Connect the Dots: Graphic Design, Politics and Criticism

KPerry-Prism

Connect the Dots was the title of an evening of two talks on graphic design, politics and criticism at the London College of Communication, on the 16 January 2014. The first explored the Conservative Party’s use of the billboard poster prior to the British General Election between 1979 and 2010. The second proposed a definition of the terms ‘critical design’ and ‘critical practice’ through a series of case studies.

Introduction
The event took its title from the National Security Agency’s document released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Qatar-based media network Al Jazeera, in which US officials are informed of ‘Sound Bites That Resonate’ in order to justify the global surveillance programme revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Connect the Dots took place in the context of a series of workshops run by Francisco Laranjo at the LCC with the BA Graphic Media Design and MA Graphic Design students. It aimed to provide a forum to discuss what the words ‘critical’ and ‘political’ mean in relation to graphic design in times of financial crisis.right 1Connect the Dots, event’s poster, 70 x 100 cm Connect the Dots

Politico-visual aesthetic: the Conservative Party’s Visual Language
This talk explores the Conservative Party’s use of the billboard poster prior to the British General Election between 1979 and 2010. This research establishes visual tropes specific to the political poster and in contrast to the commercial use of the same space. In order to engage fully with the material, a practice-based visual methodology has been constructed. This system considers the breadth of material produced within the time-frame, breaking apart these posters into their individual components and reconfiguring them across various criteria, such as ‘health’ or ‘economy’, themes that are recurrent in political visual communication.

Kevin Dowd is a research student at Kingston University, London. His practice-based research explores the potential use of the visual tools of graphic design to further engage with visual material. The continued focus of his research is political visual communication.

Critical of What? Criticality in Graphic Design
This talk will be divided into two parts, both of which are interrelated. Firstly, a clarification of the differences between the terms critical design and critical practice will be suggested, whilst making a distinction from political propaganda. Secondly, a series of on-going research projects will be evoked in order to speculate on how graphic design methods can help developing a critical practice. These include investigations on gambling, “the markets” and the visual manifestations of the surveillance programme PRISM.

Francisco Laranjo is a graphic designer and research student at the London College of Communication. His practice-led research investigates the role and methodological possibilities of criticism – particularly criticism in practice – in the context of the emergence of terminology such as critical design and critical practice.

The talks were followed by a discussion moderated by Teal Triggs (Associate Dean, School of Communication, Royal College of Art).

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1. Connect the Dots, event’s poster, 70 x 100 cm Connect the Dots

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