I've been asked to write a short essay for the last DAE Source Publication, summing up the work of MA students on a commissioned project from E.ON. You can find the text below.

B → Books
G → Graphic Design
L → Identity
I → Illustration
W → Writing
N → Event
M → Music

Radical design: searching for the unruly W


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Radical design: searching for the unruly

The question to research future scenarios for energy production forces designers to enter unknown territories. Giovanni Pezzato, MA student at the Information Design department, saw E.ON’s question as an invitation to examine the language of design.

How continuous is a word in time? How boundless does it become the instant we have pronounced it? It surfaces as we talk and leaves an invisible but unappeasable trace. In contrast, definitions are dry, raw and incomplete, demanding the help of other words in order to bring us from the unruly Spoken to the rigorous Rational. Some words more than others are in need of a different – less rigid, less settled – definition. These are, in particular, words expressing a far-off-center concept, ideas that escape from 'normality' and are, therefore, more interesting. Such words probably demand a geometrical and geographical definition.

If we consider notions such as “normality”, “average”, “equilibrium” and “center” as planar concepts – solid, sturdy, hard to move from its own flat position –then words like “radical” and “extreme” gain profoundly different connotations. Delimited by bundaries, the radical is still defined by the planar dimension, yet escapes from it. It unsettles the planar surface, giving it a perpendicular direction with the movement of growth and expansion. The radical alludes to a non-planar geometry and it is characterized by an anti-geographical movement. It does not destroy but enhances, as it passes through the exact center, the very heart of the quiet state of normality.

Extreme on the other hand is geographic and strictly geometrical. Most of all it remains planar, it does not elevate and it does not have any movement. Extreme is first of all a rigid definition: in and out, internal and external space; extreme is about boundaries, irregular borders, in the grip of a chaotic and unpredictable flow, ready to rise up and expand. It operates on the borders of “normality”, the planar quiet status, never touching the center. It searches its place where space is off-limits. In the end radical could be described as an attitude; extreme marks a position. Attitude moves inside and through the very center, while position lurks – aggressively – at the very edges of the flat plane.

What happens when designers are confronted with the big, crucial questions of our age? Their visions have to be radical instead of extreme in order to evoke the necessary shift of perspective: through the very core – the center –, out of the flat plane. They have to be enhancing, non-planar, non-geographic. They have to be fresh and flexible like the spoken word, not a rigid and fragile definition.

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