Explorers of Tomorrow is the title of the first book project I completed at the Academy of Art University in Spring 2009. Up to this point our projects consisted of posters and small printed materials, so this was the first time we were pushed to develop a consistent visual language and extend it across multiple pages. The assignment was to take a subject of interest, research its future 10 years from the present, and display our findings in a book.
Growing up, one of my favorite books was Automobiles of the Future by Irwin Stambler. Written in the 60s, it imagined the automobile in the 80s, 90s, and even the new millenium. The book was a window to a strange parallel dimension, where everything inside was a streamlined, pastel version of reality. Its pages held promise, for the future of automobiles was about more than spark plugs and oil filters, it was the story of man’s struggle to better himself. At the same time, it was very naive and simplified the world of tomorrow to a utopia that answered all of the problems facing their society. It never considered the possibility that the future would have its own set of obstacles to overcome. But that was its biggest appeal to me, to see the ways our society had advanced so far from their wildest dreams, yet fallen short on its fundamental ideals.
Space exploration has always been a fascination of mine. With that in mind I began to think about our future. 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight, and I thought it would be interesting to look at the future of space exploration 10 years from the present, but from the perspective of writers in the past. Specifically, I wanted to look at how a society that had just landed on the moon would view space travel in the future: how would our idea of 2019 compare to a society’s that looked to the stars for answers?
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Room557 is the recently launched blog of Academy of Art University instructors Hunter Wimmer and Anitra Nottingham. I’ve had the good luck of studying under Hunter numerous times at the Academy. His advisement has been instrumental in pushing me to improve my work at every step, and I wanted to share one of his teachings that has had an important impact on my design education.
Hunter was responsible for giving me my first (but sadly not my last) failing grade, and although it was hard to stomach at the time, it was a much needed wake up call. Up to that point my barometer for successful design was how “cool” something looked. I didn’t understand the importance of having a strong concept, choosing appropriate typefaces, or using relevant materials. I saw little value in learning how to comp, bind, or print on anything other than my Epson. I didn’t understand the importance of these things because I wanted to be a designer, not a salesman, typographer, printer, or bookbinder. Thankfully Hunter was there to explain Why “It” Matters:
Would you trust a civil engineer — who’s responsible for the stability of bridges and the like — if there was a math error on their cost-estimate? Would you trust a mechanic who drives a broken-down hatchback? Would you trust a personal trainer with love handles? Now, I don’t care if my engineer has love handles or if my personal trainer drives a smoking Hyundai, but there are minimum expectations in each profession. In order for a personal trainer to convey a sense of health and well-being (and that they’ve mastered it enough to pass it on to me), they should also be fit, right?
Where does that leave the graphic designer?
When you fail you can take it one of two ways: as a rejection of yourself, who you are and your talent as a designer, or as practice, an experiment that isn’t successful… yet. Once I was able see the latter I could ask myself what was expected of my work and where it was falling short. As designers we are called to be communicators, aesthetes, conceptual-thinkers, and craftsmen. Now that the dust has settled from another semester it’s nice to go back and be reminded of what we’re called to do, why it can be frustrating, but ultimately what makes it so fulfilling when countless hours of practice result in that brief moment of success, before we go back and repeat the whole process all over again. If you are a designer or have any interest in the profession, Hunter’s informative post is well worth the read.