Spotted in Seattle: DC Web Stencil Kit
Collaborative Design Practices: Making the Design

The End of Finality

Really Done

Preparing comps with Letraset and rubylith. Shooting the pasted-up layouts on the stat camera. God, some days I really miss you.

A month ago, my band decided to break up. I was tasked with making the poster for our final gig. As we played through songs at practice, I couldn't get a feeling out of my body: the idea that as this band would be no more -- torn asunder, in a sense -- the poster would need to be made of torn type and imagery, which I would then photograph and throw out. The act of performing music, the making of the poster, and the end of the band would be one and the same in the design.

Of course, the final design didn't express all of those qualities -- that would be impossible. But the act of making the poster, layer by layer, was cathartic. Especially because in the end, I was my own client and could do away with the materials as I so chose, without fear.

And my bandmates thought the poster was good. Except, of course, they wanted to know if I could make a revision and remove the words "final show" from the poster. Which, of course, was impossible. I would need to create an entirely new poster to accommodate the change. A serious lack of foresight on my part, not assembling the work within the computer to allow change.

Or, if looked at in another way, I had chosen that working process in order to (subconsciously) avoid change entirely.

Nowadays, everything has a certain kind of spit and polish that creates a gorgeous illusion of finality and a continual possibility of change. This goes for everything from slick corporate graphics to brand materials from Starbucks that are designed within an inch of their lives to feel handmade.

When I think of the evolution of our medium, and how we continue to acquire and repurpose various media as new things for us to design, I yearn in an unhealthy manner for closure no matter whether the final result is "done" -- not as a sculpted result, but as simply showing things as they were in their last state of being. The physical process of the medium -- idea to negative to plate to paper -- makes the idea of perfection, well, imperfect. Tear the work out of our hands, and that is who we were at that moment. Can't we embrace it?

We strive for each impression on the printing press to be exactly the same, or cross-browser compatibility for our site so that the layout doesn't "break." Would it be possible to sustain new kinds of brands that would embrace imperfection beyond Twitter's fail whale?

I am envisioning brands that are geared around sustainable methods of production, and choosing to have "messy" brand materials as part of their overall ethos. There are plenty of companies out there that have messy brands, but they are modulated to be that way. I'm thinking about taking it to the next level -- about making a brand that is literally made from "recycled" materials. As a thought experiment, this could be gorgeous or a total wreck.

The computer has been both a blessing and a curse for our profession. It blows my mind that I am only partway into my third decade, spending 60 hours a week or more using a computer as a core part of my livelihood, and already feeling like some kind of Luddite.


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