Major Context Research Proposal

The deadline for the hand-in of the first context research proposal is getting closer, only a few days left! Even if I have already been thinking a lot about research questions even before the “Context Launch” two weeks ago, I still find it a short time and quite a struggle to settle on one question in only three weeks, as it has to be something that interests me enough to be able to work on it for nine months! But I guess we have to start somewhere.

Listening to the MA students presenting their current questions/projects has showed me that my question can be anything. That doesn’t make my settling to one question easier though.

Thinking about what I am doing right now and what I am interested about (and thinking a lot), it made me reflect about the combinations of illustrations and typography, the extremes of both, about how people often prefer illustrations/drawings rather than only type-based things, especially in posters, or at least that’s what I have often been confronted with in my professional experiences. As in that people often seem more interested in my drawings/illustrations rather than my editorial/typographical work, without looking at concepts or content. This might just mean that different things appeal to different people and, agreed, typography is not (yet) as universal and interesting for everyone, whereas people like looking at nice things, which I find a bit frustrating as it is not what I am looking for.

The fact that illustration is often chosen over typography and estimated higher made me think– what is defined as an image?
Does it have to be something you look at and know it is an image, such as an illustration or photography? Why is typography not defined as an image? Where do images stop and where does life begin? What is it that we perceive, how do we perceive it?
How to we perceive our environment?

My thoughts about how I could combine illustration and typography in my future designs without making them senseless or just about the looks have now moved on towards perception. How do different people perceive the same things?
What makes some things stand out more than others? How do we observe?

Graphic Design is considered Visual Communication. It is therefore obvious that first of all, we perceive our environment through sight. Meaning that we also perceive posters, magazines, websites, information through sight.
As Saul Bass says: “Design is thinking made visual.”

Or at least consciously we experience our environment through sight.
But that’s not our only source of perception.
We perceive our environment through all of our senses, sight, sound, feel, smell and taste. Some more than others (especially for the ‘taste’ part). Everything is an experience, on a lower or bigger scale. As we are moving more towards digital, print and objects become more valuable and especially more perceived, as we touch the paper, smell the bookpages, touch the letterpressed letters and hear the cracking of an opened packaging.

Michel Serres’ Five Senses confirm my impression of an unconscious registration of our environment. It stands in opposition to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. But I still have to research more about both philosophies.

So for now, I am thinking about how it is possible to involve the five senses into the experience and the area of Graphic Design. After all I am not learning to be a cook, nor a product or interior designer. Yet I don’t want to limit myself already.

What is the future of Graphic Design going to look like? Over years and years, as the industry required it, fine artists turned to commercial projects, doing posters and logotypes. Now Art and Design seem to be two separate things. However, Graphic Design is becoming more and more universal, applied to uncountable supports, products and services, it is reaching out over the borders of simply image-type-based. So is Design becoming one big category, re-uniting crafts of different categories and collaborations?
What are the limits of Graphic Design? What is Graphic Design today?

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