Montreal, a city of the arts. The movement developed an aesthetic, a visual language and ultimately a brand with the popularization of the red square and its supporting visual assets. This simple, yet striking branding facilitated the delivery of the message on a large scale. Further, this refined aesthetic reached a broader demographic than those directly implicated in the movement.
For the novice, silkscreening can be challenging if the user does not have access to the tools or the space required for traditional methods. The Kopi kit contains the following items:
• A slim exposure unit that doubles as a lighting table
• A featherlight silkscreen • A sturdy work surface
• A kit of pigments, letter sets and stencils
• Additional tools and substrates designed to fit perfectly with the system.
Kopi is the resource for people “who want to express themselves, however they want, wherever they want.” As a complete, compact and portable silkscreening system, Kofi offers a clear method for people who want to express themselves quickly…and in multiples.
B. Super imagines a world where participants can feel “equipped” for speaking out. Taking the form of a tongue-in-cheek utility belt, the product provides of a variety of tools that “allow you to hope for the best, yet be equipped for the worst.” Designers Damon Ahola and Richard Clarkson became intrigued with the trope of the iconic superhero, along with the personality and styling elements of street culture and the underground world of skateboarding.
Each of the B. Super system elements can aid the protester with a specific task; some serious, others ironic. The respirator mask “Breath,” for example, helps protesters survive airborne toxins, while “Relieve”—a lemon juice dispenser—is used to allay the sting of pepper spray in the eyes. To elude authorities, “disguise” is a fake mustache kit at the ready, while “Hide” provides a larger mask to protect the protester’s identity. “Declare” provides a pull-out marker board for ad hoc signage, and “Repair”—a duct tape dispenser—rounds the lineup for all manner of jerry-rigging.
For product packaging, Ahola and Clarkson designed a set of premium brown paper bags featuring large graphic icons and minimal text. A strip of color at the bottom of each bag indicates the color of the product within, and a freestanding point of sale display presents the product line as a serious yet playful brand. The B. Super product line is targeted at fashion-forward shops such as Opening Ceremony in New York City, as well as in premium skateboard shops like Homage Brooklyn.