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Human design with all of its imperfections and flaws is an important distinguishing component in the age of technology, and it needs to be made visible in the design work that we produce. Faced with machines that outperform humans in a variety of tasks, we are forced to re-examine the roles and design methods for the Posthuman epoch and develop radically human creative approaches to pave the way for formal experimentation in the age of the algorithm. A key component of the Posthuman aesthetic is therefore an insertion of the human element of unpredictability and absurdity into technocratic cultural paradigms.

- Anastasiia Raina, “What Does ‘Posthuman Design’ Actually Mean?”


Human withu al imperfe and fl an imp t distingu comp in the

FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN


n design ll of its u fections laws is portant t uishing ponent age of

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Thesis Book developed and designed by Jenna Benoit Boston University MFA Graphic Design 2021


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CONT ENTS


INTRODUCTION TO FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN 41 PAST WORK 47 IN CONVERSATION WITH 67 THE EXPERIMENTS 89 EXHIBITION

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INTROT DUC -TION to flawed human design


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AI. Computer-generated perfection. Where does the value of a living, breathing designer lie? When does the pursuit of perfection become obsolete? What happens when we deliberately separate ourselves from creating perfection? When we embrace human flaw? When we embrace the unpredictability, the imperfect, the uncertainty of being a human? When we actively bring higher value to what cannot be perfect, when we break the tool and use it in new ways? What happens when we create chaos in a way that computers cannot? When we exploit the fact that while we cannot be perfect, a computer will never be imperfect? When we define THAT as the COMPUTER’S biggest flaw? That it will never be unpredictable, or absurd, or uncertain? What happens when we as designers redefine our flaws? What happens when we exploit them, bolster them, and use them to enter realms of design that AI could not? To create new definitions of what design can be? To innovate when perfection means staying the course? When we define a flaw as a design advantage?

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flawed flawed flawed flawed flawed flawed flawed

human human human human human human human

design design design design design design design

WHAT IS IT? 15


FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN

Designers are troubleshooters. Fixers. We strive to design so well, so perfectly, that our efforts are invisible. We are trained to design perfection. However, as more time goes by, and more technology is improved and advanced, it seems that there will be something created that will be able to create perfection without the hinderance of human flaw and process. Sites like Canva allude to this future, where AI can create a design for you quickly and cheaply. In the face of what is inevitably coming, we as designers become insecure about our place in this field. What can we possibly do that is better than perfect? That solidifies a need for us to keep designing for a world that seemingly will need us less and less? I identify with these insecurities because, as you’ll see in all of my work, I am not

a designer that hinges of perfection. I operate in heavy process, in the uncertainty of breaking tools, in dynamic and loud design. I believe in the value of injecting myself into my work physically and breaking the golden rule of invisible design in order to push the boundaries of ownership and individuality. I believe in unapologetic expression, even in this medium where there is the constant presence of rules and structure. In many ways my design is wholly imperfect, even sometimes ugly. Which is why the opening quote of this book resonated enough for me to create an entire thesis around it. We must stop trying to be better than perfect, because we never can be. We must instead be everything a computer isn’t. We must embrace flawed


WHAT IS IT?

human design. As you read on you will see how I interpret flawed human design and its importance, how I was unconsciously heading in this direction as a designer from the beginning of my time as a graduate student, and how I will approach design in this way in the future.

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The subject of this thesis is flawed human design; what it is and why we need to embrace it. However, to fully grasp my journey of landing on this methodology, I’ll need to take you back about six months ago, when I had never heard of the term ‘flawed human design’. My original idea was to base my thesis explorations on street art. This made sense as street art and graffiti, as you’ll soon see in much of the work I’ve produced these past two years, is a large influence on my style. One of my favorite artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat, became a favorite because of his history as the street artist SAMO (Fig 1), and his formal work that always retained the same urgency and feeling (Fig 2).

Fig 1 Basquiat as SAMO by Edo Bertoglio, “Ignorant,” 1981 Fig 2 “Tuxedo,” Basquait, 1982


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Jim Joe (Fig 3) is a more recent example of a street artist that finds himself in my list of influencers, although I find more graphic sensibilities in his work, such as his use of typography and simplicity. I wanted to pay homage to these influences, and at the beginning of my third semester at BU I answered a “50 Questions” prompt by creating a digital poster illustrating 50 different questions I wanted to ask in my thesis related to the topic. (Fig 4) However, as we began working more fervently on honing our thesis ideas, I began to realize that I wasn’t sure about street art as a topic. While all of the above is true, at the end of the day a thesis about street art isn’t quite connected with me as a designer. I realized I wanted my thesis to reflect me and my culmination of work and study in the graduate program. So, I began thinking critically about why I’d wanted to choose street art as a focus in the first place. For one thing, it reflects many aspects of my own design style. I enjoy layering, collage, dynamic composition, a touch of imperfection or even unexpected ugliness. I like that it is an intrinsically human thing to go out and express yourself through art in a public space, whether or not it is allowed to be there; to occupy space and do it defiantly. I admire it’s sense of urgency and spontaneity— it’s mostly a one shot deal. Do it once and it’s there. I love that it is inherently provocative, both in its existence and in its content.

Fig 3 “I’ve Been In This Club Too Long,” Jim Joe, 2011 Fig 4 “50 Questions,” Jenna Benoit, 2020

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Right as I had began making these revelations, we were assigned an article in our design theory class titled, “What Does ‘Posthuman Design’ Actually Mean?” by Margaret Andersen, in which she interviews RISD professor Anastasiia Raina about her Posthuman Design course. This is when I was introduced to the phrase ‘flawed human design’. In Raina’s opinion, “Human design with all of its imperfections and flaws is an important distinguishing component in the age of technology, and it needs to be made visible in the design work that we produce. Faced with machines that outperform humans in a variety of tasks, we are forced to re-examine the roles and design methods for the Posthuman epoch and develop radically human creative approaches to pave the way for formal experimentation in the age of the algorithm. A key component of the Posthuman aesthetic is therefore an insertion of the human element of unpredictability and absurdity into technocratic cultural paradigms.”1 This, as well as the rest of the article, made the lightbulb over my head come on. Everything I had been thinking about, everything I love about street art and about my own design, fell into this category of radically human design. I decided, then, that I would use my thesis to explore the concept and methodology of flawed human design through my own interpretations of it. And my interpretations begin here: they tend to lean less toward the futuristic and scientific examples from the student work that has been born out of the Posthuman Design course

at RISD, like the questioning of emerging technologies such as deep fakes in Atomic Beauties by Nick Konrad (Fig 5), and more towards manipulating analog processes and machines in unpredictable ways that in turn result in designs that could not be replicated totally by technology unaided by humans. I want to solely create design that must involve me, and could never be handed off to any sort of AI and be successfully remade. I also look to raise the perceived value of human flaw and mistakes in the wake of technological perfection. You could say where Anastasiia leans toward humans understanding nonhumans through design, I use my views on flawed human design to help humans understand ourselves through design, and embrace what we find.

1. Andersen, Margaret. “What Does ‘Posthuman Design’ Actually Mean?” Eye on Design, AIGA, 27 May 2019, eyeondesign.aiga.org/what-does-posthumandesign-actually-mean/.


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I use my views sw Fig 5 “Atomic Beauties,” Nick Konrad, 2019

on flawed human design to help humans understand ourselves through 21 design


Figure 6: "REPEAT YOUR MISTAKES", Jim Joe, 2016 FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN


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k Computers FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN

Cannot Create Chaos. I started by researching things that don’t totally pertain to design, but rather pertain to computers and emerging AI technology. Though there are endless articles singing the praises of each new technology and its potential, I was on the hunt for articles that specified what AI cannot do. Things that have not been perfected by computers yet, and maybe never will be. Mostly, I wanted to find what AI is currently getting wrong. One of the most interesting articles I stumbled across was a Science Alert article written in 2019. In it, they reported that scientists discovered in a new study that, “complex calculations performed by computers can be off by as much as 15 percent, due to a ‘pathological’ inability to grasp the true mathematical complexity of chaotic dynamical systems.”2 Meaning, computers cannot understand chaos. You’d think this wouldn’t be an issue; computers perform perfect math,

isn’t that the outcome you would want from a totally perfected machine? However, these scientists note that chaos is much more commonplace than we truly understand, and is present all around us. As the article illustrates, it is actually necessary in order to balance everything out, and not understanding, embracing and applying it creates fundamental mathematical errors. This was incredibly fascinating because I was already starting to work with the concept of unpredictability, and this was yet another puzzle piece I was able to add. So, this idea of chaos became another facet of what I feel I should be experimenting with in my methodology of flawed human design. If it is something a computer cannot understand, much less perform, than we should take advantage of our ability to do so. This is seen later in one of my scanner experiments in which I literally use the word


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“chaos” to display my findings while manipulating the machine in different ways.

2. Dockrill, Peter. “Computers Are Making Huge Mistakes Because They Can't Understand Chaos, Scientists Warn.” Tech, ScienceAlert, 27 Sept. 2019, www.sciencealert.com/computers-are-making-hugemistakes-because-they-can-t-understand-chaosscientists-warn#:~:text

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Another more recent article published on MIT Technology Review in February 2020 titled “What AI Still Can’t Do” is one I also found interesting. We tend to focus so much on what we can achieve with AI that we often don’t see that it is still in many ways in its infancy, with many bugs still needing to be worked out. One of these bugs, as the article illustrates, is the inability to understand causation. Machinelearning systems can apparently be confounded by situations they haven’t seen before, situations that humans could handle quite easily. They write that these systems, “see that some events are associated with other events, but they don’t ascertain which things directly make other things happen. It’s as if you knew that the presence of clouds made rain likelier, but you didn’t know clouds caused rain.”3 They cannot understand simple cause and effect, and the consensus is that AI growth and progress will stall if they do not figure out this issue. Though the idea of causation is something I use less as an element of design than chaos, it still has it’s place in my philosophies about valuing what humans can do that AI still, so far, cannot.

3. Bergstein, Brian. “What AI Still Can't Do.” Artificial Intelligence, MIT Technology Review, 19 Feb. 2020, www.technologyreview.com/2020/02/19/868178/ what-ai-still-cant-do/.


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Glitch As Correction Aside from looking at tech, I also researched other artists or artistic movements that may be expressing similar ideas as I am. I found many similarities between my growing methodology and another digital movement coined by Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism (Fig 9). While much of my methodology in flawed human design leans toward physical aesthetics and visual experimentation rather than fully digital outputs, the current social issues that Glitch Feminism highlights find a place in it as well. Russell focuses on the term “glitch” and its inherent negative connotations (Fig 8). She reflects on our fears as a society in reaction to any digital malfunctions, any defect in the machine. In Russell’s words, she explains that Glitch Feminism, “embraces the causality of ‘error’, and turns the gloomy implication of glitch on its ear by acknowledging that an error in a social system that has already been disturbed by economic, racial, social, sexual, and cultural stratification and the imperialist wrecking-ball of globalization—processes that

continue to enact violence on all bodies—may not, in fact, be an error at all, but rather a much-needed erratum. This glitch is a correction to the 'machine’, and, in turn, a positive departure…a breaking from the hegemony of a ‘structured system’.”4 There are many parallels between Russell's line of thinking and mine; she seeks to elevate the value of the glitch in the same way that I seek to elevate the value of the human flaw, which can also be defined as a sort of glitch in the human system. The disturbance of perfection being seen as a correction rather than a mistake, elevating the importance of human involvement in design— especially marginalized humans — has become a facet of my interpretation of flawed human design as I’ve learned more about Russell and Glitch Feminism. It has helped to reinforce my own ideas about imperfection and unpredictability in design as a representation of us as human beings. The importance of this representation goes hand in hand with the need for representation in other arenas of race, gender,


WHAT IS IT?

sexual orientation and beyond. It is about rocking the boat and including all. Showcasing what isn’t normally showcased; what society may not want showcased.

4. Russell, Legacy. “Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto .” Cyborgology, The Society Pages, 10 Dec. 2012, thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/12/10/digital-dualism-and-the-glitch-feminism-manifesto/.

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Fig 8 Stills from the “Glitch Feminism Manifesto,” Legacy Russell, 2019

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Figure 9: "Glitch Feminism Manifesto", Legacy Russell, 2019 FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN


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s i y h W flawed human design t n a t r o p so Im me? to 37


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Which leads me to the big question: Why is flawed human design so important to me? Why do I care enough about it to spend months defining and crafting my own methodology from it? One reason can be taken directly from the above paragraph — the importance of acceptance. This idea of perfection, it doesn’t live solely within the design world. It lives everywhere, especially now with the rise of social media influencers and curated online profiles showing everything perfect about a person’s life. For a while now people have been trying to begin deconstructing the damage caused by this performative perfection, especially on young, marginalized people that do not see themselves represented within this idea of “perfect”. I want my design to be relatable to those who see it. I want them to see me in it. A human being just like them, not a corporation behind yet another san serif logo. I want my design to represent humans, with all of the imperfect, uncertain, crazy, chaotic, messiness that comes along with it. I want people to feel comforted by seeing design that defiantly embraces flaws, things that “should be” edited out, things that many people might not want to see. I hope that these experiments I’m doing are a comfort to other designers feeling trapped within the notions of the “crystal goblet”, of invisible design, of constructs that become restraints.

j Constructs that become restraints


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Unfortunately, that being said, I don’t think flawed human design is always plausible. There are things that need to be designed flawlessly, or at least as flawlessly as possible. Machines used in hospitals, computers and phones, simple things we use every day like pens. If a pen doesn’t write, if a machine that is supposed to keep someone alive doesn’t work, that isn’t acceptable. There is no room for flawed human design there. It is important to acknowledge this, to acknowledge that even this methodology I find myself prescribing to has its flaws, because it would be irresponsible not to. Flawed human design flourishes in the visual, in our human interactions, in thoughts and concepts that can live within varying interpretations and viewpoints. Flawed human design flourishes in the way we view ourselves and our place as designers and as humans, in the ways we visually portray the messages we send and what those messages should be. But it does not flourish in situations where flaws mean injury or upheaval or an inability to move forward. Does that mean that this methodology, because of its inability to apply in every situation successfully, isn’t strong enough to stand next to other accepted design methodologies? Is it still worth pursuing if there are holes in the fabric?

journey of inquiry has taught me anything it is the importance of just that—inquiry. While I have this breathing room to experiment and live in a space where I can mess up and ask questions and make ugly art and learn lessons I can take with me even if most of this methodology stays a remnant of my graduate school graduate school experience, I will take full advantage and make mistakes every step of the way. These ideas are what I hope design can one day be; a space of total acceptance. Do I think that is where design will end up? Again, I have no idea. For now, this book acts as an example of my optimistic view of the future.

Well, I have no idea. But if this

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PAST

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WORK


q This section contains curated work from my two years in the graduate graphic design program at Boston University. I handpicked this work because it creates a foundation for my flawed human design methodology. One reason why I resonated with flawed human design so much is because my work embodies a lot of the philosophies of it, like uncertainty, unpredictability, and chaos. These works were the stepping stones that led me to flawed human design, and showcase my own personal design style as it evolved through the program.

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FLOW, 2019 This Typography project was one of the first I did at BU. The prompt was to portray the word “flow” without explicitly using the word, and it was my first foray into experimenting with my scanner. I would move the paper around in different ways on the glass as it scanned, resulting in wavy, “flowy” compositions. What I loved was the process of moving the paper around and not being able to control what the outcome was. I’m sure an effect like this can be done in Photoshop, but I didn’t want a perfectly computer-generated design. I love that I can see the shadow and texture of the paper, and the moments you can see the black glass of the scanner. It is a controlled chaos, a moment where I let go of the reins and let the process dictate the outcome. I let the imperfections stand with the design rather than editing them out. They are an important part of the process.

GRAPUS, 2019 This project was a 50 iterations project, where I took a Grapus Exhibition Poster from 1982 and redesigned it 50 times. This was my most successful project of my first semester at BU, and solidified my interests in collage, urban environments, bold poster design, and activism in design.


RE-MEMORY, 2020 For this group project my fellow designers and I used a prompt rooted in collection and visual data to mimic the actions of our brains sifting through memories. Using wheatpaste and hundreds of self-designed posters, we portrayed the ebb and flow, the clarity and the haziness of memories by filming a time-lapse video of us creating an 8x8 composition of overlapping designs over a significant period of time.

REMIX, 2020 For this project we were called to pick two differing interests and create a design from them, and I chose nail art along with a song I had just found that was futuristic and 80’s inspired. I created posters that were incredibly digital, but felt they needed another, more physical layer. I then printed the posters and photographed them with a layer of plastic and spray paint over them and this was the final product.



COMMUNITY THROUGH —, 2020 I used “Community Through —” as a final culmination of the ideas and techniques I had been focusing on in my motion design class. I created posters that included an AR layer; this layer was a motion design layer of animated type, that could be seen if a special app was downloaded. I filmed myself stumbling upon the posters within the community I focused on and displaying the AR layer, while also including the elements layered within the video itself. Doing this provided a physical feel to the videos that I decided is a technique I will further explore in my thesis.


IN CON ATION

WITH e other designers


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e I conducted three interviews with other designers as a way to receive input about these ideas and gain perspective from people currently working in the field. I began by interviewing Kyla Arsadjaja, a recent graduate from the MFA program at Yale. Next, I had the privilege of interviewing the designer and writer that penned the article that began my journey with flawed human design, Margaret Andersen. Finally, I talked with a fellow BU MFA classmate, Chen Luo.

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Kyla Arsadjaja

Designer and Dancer

Fig 10 "Yale Dance Theater's D-Man in the Water's Poster," Kyla Arsadjaja, 2019

k

You recently presented your thesis work to our class, and I found it really interesting that it seemed like physical process is a big component of your design work and style. Is that a fair assessment? If so, how important is it to the final outcomes of your work?

Yes, it’s very important. Sometimes process even becomes the final outcome, even though that isn’t the initial plan. I even like to stop the project in the middle sometimes and let it develop organically, rather than sticking to the original project plan. I also really enjoy working with and involving other people because it takes me in different directions; they translate my initial ideas and develop them in numerous different ways. The process is a big, big part of my personal practice and I continue to do that. However, unfortunately it isn’t quite like that in the commercial graphic design world. Yeah it is definitely different, a bit more rigid. I think that’s sort of what Anastasiia alludes to in her article, though, trying to insert human processes into more commercial settings, although I’m not sure how we would go about doing that. But for me, these websites like Canva, these AI generated platforms where you can access base-level design


IN CONVERSATION WITH

quickly and cheaply, take away that component of process. There’s no process there. And also, like you said, when you’re collaborating and suddenly other designers’ inputs take the project somewhere you weren’t expecting and you end up landing on something even greater than the initial plan, those discoveries don’t happen. You get exactly what you’re presented, no deviation from the script, which is convenient but in my opinion lacking. I do wonder how we would go about injecting more process into a commercial design setting. With the right clients, I’m sure you could. But it is hard, based on my experience working in that setting. It may also depend on the project. I’ve worked on commission work before where there’s a client and they give me freedom to express these things, but even still with a client relationship, there has to be an output. Sometimes heavy design processes don’t produce a fixed outcome, which wouldn’t work. So I’m not sure! Aside from process, one of the things that's important to the idea of flawed human design is that sort of unpredictability of what you're making. Again, with a platform like Canva, it's step-by-step, it gives you exactly what you're looking for. Whereas, I showed you my scanner experiments and those things are very unpredictable and that's kind

of the core of why I do them, because the final compositions…I don't plan them and I couldn't plan them. I just, you know, take the paper and I move it around and then I get what I get and that's the beauty of them. So I think maybe if it's not a heavy process that we can inject into a commercial setting, maybe it's more of just a sort of unpredictability like this. But I'm also very transparent about the fact that it doesn't work in every scenario. I’ve talked to our professor and he’s pointed out that, of course, you don’t want flawed human design when you’re designing a machine that keeps people alive. Or a computer mouse. Design in these regards has to work, has to continue to be perfected, and rightly so. And again, even hearing what you said about whether or not these ideas would flourish in a commercial setting, it’s all answering my questions and bringing up new ones. I may come to the end of it and realize it isn’t plausible outside of whatever experiments I’ve done. But for my thesis, I liked the idea of exploring what could happen in a perfect world where perfection isn’t necessary. Where it would be a cool thing to take with us everywhere and embrace. Yeah. Maybe it's more like something that is a way of thinking, this methodology, something you keep to yourself, how you approach

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a project, even a commercial project. Like, there's already a branding guideline and you have to make a website or a poster based on those given branding guidelines. Maybe you can use this methodology to dictate how you approach or translate this branding guideline. Maybe there is a way to break these guidelines in a way that the output would work as a final outcome. Thinking more radically, outside of the box, maybe that's one way to approach it. And, you know, commercially people might hate that, but it's me saying, well, what if designers as a collective started doing this? I think we all have that little insecurity of, AI is getting better and people are getting cheap logos here and there. And it makes us a little nervous about what our place is going to be in 10 years time, what the landscape is going to turn into. So this is almost a place for that insecurity to flourish. I also think there’s something to be said about investing in uniqueness. A drawback of Canva is that there is a set number of outcomes there; whatever logo or flyer or poster you make is an amalgamation of what is being offered. Eventually what everyone makes from that platform will look the same, and the more people use it, the less differentiation there will be between everyone’s branding. However, I’m seeing more and more brands oversimplify and sans serif-ify their branding and it’s a bit nerve-racking.

I think the idea of a huge corporation using something like Canva, or something automated, it feels like that wouldn't happen. But again, 10 years from now, you just don't know. Because I'm looking at it now, and as you said, a lot of these commercial companies or corporations would totally be sold on this kind of design. It would take a person to weigh this out for a couple of days but on here it might take five minutes. It's scary. Exactly. And I think that's why with this methodology I’m saying, okay, if AI is going to become this perfect thing, maybe we should just go the other way with it. Rather than us trying to be perfect and trying to keep up with technology, which we know we're never going to do, what happens if we just embrace our human flaws and our own design? And part of what I'm trying to do with my thesis is to elevate that idea of flaw. I don't know if you've looked at Legacy Russell's work with Glitch Feminism? Oh, I think so! I was talking about that recently. She says something really interesting about how a glitch isn’t actually an error, but a correction. That was really poignant to me, because that's sort of what I'm looking at too, elevating these flaws and looking at them as opportunities rather than things to edit out. Reclaiming what


IN CONVERSATION WITH

Fig 11 Stills from “Studio Dansant,” Kyla Arsadjaja, 2020

they mean and giving a platform to what people might not normally see; in Russell’s space, it would be things or people that are marginalized or seen as less, there is a parallel to that and my ideas of embracing humanness. Yeah, totally! That's so relevant. Maybe that's also why a lot of my projects are related to movement and dance. I know I'm not a professional dancer and I'm not a professional in that field or industry. And maybe I'm also scared of graphic design, like sure, all computers can do that. Right. So I run away and try to be familiar with this other world. And just embracing the flaw of something that I’m not really familiar with.

Yes, because again, your work could never be replicated by something that's based on an algorithm. It wouldn't be able to do any of the experiments, the movements, anything that you're doing like that couldn't be replicated. And that's another thing that I'm doing: everything that I'm doing for my thesis, I'm making sure it has to be done by somebody, you can't take anything from my thesis and

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recreate it algorithmically. It has to be done either by me or someone would have to sort of copy my process in some way, shape or form in order to do it. And again, this is just me patting my insecurities in a lot of ways. Like, you need designers, look at, look at this book! You need me to make it! It’s something we are increasingly thinking about. And it’s a relevant conversation to have, and I like the fact that it doesn’t always work because I can sit back and make realizations; I know that won’t work, maybe that could cut it, that’s super interesting. It’s something to keep in mind when we’re working and thinking about how things are changing and whether or not we can successfully input some of these ideas.

I do believe that there companies and clients out there that appreciate the process more than what you see in a portfolio. And even if it's not obvious in a commercial setting—you can't do the sort of processheavy experiments we do in school because we would never have time to finish anything—but at least injecting some of these ideas may be feasible. That's why education is very important. We need people like you that have this way of thinking to teach and then eventually the students that go out there, they have this mindset too. And so then it keeps growing.

p


IN CONVERSATION WITH

Sometimes process even p becomes the final outcome, even though that isn’t the initial plan.

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Margaret Andersen

Designer and Writer

Fig 12 "Transhumanist Times," Margaret Andersen, 2016

k

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your work as a designer and journalist! My name is Margaret; I’m a freelance graphic designer and journalist based in Los Angeles. I work with a range

of cultural and commercial clients including the immersive entertainment company Meow Wolf, Sundance Film Festival, and Common Field, a national network of independent visual arts organizations that connects and advocates for the artist-centered field. In addition to branding and identity research and development, my work focuses on multi-platform storytelling, implementing the power of social media, emerging technologies, and traditional print design to create virtual and tactile hybrid experiences. When I'm not working with clients I write about design, technology, and digital culture and have contributed to Wired, Bitch Media, Gusher Magazine, Future of Sex, Communication Arts, Adobe XD, and AIGA's Eye on Design. I came to know you through the article that opens this book:


IN CONVERSATION WITH

“What Does ‘Posthuman Design’ Actually Mean?”. How did you end up writing the article? Were you already interested in the concept of Posthuman Design or did Anastasiia’s course spark your interest? I’ve been interested in how emerging technologies influence design since graduate school. My thesis, an experimental newspaper about Transhumanism, focused on enhancement as metaphor. I explored how design and technology could enhance print journalism through interdisciplinary storytelling, and the ethos of that project has really carried over into how I approach my personal and professional work since graduating. Anastasiia and I actually met at CalArts when she visited campus, as she was considering attending our graphic design program at the time. I was her campus tour buddy! Even though she ended up attending a different school, we stayed in touch and found that we had developed similar research interests during our respective programs. In your article, Anastasiia posits that, “Human design with all of its imperfections and flaws is an important distinguishing component in the age of technology, and it needs to be made visible in the

design work that we produce.” Do you think flawed human design in that sense can be applied to all design, or are there areas of design in which the unpredictability or absurdity of it does not always work? It really depends on the project and the client. Certain design jobs are always going to favor precision over unpredictability. Do you think quick and cheap AI generated design platforms like Looka or Canva will truly ever replace human designers? I do think it’s inevitable that aspects of design will continue to become more automated through technology in the way that traditional handset type has largely been replaced by programs like Photoshop or Indesign. But even if letterpress is not the industry standard any longer, there’s still value and beauty in the technique, just as other design works with evidence of the human hand will retain value. The future industry standard may be one where graphic designers integrate AI and machine learning into their workflow to create

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more efficiency, or they shift away from production-based roles altogether for a more curatorial position, like Art Directors for AI. I think it’s easy to fantasize about a science fiction future where humans (designers included) become obsolete with the rise of the machines, but AI is still very dependent on the creative and ethical considerations of the human mind to set the parameters for how it behaves. So to me it's not about AI replacing human designers but rather human designers working in tandem with this new technology. My personal interpretations of flawed human design thus far tend to lean less toward the futuristic and scientific examples from the student work that has been born out of the course at RISD, such as the Black Hole Typography project by Jonna Mayer, and more towards manipulating analog processes and machines in unpredictable ways that in turn result in designs that could not be replicated totally by technology unaided by humans. My goal with my thesis body of work is to solely create design that must involve me, and could never be handed off to any sort of AI and be successfully remade. I also look to raise the perceived value of human flaw and mistakes in the wake of technological perfection. You could say where Anastasiia leans toward humans understanding nonhumans through design, I have been

through design, I have been using my views on flawed human design to help humans understand ourselves through design. Do you believe both mine and Anastasiia’s approaches still fall under the same category? While both approaches are seeking to reveal a better understanding about one’s subject, I don’t think they necessarily fall into the same category because Anastasiia’s work is largely about moving beyond human-centered design systems and design thinking. Do you think that the methodology of infusing human unpredictability and absurdity into the design we produce will gain more traction as more and more perfected methods of design are created? Or do you think perfection will be preferred? I think this is a question that has arisen before in past design movements, from Dadaism to Post-Modernism. Whenever the pendulum swings one direction it will swing back the other way as well, so this back and forth of unpredictability vs perfection will continue to exist with each new generation. You published the article in March 2019, almost two years ago. Do you have any new information or opinions about the future of design


l IN CONVERSATION WITH

Fig 13 "Biohacker Poster Series," Margaret Andersen

and AI that you would include if you were to write the article today? The pandemic definitely redirected my focus in terms of work and research so I can’t say I’d have very much new information to add to the article today. I did, however, recently come across an

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interesting article about how musicians like Arca, Holly Herndon and Toro y Moi are embracing AI in their work. I’m happy to see more artists exploring the possibilities of AI as a creative medium at a time when there is now more demand for transparency and accountability from tech companies whose biased AI systems often create inequity and harm for marginalized communities. What do you think Posthuman Design will look like in 10 years? I hope that Posthuman Design will reach a wider audience in the coming years and that more design programs adopt similar courses and methodology to what Anastasiia is developing at RISD. You were once where I currently am, in the home stretch of receiving your MFA in Graphic Design from CalArts. What advice or words of wisdom can you give me that you wish you could’ve given yourself at that time? (If you have any!) I think when you graduate there’s an impulse to jump right into the design hustle and say yes to every job and client. But don’t let capitalism trick you! Your worth is not measured by your productivity. If this past year in quarantine taught

“ w

us anything it’s that the old way of doing things is not the best way of doing things and you need to find a path that will let you balance your design life with your non-design life. Your creativity will benefit if you’re not always veering towards burnout :)


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IN CONVERSATION WITH

this back and forth of unpredictability vs perfection will continue to exist r with each new generation.

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Chen Luo

Designer

Fig 14 "Applied Style vs. Intrinsic Style," Chen Luo, 2020

k

One of the reasons I wanted to talk with you is because of your work: it’s really dynamic and feels really unique to you as a person. So I wondered, what is your process in terms of approaching a project and deciding how to interpret it in your own style? I class my process into two parts, which are ultimately connected together, but because of my learning

strategy I always divide it into two parts. One is typography, more of the visual parts of it, and then when I do studio projects there’s a component that is research-based. When I get an assignment, I definitely look for one specific topic, or what areas I’m interested in, and then I create a mind map and brainstorm. And sometimes I stop there because not everything goes smoothly, sometimes I need to go back to what my original idea was. After that part, I start visual exploration; it’s not related to what the final format will be, it’s more visually exploring what patterns or typography I can generate from the idea. Then I think about the final deliverable that can best showcase the concept and the visual. For studio projects I’ve tried to embody more materials, mediums, and technology as much as possible. The work I’ve done as a result is more dynamic and chaotic in a way, whereas when I first started with typography I had a very, very minimal style. So, I follow the structure of macro and micro typography, and then I try to break those rules I’ve


IN CONVERSATION WITH learned, while still following some. In your work you tackle a lot of social issues, including Feminism, the COVID pandemic, and I was looking at your thesis where you explored fake-ness in media. Is it important to you to use your design work as a vehicle to talk about these issues? I never thought I could be a social activist, or in design activism…I’m from a Chinese background, and I think most often students from this background choose to stay away from these kinds of topics because it’s too sensitive or they are worried about censorship, and, you know, I don’t want to get in trouble. But I think what happens in society becomes an inspiration for design, and I don’t always want to talk just on a surface level. I want to talk about what is related to us, because it matters. I want to focus on that. Yeah, and that’s a big part of my thoughts on flawed human design as a whole. It’s really focusing on human issues and highlighting them instead of shying away from them. I was also looking at a recent project you did called “Into the Desert” where you explored designing from a memory, and I really enjoyed it because it fit into a lot of the things I’m thinking about here. I actually did a project about memory that I feature in this book with two other designers, Michael and Claire, and we looked at physically representing the haziness

and unpredictability of memory by constantly wheat pasting posters over each other and ripping some and highlighting others. You did a similar thing with Into The Desert, and I like the line in your description that reads, “Over time, observation and experience turns into memory with modifications/ filtration/exaggeration. I think these inaccuracies personalize observation and experience for the ease of memorization, because our brain is not a computer, though we forget all the time.” I thought that was really poignant because we tend to see these things, these human tendencies, as a negative setback. And specifically with memory—oh I don’t remember it right, but of course a computer has perfect memory all the time—we attribute this as yet another thing we can’t do, but I like that you looked at that and thought, I want to aesthetically elevate that idea. Thank you! Yeah, for that specific idea what I was thinking was, we’re always told that what has an error is wrong, but a memory isn’t wrong. When I was trying to create the story based on my memory, I have tons of ways to express that; I can sing, I can draw, I can simply talk. But I think that’s a part of being human, the endless ways you can express your emotions and memories.

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FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN Would you say from your own perspective that you inject humanness into your designs? Yes. For the Feminism project or the COVID project it’s more about seeing it as a case of a group of people, but I still feel like as a human being, at the end of the day, you have emotions. You have other people in your life that are important, like your relatives. And that’s a really important part of my art and becomes an essential inspiration in my work; to feel as a human. Instead of looking at big stories or big pictures, but rather engaging in a community or engaging within myself. I have this one line that I use in some of my experimentation that is, "humans will always relate to each other." I think it's hard to remember that sometimes, especially now when there are so many things that we let divide us. I look at what I believe we gravitate towards, just on a basic level, and I feel like we are always more apt to gravitate towards something that we can relate to or something that feels familiar. If you’re given the choice of something completely computed or something that feels a bit more human, I feel that, maybe a little optimistically, people will be able to relate moreso to what they can see themselves in. Which is why with these experiments I try to inject myself into them purposefully, something that is usually a big “no no” in design. We’re taught about Dieter Rams,

less is better, the crystal goblet, the best design is invisible. And invisible design is important in many ways, but I think as designers it’s important to embrace putting ourselves into our work and showing more ownership. One of the biggest parts of my interpretations of flawed human design is aggressively injecting myself into the work so that there is no question that a human did this, there isn’t even a question of which human did it. I can see elements of that in your work too, because it is so unique and it’s also really personal to you in style and content…again, it’s not something that could be easily replicated by someone or something. In a perfect world these characteristics would become the norm. I really love that challenge you are giving yourself! I was thinking for “Into The Desert” about whether or not to put myself in the work and thought maybe it would make it hard for the audience to judge my work, and like you said, it’s seen as a “no no” in design. But in fact, when you bring in the concept, the conversation, and the critical thinking and then try and inject a part of your body into the work, it totally matches your concept. And it reminds me of what we’ve learned in our Performative Text class, where you’re not only using your hand, but other parts of your body are included in the piece. For me, I was thinking what I could include in my work is the Chinese


IN CONVERSATION WITH

Fig 15 "INTO THE DESERT," Chen Luo, 2021

character. I think that is something embodied in my body. So I totally respect that part. Thank you! Yes, that class is definitely…it’s nice timing that I took it alongside my thesis. I feel like a lot of those ideas developed

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FLAWED HUMAN DESIGN from what we are learning there, because that class is solely about performing our art ourselves. My last questions for you is, when you’re thinking about the changing design landscape and what will happen in the next decade, are you in the camp that is convinced we will be phased out by automated systems and AI design technology, or are you an optimist like me who believes there will always be people who value designers and their work? I think I’m more optimistic about it, because there will be people that go for the cheaper, easy to make logos, but when you put it into the market, I think you can tell that it doesn’t perform as well as a well thought out logo by a designer, and when a client comes to me for a logo they know it will be high quality. And showing the process work…I think process work is an important part of it too, because if you go to Canva, you won’t get any iterations or process work, you just get the finalized logo. I think there will always be a noticeable gap between high quality and low culture. I’m glad you mentioned a loss in progress because that’s actually a point I made in a previous interview about Canva, because through process a lot of really amazing and unexpected things happen. You hit a road block, take a left turn and suddenly your final product is 100 times more amazing than you

gone through the motions of testing it out and perfecting it. With an automated site, there is no chance of you striking any sort of gold mine like that, because you’re always going to get exactly what you asked for, process removed. The fact that you mentioned that without knowing that I was also thinking that also reinforces my own belief that other designers are on the same page in that respect.

Right, I definitely agree!


IN CONVERSATION WITH

I don’t always want to talk just on a surface level. I want to talk about what is related to us, because it 65 matters.

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THE E thesis project u

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XPMy main thesis project was a series of experiments done under my flawed human design methodology. This methodology includes analog processes, breaking the tool, glitch as correction, adding physical layers to digital work, seeing the human hand, working with the scanner, street art and grafitti, and anything else that cannot be successfully replicated with technology alone. I compiled all of these experiments into one image-based visual magazine showcasing my various outcomes. This zine is called "My Love Letter To Human Design", and this section begins with process pictures throughout each of the experiments I embarked on.

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A Love Letter To Human Design—


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Because of COVID restrictions and scheduling, our thesis exhibition had to be held a month or so earlier than usual. Being that none of our projects would be fully realized in time, we decided to make the show a component of our thesis projects. As a group, myself and the 17 other designers in the program settled on a theme: "The Printer Is Broken", and created a collective show with both past and new work.

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EXHIBITION

Fig 17 This is work I contributed to the thesis exhibition show, The Printer is Broken. All work that was contributed had to have a printer glitch applied to it, and I chose to express glitches in ink staining and in scale errors.

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Fig 18 This is work I contributed to the thesis exhibition show, The Printer is Broken. All work that was contributed had to have a printer glitch applied to it, and I chose to express glitches in ink staining and in scale errors.


EXHIBITION

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EXHIBITION In this exhibition, 17 designers from seven countries present a body of work that—while showcasing their original voices and personalized approaches to graphic design—also collectively reflects on the effects and influence that technology exerts on the discipline. With an unreliable tool as a framing metaphor, the exhibition’s works grapple with the uncertainty, anxiety, and opportunity of the current moment while also showcasing form-based and conceptual inquiries into how graphic design can articulate, challenge, motivate, provoke, illuminate, comfort, and question.  The Printer is Broken focuses a lens on the versatility of the tools, methods, and platforms of graphic design, centering the erratic nature of equipment as a potentially crucial factor to consider in the design process. Relationships with technology and tools underpin contemporary graphic design. By exploring when these relationships become problematic, the exhibition highlights the possibilities of disruption along with the beauty of unexpected errors, serendipitous discoveries, and innovative thinking when circumstances suddenly change. The same tools that enable and empower the designer have inherent limitations. Resilient and creative responses to these limitations can be rooted in personal experience and deeply held beliefs while also drawing on accumulated skills and knowledge. There may be no singular correct response in the face of a breakdown or malfunction, but rather various strategies and in-the-moment assessment,

often leading to critical inquiry and further investigation. The misprints and projections of The Printer is Broken symbolize the intrinsic unpredictability of dynamic design processes. The works on display expose how the eccentricity of tools used to produce graphic design ultimately shapes form and impacts meaning.

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Exhibition Website


EXHIBITION

Designed by Jenna Benoit and Taiyo Hasegawa

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Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery

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Annotated Bibliography Abloh, Virgil, and Michael Darling. Figures of Speech. Prestel, 2019. This book of Virgil’s work was an inspiration in book design, how to present my work, and in my thesis inquiries. Andriasian, Tania. “Neville Brody.” #1 Anthropocene within Visual Communications, Wordpress, intdiscpa.wordpress.com/tag/ neville-brody/. As I was looking at examples of breaking the rules of typography I came across Neville Brody, and this article that expertly frames his intentions and his expertise in visual communication. Armstrong, Helen, editor. Graphic Design Theory: Readings From The Field. Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. The readings from this publication helped broaden my knowledge of graphic design theory, something I wasn’t very familiar with before this program. The theories presented helped me to approach my own thesis and form my own ideas about design. Art Center, Walker. Insights 2016: Brian Roettinger (Hand Held Heart), Los Angeles. YouTube, 10 Mar. 2016, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=o1O7Y_5pmwo. This is a video of Brian Roettinger giving a talk at the Walker Art Center. It was a huge inspiration because it was my first look at his work and the fact that it is in many ways similar to mine, and it’s an example of being exposed to knew artists that I’ve come to love through my thesis inquiries.

Basar, Shumon, et al. The Age of Earthquakes: a Guide to the Extreme Present. Blue Rider Press, 2015. This book heavily influenced how I wanted to design my thesis book, as well as how I wanted to present my findings and the topics I was discussing. Blackwell, Lewis, and David Carson. The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson. Laurence King, 2012. David Carson has always been an inspiration to my work, and as I was exploring the concept of “ugly” design I looked closely at his grunge aesthetic and his refusal to adhere to any grids or rules. It shaped where my thesis ended up in many ways as well as inspiring the image layouts of my book design. Burton, Philip. Wolfgang Weingart. AIGA, 2 Sept. 2013, www.aiga.org/ medalist-wolfgang-weingart. Weingart’s work influenced me greatly alongside Carson’s work, as one of the first designers to reject the Swiss style and break the hard and fast rules of typography. This idea of breaking design rules followed me to my thesis methodology and how I approached my experimentation. Davis, Tamra, director. Jean-Michel Basquiat: the Radiant Child. JeanMichel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, Société Nouvelle De Distribution. 21 July, 2010. This documentary focuses on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life and work, both of which were a huge


inspiration for my thesis. Dormehl, Luke. “Six Things That A.I. and Computers Still Can’t Do Very Well.” Emerging Tech, Digital Trends, 24 Oct. 2018, www. digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/thingsmachines-computers-still-cant-doyet/. More examples of what AI still can’t do to support my ideas of continuing to put our trust in human designers and the importance of their position even in integrating AI into their own practices. Flanagan, Sean. THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER IS DEAD. CREATIVE HOW, 15 Mar. 2019, www. creativehowpodcast.com/newblog-2/2019/graphic-designer-isdead. This article was important to my research because it acknowledges that times are changing while also agreeing that we as designers are still important, and doing more than ever. It acknowledges that things are going to change and how we should try and go forward with these changes. Fox, Charlie. “The Beauty of Ugly Painting.” The New York Times Style Magazine, 4 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/04/tmagazine/art/ugly-paintinglaura-owens-karen-kilimnik-sammckinniss.html. This article focuses on the artist Laura Owens and her philosophy about embracing “ugly” painting and abandoning commonplace ideas of what is pretty. This acceptance of the ugly is parallel

to my ideas about the acceptance of human flaws, one being parts of us and what we make that may be objectively “ugly” to traditional society. Grévy Fabienne. Graffiti Paris. Abrams, 2008. I found inspiration in this book of street art photography both in content and in arrangement of images, shown at big scale and not letting too much text get in the way of admiring the image. Hampton, Rosalind, et al. “Graffiti and Art Education: ‘They Don’t Understand How I Feel About the FUNK.’” Art Education, vol. 66, no. 5, 2013, pp. 51–55., www.jstor.org/ stable/24765949. After three teens die in a tragic railway accident, members of the FUNK graffiti crew discuss art, education, and graffiti culture, telling us what art educators should know. I used this in my research towards the beginning of my thesis explorations when I wanted to focus on street art specifically. I also found parallels when looking at marginalized artists and this idea of total acceptance of all design.

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Holzwarth, Hans Werner, et al. Jean-Michel Basquiat: and the Art of Storytelling. Taschen, 2020. This anthology of Basquiat’s work and life was critical in my research of street art but also of human, flawed art and artists that shared my philosophies. HypebeastTV, Virgil Abloh Explains Why Streetwear Is an Art Movement. YouTube, 2 Feb. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLq0QU0VXo&list=WL&index=40&t=3 72s. Virgil Abloh is a huge inspiration of mine and I looked at this video of him discussing his work and the streetwear movement when I was still focusing my thesis on the subject of street art. It also fits into my newer inquiries, as well, in terms of new forms of non-traditional art and design becoming more and more accepted as we continue to realize the emmense value in it. “Legacy Russell: Glitch Feminism.” Youtube, SVANewYorkCity, 29 Aug. 2019, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=DqNPgd5B3io&t=1698s. This is an artist talk that Legacy Russell held where she presented her theory, Glitch Feminism, and answers student questions afterwards. This helped me continue to solidify my ideas as I found similar movements exploring parallel ideas, and her ideas of “error as correction” were a huge facet in my growing flawed human design methodology. Maeda, John. “Fact: The Machine Is Not Alive.” How To Speak Machine: Computational

Thinking For The Rest Of Us, 5 Nov. 2019, howtospeakmachine. com/2019/11/05/computation-isnot-alive-we-are-its-not/. I used this phrase as a jumping off point for my research into what computers cannot do, and it set the tone for the kind of technological research I wanted to conduct. Masilamani, Rachel. “Documenting Illegal Art: Collaborative Software, Online Environments and New York City’s 1970s and 1980s Graffiti Art Movement.” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, vol. 27, no. 2, 2008, pp. 4–14. JSTOR, www.jstor. org/stable/27949489. This article aided me in my research as I was looking at street art, more specifically the height of graffiti art in New York City in the 80’s. Monteiro, Mike, and Vivianne Castillo. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do To Fix It. Mule Design, 2019. This book opened my eyes to radical design responsibility, and those ideas seeped into my methodology of Flawed Human Design when thinking about marginalized designers and elevating things that feel like flaws or mistakes or errors. Noriega, Chon A. “‘Your Art Disgusts Me’: Early Asco, 1971— 75.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry, no. 19, 2008, pp. 109–121. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/ stable/20711719.


This article details how four Chicano artists in East Los Angeles worked to legitimize their graffiti work within the prejudiced museum and fine art world. I read this article as I was working through my ideas about ugly design and ugly art, or art that is dismissed. These ideas morphed into the ideas of flawed human design, especially in terms of marginalized designers. Peart, Rob. “Automation Threatens to Make Graphic Designers Obsolete.” Eye On Design, AIGA, 25 Oct. 2016, eyeondesign.aiga. org/automation-threatens-to-makegraphic-designers-obsolete/. This article was very informative in terms of showing how designers in the field today are actually discussing the future of design in the face of major automation, as well as designers that are implementing AI into their own practice in order to embrace the inevitable. Steyerl, Hito. “In Defense of the Poor Image.” Journal #10, e-Flux, 2009, www.e-flux.com/ journal/10/61362/in-defense-of-thepoor-image/. This journal ruminates over the “poor image” and it’s importance in terms of its defiance and separation from the original image, and our own thoughts on it in the age of technology. It looks at the imperfection of images at low res as well as the imperfection of privacy and policy of images, and helped aid to my thoughts about the imagery and aesthetic of Flawed Human Design.

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