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Open Manifesto

The means by which we find our way.

An essay by A.W.

{10th of December 2008}


Somewhere towards the end of my time spent at university, gaining a double major in Art and English, I began calling myself a graphic designer instead of a graphic artist. I am sure this reflected the trends of the time (the late 90s), but I was confident that this new label held more prestige, suggesting a range of skills but not limiting me in capability. Years later, I now teach graphic design, but identify myself as a designer; an open-ended, vague description that conveys solutions that are not limited to material or purpose. Under the banner of designer I can make contemporary artwork or suggest ideas to civic problems, as well as create a typeface or a logo.


Design is in fact another way to see and respond to our surroundings. As designers we interpret and comprehend through reading additional layers of information that are attached to every sign. We respond to ‘things designed’ as makers and visual consumers, placing value on their aesthetic, functionality, craftsmanship, decorative detail, use of type and choice in image/illustration of the thing designed. Design joins a list of ideologies and beliefs attached to the way we interpret the world. It is not surprising to see design becoming an -ism. We are already overwhelmed by design’s volume and scale. The –ism gives design the impetus to give back what it has been taking, while being the bedfellow to globalism, capitalism and excess.


The things we create (designs, motifs and compositions) reflect our own experiences as designers. The combination makes us distinguishable from the next; being distinguishable, another word for unique and unique being praised as individual. As designers we ply these minute and often grand differences in style and wit as reasons for the potential success of a campaign or branding strategy or as our reason for our generating a response (any response).


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Andrea Wilkinson is a Senior Lecturer in Design and Graphic Design Coordinator at the School of Media Arts, Waikato Institute of Technology. Originally hailing from a small town in the American state of Missouri she worked in a variety of design positions in The States before going on to receive her Post-graduate degree in Transmedia from Sint-Lukas in Brussels, Belgium. Her research interests include: the response/ability of graphic designers to respond to non-traditional design problems, using text as a vehicle/medium for exchange and design education. She lives in Hamilton, New Zealand with her partner and their cat Edward.