1) en.wikipedia.org/wiki /Berlin_Wall#The_Fall
2) dictionary.reference.com /browse/imperfection
3) Hume, D. (2008). FOUR ESSAYS. The Standard of Taste. p.9
6) Meggs, P. B. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 356.
8) www.britannica.com /EBchecked/topic/1032864 /graphic-design/242779 /The-digital-revolution
10) Le Feuvre, L. (2010). Failure. London: Whitechapel Gallery. p.36
11) www.britannica.com /EBchecked/topic/1032864 /graphic-design/242779 /The-digital-revolution
13) Le Feuvre, L. (2010). Failure. London: Whitechapel Gallery. p.16
14) www.britannica.com/EBchecked /topic/1032864 /graphic-design/242779 /The-digital-revolution
15) en.wikipedia.org/wiki s/Facial_symmetry
16) www.itsnicethat.com/articles /thomas-brown-lighting-and-kinglyface-circles
17) www.yumpu.com/de /document/view/52660 /slanted-3-handmade-custom-script
18) www.stroom.nl/paginas /pagina.php?pa_id=523089
20) www.creativeapplications.net /featured/your-line-or-mine-crowd-sourced
21) Gerrit Terstiege (2010). Form234: The making of Design. Germany. (The real world, only better) Text: Claus Richter; p.45
22) istanbuldesignbiennial.iksv.org /about/biennial-theme/
23) Moradi, I. (2009). Glitch: Designing Imperfection. New York: Mark Batty Publisher. p.8
25) Form234 the making of design. (Der schöne Fehler/Making a virtue of Errors) Text: Rahel Ueding, translated by Regina Poell; p.73
26) Moradi, I. (2009). Glitch: Designing Imperfection. New York: Mark Batty Publisher. p.6
27) www.itsnicethat.com /articles/thomas-brown-lighting -and-kinglyface-circles
lEANING tOWER oF pISA
tATTOOS aS vALUABLE cHARACTERISTIC
sYMMETRY vS. aSYMMETRY
hUMAN aSYMMETRICAL+sYMMETRICAL fACE
I "2-(y-b)2=r2" bY lIGHNING + kINGLYFACE
II "2-(y-b)2=r2" bY lIGHNING + kINGLYFACE
III "2-(y-b)2=r2" bY lIGHNING + kINGLYFACE
IV "2-(y-b)2=r2" bY lIGHNING + kINGLYFACE
Matthias Lange (koeLN iNTERNATIONAL sCHOOL oF dESIGN gRADUATE)
I "Your Line or Mine" bY sTUDIO mONIKER
II "Your Line or Mine" bY sTUDIO mONIKER
III "Your Line or Mine" bY sTUDIO mONIKER
IV "Your Line or Mine" bY sTUDIO mONIKER
rIPPED jEANS fASHION tREND
vAN aBBE mUSEUM I
vAN aBBE mUSEUM II
vAN aBBE mUSEUM III
rOSA mENKMAN aT kABK 2014
mY oWN rANDOM gLITCH
sILKE bRIEL gRADUATION pIECE iMG I
sILKE bRIEL gRADUATION pIECE iMG II
1 - m O T I V A T I O N
Perfection is something everybody strives for. We all fear imperfection in our lives. Whether with our families, in our romances or our jobs.
The inspiration came from myself and life journey up to now. To be more specific I was told to repeat my final year at the art academy in order to make an even better designer as there was still so much for me to learn. I decided to take some time out and first travel for a bit. So looking at my CV it surely is not perfect with a gap in the academic career but this little imperfection which firstly seemed so negative turned into something positive and I think really enhanced my personality and also as a designer.
Imperfection might sound negative at first but sometimes it just takes a second look, a different angle or another piece of the puzzle to realize the impact and the added value of imperfection. After all the word does carry the term perfection in itself.
2 - i N T R O D U C T I O N
Dealing with imperfection means dealing with a situation or a state of being. It can be found in many different areas such as math, science, art and even politics. It is the opposite of perfection. Everybody strives for perfection in one way or the other. Smartphones with no scratches. Batteries with an endless life duration. In a society pushed to perfection, the imperfection will stand out easily. It doesn't necessarily have to have a negative touch but can also be something positive. Just like how the Berlin Wall fell. The new regulations stated that not only refugees but also private travels are allowed to exit directly through crossing points between East- and West Germany. "Guenter Schabowski, the party boss in East Berlin and the spokesman for the SED Politburo, had the task of announcing the new regulations. However, he had not been involved in the discussions about the new regulations and had not been fully updated. Shortly before a press conference on 9th of November, he was handed a note announcing the changes, but given no further instructions on how to handle the information. These regulations had only been completed a few hours earlier and were to take effect the following day, so as to allow time to inform the border guards. But this starting time delay was not communicated to Schabowski.
Schabowski read the note, he had been given, out loud at the end of the press conference. One of the reporters, ANSA's Riccardo Ehrman, asked when the regulations would take effect. After a few seconds' hesitation, Schabowski assumed it would be the same day based on the wording of the note and replied, 'As far as I know effective immediately, without delay'. After further questions from journalists, he confirmed that the regulations included the border crossings through the wall into West Berlin, which he had not mentioned until then".1 The imperfection carried out turning into perfection and improvement. And other things even get famous for its imperfection just like the leaning tower of Pisa.
Where I want to focus on is the imperfection in design, the process and its constant imperfect state but also how it can add valuable characteristics. I will look into the word itself, where it comes from and what it means. Also how to judge will be one part of the research. Further I will take a short look at how imperfection and its opposite perfection is used throughout the history of graphic design and look at some main elements being used in design. From there I will look at what creates these imperfect perfection and what advertising does. And last but not least I will look at what role technology plays within design and the process and its occurrence of random imperfections.
What value does imperfection add during the design process? Imperfection and it's natural habit. And after all: How does imperfection add valuable characteristics to Graphic Design?
Mission impossible - Perfection.
Love the imperfect wilderness.
3 - t H E w O R D
3.1 - d E F I N I T I O N
Origin: late latin. imperfectus/imperfectio
Synonyms: defect, fault, flaw, deformity, disfigurement, crack, scratch, blemish
The word imperfection describes
I. the condition, absence or quality of being imperfect as well as
II. a fault or defect.2
Imperfection can be described as something which is not complete, has some defects or faults. It makes something differ from the norm and therefore stands out. Sometimes even goes as far as making something unique (leaning tower of Pisa). Imperfection is one part of esthetics.
Imperfection in design can be differentiated into three categories:
I. Material - Is the surface shiny, glossy? Has the mirror a crack? The wood a scratch?
II. Esthetic - Does it follow the golden ratio or any other grid.
III. Functional - Is it usable? Can you see it? Can you read the typography?
Earth carries art.
Design carries a sign.
Imperfection carries perfection.
3.2 - t H E a R T o F j U D G I N G
In order to know whether something is beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect we have to start at the very basis, the human mind. Looking at art always evokes a certain feeling. This feeling, also referred to as a sentiment, can never be wrong. It is something which is connected to ourselves, to our experiences and our interests and therefore very different from one person to another. "A sentiment does not mark a certain conformity or relation between the object and the organs or the faculties of the mind (...). Beauty is not a quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind that contemplates them, an each mind perceives a different beauty".3 Therefore "as critic I must set aside this friendship or enmity and, consider myself as a man in general, try to forget myself as an individual and my personal circumstances".4
Nevertheless that is the ideal case but most likely not going to be working all the time as there are too many other factors influencing. Growing up people are influenced by different kinds of things therefore it is very likely that a work of art is very beautiful to one person and very ugly to another. In any case Hume suggests to practice as it "(...)is so helpful to discernment of beauty that before we can judge any work of importance we need to confront that very work more than once, carefully and deliberately surveying it in different lights. (...) It is well known that when the understanding is at work, prejudice destroys sound judgment and prevents all open actions of the intellectual faculties".5 Meaning that when you can not step aside yourself it is impossible to judge fundamentally correct.
When tattoos are a sign of higher status in some cultures it is strongly disapproved and even seen as indicator for lower class affiliation in others. Judging art, whether it is perfect or imperfect, is strongly influenced by culture and maybe even more importantly by language. People grow up in different circumstances and therefore learn how to apply language and its means differently, whether positive or negative. However, the sheer variety of words used to express feelings, means the same word can never be used for one term all around the word. People generally agree that various words describe the feeling of a term whereby people can comprehend what they mean based on their own experience and feelings. A lot of actual meaning is lost in translation.
Imperfection has not a set definition in the sense of esthetics and is strongly influenced and subject to social change thus is not a timeless description. Nevertheless it is important to practice the ability of judging art and learning from each time.
Mission impossible = perfection
4 - r E W I N D
From human evolution we learn that one of the first things the human being ever learned in order to survive was seeing the danger. Whether irregular movement, color, shape or texture our human eye is trained to notice things which don't fit into the normal scenery thus appear to be strange or imperfect in the context. Therefore one could say that it is of human nature that our minds are attracted by imperfection.
Connected to design one can notice that we subconsciously quickly group similar elements and look for differences. Also here the imperfect will stand out easily.
There are many rules which can be applied to graphic design. In the 1950 the Swiss Style or also known as The International Typographic Style spread over the whole globe when the magazine New Graphic Design started publishing. Soon it was seen as 'the' style to be used in everything connected to Graphic Design. One could say it was seen as the perfection in Design.
The International Style is based on a mathematical grid. Its characteristics feature strong typographic elements organized in asymmetrical order. The means are to communicate information clearly, free from any propaganda or advertising means. Its emphasis lies on the cleanliness and the ability for the user to read the information presented. It is strongly driven by typographic elements. Mostly used sans-serif typography aligned to the left and/or right. Instead of illustrations more and more often photography was used.
The early pioneers of the movement believed that the design was a "socially useful and important activity (...) the designers defined their role not as artists but as objective conducted for spreading important information between components of society".6
When graphic design used to be a craftsmanship there were many things happening on the table. From drawing grids to typesetting. Things were done by hand. Naturally there was imperfection happening as we are no machines. It happened during the process of drawing or printing. Sometimes could even get frustrating when trying to fix little imperfections. Nevertheless people could not predict it nor avoid it. With the invention of the computer everything quickly changed and by the mid 90s graphic design had fully shifted into a digital act. From now on things would be happening on the screen. Especially through Apple and its Macintosh and all created software of Adobe. People enjoyed the ability of quick shifting typeface weight or image placing. Also new things were much easier such as overlapping elements. People thought the design was much more under control to be perfect. One good example is the American designer David Carson who used the new techniques and experimental approach and included it into his design. He was much criticized for breaking the rules but also by others seen as one of the top influential designers of that time. The image material he produced included distorted images, cropped and torn typefaces. He put "(...)endlessly contorting type, layout and grid into new configurations and abandoning design's established truths of order and legibility. He represented a new breed of visual author".7 It was everything but the Swiss Style. Graphic design had emerged into something else driven by technology.
"The digital revolution in graphic design was followed quickly by public access to the Internet. A whole new area of graphic design activity mushroomed in the mid-1990s when Internet commerce became a growing sector of the global economy, causing organizations and businesses to scramble to establish Web sites. Designing a Web site involves the layout of screens of information rather than of pages, but approaches to the use of type, images, and color are similar to those used for print".8 So with the internet also for designers evolved new responsibilities. At first it was more companies who wanted to be present in the internet by having their website to show people who they are. Only short after every individual wanted to be present somewhere in the internet. But not only did they want to show who they are, with further development of technology and smartphones they also wanted to be reachable everywhere. From email to Myspace, Facebook, Link-in and WhatsApp (even my autocorrect knows it's not spelled Whatsapp but WhatsApp) the amount of platforms for people to present themselves or be in contact with people increased quickly. Social networks nowadays play an important role in everybody's live and they too need to be designed.
In design currently we can also recognize certain style direction which one is strongly connected to a vintage style and the other one strongly connected to new media.
Nevertheless "in the 21st century, graphic design is ubiquitous; it is a major component of our complex print and electronic information systems. It permeates contemporary society, delivering information, product identification, entertainment, and persuasive messages. The relentless advance of technology has changed dramatically the way graphic designs are created and distributed to a mass audience. However, the fundamental role of the graphic designer - giving expressive form and clarity of content to communicative messages - remains the same".9
4.1 - f A I L U R E
Baldessari says "art comes out of failure. You have to try things out. You can't sit around, terrified of being incorrect, saying 'I won't do anything until I do a masterpiece'"10
I know that feeling from myself. There was a time I would not even start a project because the picture I had created in my mind I knew will not look anything like the end-result I would get. I guess the aim to get the most perfect out of things things really had been drilled into my brain. There is a huge "gap between the intention and realization of an artwork which makes failure impossible to avoid".11 As "to be an artist is to fail like no other dare to fail".12 This leads to a certain point where an artist is actually allowed to fail. There is a point in each project where one has to let go in the sense of giving up control, releasing it to the public. In this case the artist then enters an area of not-knowing which can easily become an act of bravery. Who hasn't experienced the feeling of embarrassment, when you just want to shrink to a little nothing or disappear in the ground when judged by others. That act of bravery standing strong and keeping your head up no matter what the critiques are means to step aside from the orthodox order. But "Surely nothing can be more dangerous for an artist or for a critic than to be obsessed with failure. 'Dangerous' because the obsession we are speaking of is not the coming anxiety about failing, but rather the anxiety about not failing".13 To succeed in failing or to fail at failing. And then again often it's worth considering that the deepest failures are in fact no failures at all".14
5 - t E N T I O N
Reviewing posters, books and basically everything connected to Graphic Design there is a few things which are important to create tension in order to catch and hold the viewers attention.
5.1 - s Y M M E T R Y v S a S Y M M E T R Y
Everything connected to design has a layout which needs to be balanced in order to make the design work in a harmonic way. The balance can be aligned symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Symmetry, whether in text or image, is balanced through similarity. Everything is centered and can be seen as an exact mirror image on the vertical axis. It creates a passive space around the elements, meaning the space which is created though symmetry appears more like a background and doesn't really create any valuable attention - if noticed at all. It is just there, just indifferent.
Asymmetry on the other hand attracts the viewers attention and creates guidance throughout the design. It is created in order to balance different elements of the design. It creates uneven white/empty space which need to be applied wisely and are thought of. The space created is active. It creates dynamic and gives space for flexibility. As I mentioned before, evolving from human evolution, asymmetry does catch the viewers attention because of its imperfection.
Even though Leonardo da Vinci's 'Vetruvian Man' suggests the ideal human proportions which should be symmetric many studies have proven wrong. The general public does not have a symmetric face, nor approves of it to be perfect and finds the asymmetric and therefore more imperfect face more appealing.15
5.2 - s P A C E i T u P
White space plays one of the most important roles during the process of designing. It is the very basis and what you start with when you first take a paper and pen or open a program. White space gives flexibility in arranging during the designing process. Nevertheless it needs to be used wisely in order to work well (e.g. make a heading or subject stand out). Moreover it should be seen as a shape to be treated carefully. Cluttering pages merely makes a good design to get a certain message across to the viewer and moreover confuses. The misuse of white space would only create a very noisy image. So using more white space and therewith emptiness creates more tension - but, as I said before, needs to be managed wisely.
Just like when I wake up in the morning and you realize that the coffee is empty. Or when you look at the Grand Canyon. Once there must have been a massive amount of water gone through. Now it is nearly empty. We can only tell from the stones. I would say it is pretty imperfect situations. Thus it is a indicator of movement and activity. Something must have happened but nevertheless it is silent now. The absence of something always raises tension and creates awareness. As does white space on a page. White space should not look like it is waiting to be filled or create a feeling of missing elements, but rather be applied in the right amount. Luxurious designer brands have made great use of it. While the 1Dollar shop looks cluttered and stocked up to the ceiling a little boutique has more empty space around. Also their ads differ very much in the sense of white space usage. One could say the more white or empty space used, the more luxurious it is.
All together for designers it is important to use the absence and its thereby created space and emptiness to create tension to catch and hold the viewers attention. The white space should be active.
5.3 - r I G H T r O U N D , r I G H T r O U N D
Ever tried to draw a perfect circle with a pen - you probably had to realize at some point that it is nearly impossible by hand. Only technology made it possible. But isn't that boring, plain. One perfect circle next to the other. The photographer Thomas Brown and the designer duo Lighning + Kinglyface teamed up and came up with a project to embrace the imperfection. The project is called 2-(y-b)2 = r2 which stands for the mathematical equation of a circle. By "using smoke, sugar, fabric and bubbles they make their point that the pursuit of perfection is a Sisyphean endeavor".16 An endless quest for perfection which is so absurd because it is the imperfections which give characteristics to the experiment and make it valuable.
5.4 - h A N D S o N
Daily we are exposed to all kinds of visual stimuli and surroundings trying to push us into certain directions. From advertising promises to general public adapting to fashion and way of life. Technology is increasingly making our lives faster and faster. On the other hand then "it sounds paradox. But analog esthetics seem to gain enormous value as technology is proceeding. When first in the 80s technology was adopted without any compromise, in the 90s one turned more towards organic again. Nevertheless the quest and desire for the unpredictable never seems to have faded".17
Failure and usage as inspiration. As I mentioned before technology increases the speed of our lives and products don't have the time to really be used anymore before the next one already enters the market. Matthias Lange, Graduate 2008 at KISD (Cologne International School of Design), designed tableware to show in a poetic way how much value can be added when objects actually do show signs of use. He created tableware out of colored (CMYK) ceramic. The outside painted in white. So it seems perfect although i think quiet plain. Something you would have at home only using for special moments because you don't want the dishes to be in any way scratched or broken. You want them to be perfect. Because he used colored ceramic in the inside these dishes are different. Through actually breaking off edges and making them imperfect the different colors become visible and the tableware gets more characteristics and becomes alive. Imperfection adding a huge amount of value to the dishes.
Also other designers used the process as product for their inspiration and as part of their design. Conditional Design would describe that the best. It is what began as weekly meeting between artists and designers based in Amsterdam, also known as studio Moniker. They "(...) were looking for ways to avoid being defined by the media they worked with. (...) Instead, they decided to search for a new term and definition that sufficiently described their way of working. The collective formulated a Manifesto, the Conditional Design Manifesto, in which they stated their shared views about design and art".18 Technology is increasing the speed of our life and we forget about many things. Everything has to be perfect as quick as possible. But what happens actually between the idea and the end-result? Putting the process into focus and making it the product conditional design offers some very interesting new ways and views on the way of visualization. "In order to reflect the here and now, the members of Conditional Design adapt their methods to coincide with these developments focussing on processes rather than products, allowing their work to adapt to their respective environments, emphasize change and display differences. Key notions within the manifesto are 'The input is our Material', 'Logic is our Tool' & 'The process is the Product'".19
Besides the book studio Moniker published on Conditional Design another very interesting project by Moniker also visualizing the idea of conditional design is 'Your Line or Mine', commissioned by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. It "is an interactive installation in the Stedelijk Museum comprised of three continually changing crowd sourced animations drawn entirely by the museum's visitors. Visitors are invited to take part by contributing with their own drawings. They grab a sheet of paper from the colored stack, draw following the instructions on the paper, and scan their drawing. Once scanned, their drawing automatically becomes a frame in one of the animations projected in the space".20 I think it is amazing how simple the input of the visitors can be in order to create such complexity. By 'only' contributing with drawing lines creating such an enormous and complex system and triggering projections. Also here the process which is unpredicted because they don't know how the people will react on the assignments and whether they will be able to fulfill the task or not. Giving up control and leaving it up to the visitor to make the product through each single process of drawing the lines.
6 - T E C H Y
Nowadays everybody has a computer and Do-It-Yourself blogs and gurus are spreading increasingly fast. More often it's getting complicated with clients as they want to have a say in the designing process because everybody understands themselves as a Designer.
During my internship I once found a Polaroid while wandering the streets of Barcelona. The polaroid was "broken" one could say. It could be described as imperfect. Nevertheless the shapes and the composition in it triggered me that I picked it up and is still now hanging on my wall. Sometimes I sit and look at it wondering what happened and imagining stories. What would be really to see in the picture if it would have been perfect, happy people, flowers. The mysteriousness and the tension is build only through its imperfection and always leaving more room for other stories.
6.1 - s P O T L E S S
The advertising world with its perfect spotless world is displayed to us on daily basis. Not only as adults are we subject to all the media surrounding us but as soon as we are born. An ideal bubble surrounding us. Already Disney teaches us from a young age on about ideal perfect worlds, which are in real so fragile. "The real world only better. (...) Contemporary toys represent a wonderful story of idealizations, promises and magic thinking".21 We become subject to such power and ideals and it is hard to free ourselves and step aside from them. A general opinion about what is to be seen perfect and what imperfect spreads throughout public in all different continents. Hyped and pushed soon people all agree on the same terms.
With the start of mass-production people gave up many of their craftsmanships and therefore its art. It was taken over by machines and soon easy to manufacture whole series of products, one just like the other. With machines fulfilling once peoples craftsmanship came also the distance to the production and the process of creating something. The possibility of failure or imperfection during the process was lowered but the connection and the individuality through single handcrafted objects was soon to be lost.
Mass-production never stopped and only increased strongly in all kinds of areas. Whether a laptop from Apple, the shirt from H&M or the Ikea shelf, every single product looks exactly the same all around the world. But still we are all waiting excited, like little kids for Santa to bring the presents, what shiny piece of technology Apple will bring out next. But the identification with such object is lost. The objects don't tell any stories. Have no scratches and become perfectly flat and plain. Exactly thats why more and more people call for individualism and authenticity. Through mass-production and its - not so perfect - perfection individuality is totally lost.
Through technology many things have been made possible. When mass-production cut off the individual from the designing process and things became flat and plain. One like another. Perfect copies. People lost the connection to their belongings and no longer could identify themselves with them. But also here we can see a twist into a new direction. Many companies have listened to people and their scream for more individuality and connection to their products. There are many brands where the customer gets involved into the designing process of their products in order to make them feel like being a part of it and re-establish the relationship between product and customer. Whether picking a color or whole patterns for your phone or sneakers. People feel re-connected with their products.
From spotless to spot on. The trend is turning its back to perfection. Even in the current style it can be recognized. From Design to Fashion. So lets see what it actually does and why we are so attracted to it.
The city is flooded with people running around in ripped jeans and shirts or cut off sleeves. Cycling on a vintage bike, wearing ripped jeans, a new "old" bag with fun patterns and rocking a denim washed-out jeans jacket. When you would think you buy something new and it should be perfect, material-wise, the current style proves wrong. Ripped anything and washed-out denim are the latest fashion. Perfect clothing is marked by it's imperfection. To be honest also I own a pair of ripped jeans. Like my grandma said once when she saw me wearing them "why do you spend money on broken clothes." She had a good point. This used-look is very trendy and I would suggest it is also a cry out which comes from trying to over perfect on every possible layer of life. The pressure to have a perfect cv and rock an enormous network of people with perfect looks. The same can be found in our designs surrounding us day in day out. Take the idea of used-look and apply it to a poster. Add some vintage elements or objects, again here vintage things which "carry" stories, and voila you have the latest fashion in design. Another scream for more individuality.
6.2 - a c I T Y a S i N S P I R A T I O N f O R a R T I S T S
Living in Holland made me feel like someone was holding me back to live what I wanted.
When I first came I was so excited to move abroad. My parents took my brothers and me many times on summer vacation to Holland when we were younger. I couldn't get over the fact that everything looked so cute and nice and how funny the language was. It was only in my third year that I became to realize what I had in Holland was not what I imaged. I had to leave for one semester to study abroad and came back to Holland, that's when it hit me. Over the years my family and many friends came and went to visit. Every time they say "It's like a mini vacation". Recently one of my friends from Germany was visiting and how many times did I hear her say "it's so cute here". But maybe that's the point, yes it's cute and pretty and then .... Maybe everything in Holland does look cute and perfect and maybe exactly because it does look perfect, for me, it reaches the point of an empty feeling. I don't know how many times I described the feeling living in Holland as being trapped in a shoebox (which is ironic because I actually work in a shoe-shop). Nevertheless one could say the beauty of perfection is lost, at least speaking for myself.
Looking at different places then, the first Istanbul Design Biennial in 2012 was held under the theme of imperfection. The theme was introduced by Deyan Sudjic (member of the Design Biennial board and director of the Design Museum in London) saying that imperfection "is nowhere better to explore than in Istanbul, a city of infinite layers. (...) Istanbul as a city is far from perfect, yet it is one of the most exhilarating and dynamic centers in the world. (...) Imperfection is a new take on old ideas. It is one that motivates an entire generation of young designers. It is that we no longer believe utopia, but find inspiration in working with the messy reality of everyday life".22
Living in Holland, maybe being confronted with the messy reality and cultural contrasts might be exactly what is missing for me. There is not much contrast, everything seems to be perfect. Might also be the fact why there is barely any demonstrations to be found, but that is something else I won't go into now. Nevertheless people seem to be happy in their own perfect world. For me I don't find much inspiration wondering the streets. I also don't feel the urge of wondering around. It feels hard and dry. In so many places I love taking the camera and just walk through the streets. Suck in the vibes and just get inspired by the city and let it speak for itself. The Polaroid from the street in Barcelona is not the only one, I have quiet some stickers and posters I picked up from the street, nearly none of them from Holland though. I love the imperfections of a city telling stories about its people and make it what it is. Giving it value and character.
6.3 - y O U a R E w H A T y O U e A T
Going to the supermarket (regular chain in the western world) it is amazing how perfect and more or less identical all these fruit and vegetables look alike. Nicely arranged with sparkling, shiny colors to attract the customer. Nevertheless I had to realize quickly that in a very long time I have not eaten a tomato which actually tastes like a juicy, rich tomato. Shiny red they are indeed. The same applies to other vegetables and their color. What happened to carrots with three legs or curly zucchinis. Many farmers can't sell some of their goods anymore because they don't suit the norms established. These norms are put in action in order to enhance the customers buying behavior.
The Van Abbe museum in Eindhoven currently (22.Nov.2014-22.Febr.2015) has an exhibition on imperfection. One of the rooms is dedicated to products for consumption. The description talks about how supermarket chains determine what we buy and consume, therefore give huge companies the power over us and other people. The exhibition is kept very simple. You walk into a room with a couple shelves. Simple. Grey metal. Storage like. These shelves are stocked to the ceiling with cans containing different drinks. Although they have all the same shape they are very needly arranged in order, by kind. Each can on the top row is provided with a grey cap pointy in the top. Walking though the shelves it feels like being surrounded by a stock of munition. On one side there is a huge mirror covering the wall. With rough paint its handwritten "You are what you eat" on it.
Connecting to my story from the supermarket before I think the exhibition or in particular that room succeeded very much in showing how much power we give to companies determine on what we consume.
6.4 - g L I T C H
Technology made many things possible. But with such increasingly reliance on technology also errors occurred more often and became more and more painful. They are unpredictable and mostly take away a lot of valuable time in order to try to understand and fix them.
A glitch can be defined as a digital error. A miscommunication within technology. Within the music scene glitch long ago has lived an enormous popularity and there is being much experimented with distorted sound. However I will put my focus on visual glitches as they are connected to graphic design and experiencing a current uplift within that field. Why did it take so long to reach the field of graphic design? I think it is because designers did not need to have such technological understanding of our programs up until now. When I look at my brother who is studying music he also deals a lot with the technological part as in physics and math of how sound and all the instruments they use are build. For designers nowadays it is also become more important to understand the technology they are working with which gives them the insight of how and why such technological errors occur. The understanding is then used as visual element such as the glitch.
"The visual glitch is an artifact resulting from error. It is neither the cause, nor the error itself, it is simply the product of an error and more specifically its visual manifestation. It is a significant slip that marks a departure from our expected result. Glitches usually arise from mistranslations that are facilitated by a loss or breakdown in our communication signals. They are the imperfect and unexpected results of such malfunctions, which have no apparent purpose of their existence in the setting of perfect processes".23
The glitch itself is some kind of arbitrary happening, some uncontrolled randomness controlled by technology. Who hasn't experienced working on the computer and by a short lived technological fault the image gets distorted, sharp or blurred, fragmented or repeated into parts which can be defined as meta-qualities of visual glitches.
I guess through all the technology controlling also the field of graphic design it is become a rarity to find arbitrariness and such random and unpredicted happenings. Much as in advertising also the rest of the graphic design field is pushed to perfection. However the glitch as a form of art has enjoyed a current popularity among designers. Where the glitch comes from and what it does. Breaking fundamental elements of graphic design and making process and unpredicted failure strong elements, the imperfection presented as perfection plays a central role. “One can (and should) allow for various kinds of random actions/events in art-making, technically or otherwise (...)"24 Let the unexpected happen!
One of the well known glitch artists nowadays is Rosa Menkman. A 31-year-old dutch artist, living and working in London, who we had the honor to listen to as she gave a lecture during the project-week at the Academy. In a very fun way she presented and explained about her work. One very interesting thing she mentioned is that people tend to always think in squares and rectangles when it comes to any visualization. It's true I think - from screen to books and posters. Rectangle, rectangle and another rectangle. We somehow seem to see the rectangular form as the perfect and the norm. Then she showed a very inspiring example of how to get away from the rectangle form or where the rectangular form was broken.
But not only she also other people have used the glitch art in their work. Silke Briel (studied 2003-2009 Visual Communication at Berlin University of Art) deals with repetition in her Diploma piece. She uses the technological error in order to visualize repetition. "When copying image material from photoshop to illustrator she came across a rendering fault. This meant that the respective design was divided into strips. It created graphic, abstract, organic looking forms. Briel decided to use this very mistakes as the basis for their design".25 In the end she came up with a poster series containing glitch image. Like Silke Briel so did Judith Damaris Metzinger in her graduation project at the University of Pfortzheim (Visual Communication). She dealt with imperfection/perfection and also used glitch art as a medium to visualize her ideas. Finishing with a book containing various glitch image she ordered them into different categories. From distorted family photos to typography and more digital emphasized visualizations, the book gives a colorful, repeated and distorted range of image - glitch-art.
All in all the glitch is an error or an imperfection which happens during a technical process. Using the glitch as a medium for visualization in the end everything comes down to principles of composition, color and personal taste.
7 - p E R F E C T i M P E R F E C T I O N
'To put it in a nutshell' as my english teachers used to say trying to teach us perfect English. Imperfection is something everyone fears. Whether in relationships or with our newly purchased smartphone even the smallest imperfection makes our temper arouse.
The term has some negative touch to it but needs to be observed from different angles. Imperfection carries the perfection itself. Imperfection create tension and asks for attention which can be of great use and effect. Furthermore imperfection describes something which is happening during a process. Whether technical or manual imperfections can't be avoided and more over should be cherished.
Imperfection is always judged by the viewers standpoint. Obviously they differ from one person to another as we are all born and raised in different cultures and circumstances they come with. Therefore something might be very perfect for one but imperfect for someone else. Influences through various indicators there is some kind of common taste and sense in our society to be recognizable.
From history we know that the human mind is poled to be focused on imperfection. It is something very natural, a habit which was essential many many years ago in order to survive. Seeing the smallest movements and thus things which did not fit drew attention and could be identified as possible danger. Therefore the imperfection will stand out easily.
Throughout social and technical changes graphic design is constantly changing as well. The Swiss Style during the 1950s made it into an international style which was seen as a way of perfection of graphic design. Based on mathematical grids and clear shapes it was to communicate its message in a clear way, free from all propaganda means. With increasing technological influence on the human life also graphic design changed. Nowadays everything has to be quick and perfect. The craftsmanship is given to the machines. We no longer leave the process to be unpredicted and open for imperfections. Advertisings are trying to brainwash us with a perfect picture world day in day out. Past designers tried more experimenting, failing and had no fear eventually declaring the imperfect for perfect. Nowadays that the economy is the main authority and everybody and everything is subject to it, also design is pushed to perfection by all the technology and doesn't really leave much space for people to embrace their creativity in any way possible. Especially through advertising picturing the perfect world. Graphic design becomes subject to such marketing strategies and gets chained to that perfect image - prostitution of the art. Fear and especially the fear of failing becomes a constant in our subconsciousness. Try to draw a circle by hand. Nearly impossible to draw it geometrically correct unless you have some helping tools of course. Seeking perfection can become quite frustrating.
With so much technology smog around us and increasing speed of our lives graphic design is pushed to a limit of perfection and is looking for new ways to escape the overpowering.
The first side is that more and more people chose for second-hand or handmade things.
Second-hand things simply because people are losing the connection to themselves. Through Ikea and other mass products there is no gap, no story to make their belongings unique and identify themselves with. On the other side handmade things because it is the re-connection with the human being and the human natural imperfections. They reflect in objects as they are not perfect copies but have small imperfections which make each single object unique and special for the user to identify with. A call out for something which indicates that their object is one of a kind and differentiates itself from the mass-production and therefore increases its value. One could go as far as saying that imperfection becomes a status symbol.
The second side is to use and try to understand such technology which separates us from being involved in the process. Glitch art is one way of using that exact error of technology and turning it to be the art itself. Glitch as a technological error also describes something happening during the process of designing.
And third and least a new way to approach designing as described in the manifesto on 'Conditional Design' by studio Moniker. By stepping away from all technology surrounding us and laying the focus on discovering the process as the product.
"Aren't the mistakes always more challenging, more interesting, more touching than sickening success stories?"26 It is the mistakes who make who we are. And the mistakes and imperfections who make the design we make. "Creating the most perfect, imperfect (...), embracing improbability, chaos and letting the world around us disturb mathematical perfection to make beauty"27 and perfect sense. In the end it's the arbitrariness of the imperfection which triggers and gives tension and value. Embracing the curly zucchini!
8 - a N D n O W
With the researched material on imperfection I want to continue with the visualization of its values and characteristics.
A 'Gewaechshaus der Imperfektion' will give space to explore the matter more. The term 'Gewaechshaus' can be translated into 'greenhouse' in English. A place where vegetables grow. Where a process takes place. Exactly where imperfection happens as well - during the process - wether controlled or uncontrolled. Also, the Gewächshaus will offer plenty of image material and a wide range of color and textures to be experimented with. Let the curly zucchini become alive again. Also the manifesto on 'Conditional Design - A manifesto for artists and designers' gives great inspiration which I want to include and focus on the process as the product.
a B S T R A C T
Imperfection can be observed everywhere. Personal, political or in art. If we strive for perfection one must realize that what is imperfect is firstly judged by the standpoint of the viewer, thus might be very different from one another. It is closely connected to failure as the imperfection is something which happens due to an error. Although it might seem negative one must look at it from different angles. Imperfection is something which happens during the process stage thus can be described as a state of being. Imperfection is the result of an arbitrary happening. Whether controlled or uncontrolled. Whether we fear it or cherish it. It is something creating tension among the viewer/s and can be of great value.
Throughout the history of graphic design there have been many rules set to make the perfect design. For example the Swiss Style with its clear and mathematical correctness. With the invention of technology many things also changed within the field of graphic design. Layer over layer. Typography ripped and squished. The art of designing obtained a different meaning.
The advertising world is showing us a perfect world day in day out, trying to push us into believing such promises of perfectness. Perfect smartphones and even in the supermarket all the fruits and vegetables are perfectly shiny and crisp - whether they actually have taste or not is a different question. Nevertheless the art of graphic design is lost in advertising and chained to the economic means. One could go as far as saying it's the prostitution of art. Our products are identical copies one just like the other and the smallest scratch and therefore imperfection makes our heart jump a beat. However it is impossible to identify oneself with such perfect products and people are screaming out for more individuality. Second-hand and hand-made objects are gaining enormous value with their small scratches and imperfections 'telling' their own stories. They are unique and stand out from the crowd.
Although many people fear imperfection it is exactly that little something which opens a new range for artists. With increasing technological reliance everything was pushed to be more and more perfect until our programs got so complex that also the machines are sometimes overwhelmed with the input and produce errors. Exact that error is used in Glitch-art. Using technical errors to create distorted and fragmented image material puts the imperfection created by technology into a different view and adds valuable characteristics.
"Through failure one has the potential to stumble on the unexpected..."(fOOTNOTE) - Embrace the curly zucchini!