Axiology Within a Designed Object Ontology
The Center On Halsted: A Case Study on Virtue Signaling
On valuing the things we make
1,556 words | 7 minutes
Design is the effective assemblage of possibility. Now, stating this outright may seem strange, but it is from this initial postulate that we’ll first analyze what design actually means ontologically and consistently. This is about something whole being greater than its individual parts, i.e. that “the possible can also be seen as an inherent structure in virtually all” designs. Design is thus all around us. It can be happen, and it can be done. It “evolves at the threshold of actuality. It is a dimension of the actual that both transcends the actual and is inherent in it.” The implications here, of course, are tied inextricably to notions of morality. But as a historiographic line of published philosophical inquiry, the morality and ethics of designed objects has followed steadily in tandem with the growth and dissemination of newer digital technologies (as has everything, really) — and for good reason.
The Wrong Way Is the Right Way
On an LGBT capital campaign
2,273 words | 10 minutes
The Center on Halsted is a 175,000 square-foot lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons’ community amenity located at 3656 North Halsted Street in the heart of Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. It was initially funded through an aggressive capital campaign, ultimately raising over $20 million to establish the Center and begin programming. Simultaneously then built and branded by architecture firm Gensler and design agency Sparc, respectively, the Center’s unifying message promised “a utopia or a model for all community centers.” This case study examines the capital campaign as a place branding instrument, comparing and contrasting a ten-year timeline of results against best practices for effective sociospatial marketing today.
Introduction to Intradesign
On the artistic legitimacy of the GIF
2,443 words | 11 minutes
In 1967, American artist John Baldessari stood in front of an Arecaceae palm tree outside the front of his one-story West Coast house. His wife, Carol Ann Wixom, snapped a picture of him, which he then emulsified over a 59x45inch canvas, adding, in capitalized, acrylic letters below, "WRONG." This piece, appropriately titled Wrong (1967) — and currently owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), is one of the artist’s most iconic works: it encapsulates the conceptual tsunami that washed over the art world in the 1960s — a wave that had been picking up power since the works and endeavors of Marcel Duchamp about fifty years earlier. These efforts combined proverbially cleared the ground for the state of emerging art today, work that is more challenging to the art world than ever before.
How Branding Helped Get a 28-Year-Old Nominated to Congress
On designing for people in places
1,695 words | 7 minutes, 30 seconds
This introduction will give an overview of the Intradesign methodology, which is the outcome of prior applied theory studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), followed by the focused presentation of the methodology’s application to an ongoing place branding case study. The Intradesign methodology embraces the necessity of autopoietic cybernetic systems, emphasizing management of forces in regulatory relationships as opposed to “problem-solving.” We apply these lessons to the design typology of branding because branding (like politics) exists between signalers and receivers, and we are concerned with the research domain of place branding because the new domain is increasingly employed around the world as a substitute for disciplinary institutions.
Rebranding the Right
On branding democratic primaries
1,207 words | 5 minutes
What’s particularly interesting about 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent 57.5% to 42.5% Democratic primary upset is not that the candidate has never held political office, or that she could be the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; it’s that the grassroots campaign that buoyed her candidacy was pooled around a brand identity remarkably different from anything across the current political design landscape. It’s an identity system built and executed thoughtfully and cleverly. But is the brand truly, as publications from the Washington Post to Vox have claimed, “radical?”
On contemporary conservative symbolism
1,131 words | 5 minutes
The swastika is so 1941. At least that’s what the National Socialist Movement (NSM), an American neo-Nazi political party, wants you to think. Following the ascension of Donald J. Trump from branding and business mogul to the office of the 45th President of the United States of America, Jeff Schoep, leader of the NSM, was quoted in the New York Times saying it was time for his party “to become more integrated and more mainstream.” Put another way: The world’s greatest marketer was just elected to the highest office in the land. And neo-Nazis and alt-right conservatives are all starting to take note of the power of branding and dogwhistle political visuals and signals in the age of instant information and opinion.
No Thought Is Worth a Second Thought
On the 2016 election campaigns
2,312 words | 10 minutes
Eight years ago, the flag for presidential campaign identity systems was raised full mast. Part of this was, of course, due to the simultaneous rise of social media and both the digitization and democratization of design tools. But it’s a logo for a then-junior senator from Illinois that’s the true pivoting moment for American political design, when the Windy City’s very own Sender LLC created the now iconic Barack Obama “O,” a multi-layered and flexible capital mark. The logo, conceptually versatile and geometrically extrapolated into an unimpeachable visual identity, was paired later in the presidential campaign with the Gotham typeface, originally commissioned by GQ magazine in 2000, created by the Hoefler & Frere-Jones foundry (since 2014 just Hoefler & Co. — a moment of silence, please). And the rest is, quite literally, history.
Municipal Feng Shui
On the life and work of Ellsworth Kelly
1,545 words | 7 minutes
One of my visual object analysis assignments at the University of Iowa (UI) once forced me to actually get up and go somewhere. I had to take a self-guided tour inside the UI Hospitals and Clinics — a labyrinthian complex that we were told houses a charming collection of art that’s more or less peppered around for patient recovery. Inside, among the obligatory, didactic Grant Wood drawings was nestled inexplicably a simple, framed, silkscreened green curve thing: a yawning arch balanced convergently on a sharp, downward point; a perfectly parabolic, vividly verdant polygon saying nothin. Ink on paper. And scribbled small in the bottom right-hand corner, in pencil, “Ellsworth Kelly, 1988.” I thought I must know everything about this. And who is she, this Ellsworth Kelly?
On a public library in Chinatown
4,010 words | 18 minutes
Completed in 2015 and self-billed as “a new civic, educational, and social hub for Chicago’s historic Chinatown neighborhood,” American architecture, urban planning, and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) recent 16,370-foot Chicago Public Library (CPL) branch is already being celebrated by architectural writers and critics as a wild success — one that, as the Chicago Tribune (the Trib) would have you believe, “breaks [the] cookie cutter mold” of what a library has always traditionally both been and intended to be. But whether or not the building truly, effectively reflects the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng shui — an architectural must for such a context — in conjunction with the ever-evolving demands of civic and public urban space utilization, is the central investigation of this essay.