Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Identity through Design

(Originally posted on youNEQ on 7/25/10)

This weekend, I watched "Helvetica" again.  If you haven't seen it before, it's a wonderful documentary about the history of the Helvetica font.  What makes it such a good re-watch is that, as it explores the history of Helvetica, it also manages to explore the entire history of post-war graphic design.  And during this exploration you encounter many of the great graphic design luminaries of the past 70 years.

What struck me this time in particular was the the notion that we express our identity through our design choices.

The last statement of the movie is by Rick Poynor, a noted thinker on cultural criticism and design theory. His final thought is roughly the following:
To care about [design] in the way that you care about the clothing you are wearing, as an expression of who you are, or your haircut ... or how you decorate your apartment ...  
We accept the idea of identity being expressed in that way, through these consumer choices, well now it’s happening in the sphere of visual communication and there’s no reason -- as the tools become ever more sophisticated -- why this just won’t go on developing and developing and developing.
I think that Mr. Poynor is exactly right and I also believe that there is no reason that this line of analysis is limited to graphic design.  People want everything in their life to speak to them and their personal identity -- including their belongings.  Belongings can also work as an expression of self and identity.  People should not simply be limited to making "consumer choices" when they choose how to express their identity.   This is one of the cornerstones of the youNEQ project.  We look forward to exploring it with you. 

-- Hank

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Dividends and Preferences by Hank Heyming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.