Design Through the Rear View Mirror

edited by Michael LeBlanc

102 pages 7.5 x 7.5”
Full colour Softcover Perfect-bound
Price $24.90
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When Master of Design Director Rudi Meyer gave me the chance to teach the first half of Graduate Design Studio 3, it took me a couple of weeks to get my head around the course. What is it that I can add to the students’ experience that they have not already received from my colleagues? Add this to the fact that students in their third and final semester of the MDes program are heads-down and focused on their thesis projects, so I couldn’t push them too hard. In a sense, I had to make it **fun**. I had seven Thursdays with the students.

The crazy projects I did with the first year students were quite successful, so I thought that perhaps I could repeat—albeit with a more sophisticated overall brief—the approach where I turned previous assumptions upside-down. We would do a book with six chapters. Each class day, I would give them an assignment that related in some way with time and visual language. They were required to complete the assignment during the class, so after the initial brief at 9am, they went to work. Sometimes we had a short progress report at noon just before the lunch break. By 3:30pm, the students had work ready for the class critique. As a result of suggestions made during the crit, some students had homework, and they presented their revisions the following week. The seventh class was devoted to pulling together all the projects into a book, and adding my editorial comments for each chapter.

From the introduction:

We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.
-Marshall McLuhan

The half-baked dreams that emerge from the maws of our imaginations are most often the result of combinations of deviant ideas. While it is true that ‘innovations’ are composed of many small incremental and reasonable improvements, ‘revolutions’ are not the result of reason. They are the result of one idea striking another unrelated idea to create an independently significant concept. Most of these examples of recombinant thought—like Richard Dawkins’ monstrous biomorphs—are cast aside, stillborn. Yet if we are favourable to them, a minute fraction of these notions can emerge with promise. William Blake understood the origins of the creative act, which is why he considered that “improvement makes straight roads, but crooked roads … are roads of genius.”

These projects—the result of six class days of speculation on six crazy ideas—reflect in different ways on how visual language changes with time and culture. The questions that were posed are intended to mix meaning with temporal considerations, forcing students to literally “design through the rear view mirror.” The notions that they present in this book will help to augment the possibility that interesting scenarios—ripe for future contemplation—might emerge from these day-long meditations.


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