Testing Ground: Space for Experimentation

This section represents a testing ground to find and hone the fundamental principles of my current methodology. This testing phase occurred, primarily, in private spaces through collaboration with visiting designers, a pianist, institutions for the sight impaired, and the Providence Public Library. This space allowed new ways to understand the relationships between the formal and conceptional in my practice. This experimental approach takes on both playful abstraction, common to graphic design, and the rigorous, systematic, iterative context of experimental design.1 I support John Sueda’s2 explanation of “experimental” or “speculative” design in the context of graphic design, in which he states that this type of work is ‘theoretical, rather than practical’, or involving ‘contemplation, conjecture, or abstract reasoning’.3

Sueda’s understanding paired with the rigor of experimental designdefine my approach in this section.  I want to affirmatively answer John Sueda’s question, “can work of this nature become realized and become beneficial for practical applications?”4

In Deciphering a Braille Map: Germany 1901 puzzle–like playing cards activate a narrative journey through the translation of a Braille map. Duchampian Chess translates the visual and auditory replay of Marcel Duchamp’s 1922 chess game versus Martin Schroeder. The Human Processing Unit offers thousands of graphic combinations based on user input. At times these generative collaborations are more direct but in every instance, they provide an output based on the combination of specific individual thoughts, skills, and perspectives. The principle of modularity encourages diverse interpretation—a humanist approach.

This work creates opens access to new knowledge through heavy research presenting complex information in a more comprehensible form. Deciphering a Braille Map: Germany 1901, I worked with the Perkins School of the Blind, the Lighthouse for the Blind, and the National Braille Press to decode a map uncovered in the special collections of the Providence Public Library. Similarly, Duchampian Chess asked me to research collaboratively. I worked with David Preli, a pianist and materials scientist to reconfigure the complexities of a historic chess match into new forms. In H/8–and with the help of the Josef Hartwig–I formed a new tool for understanding the basic movements of the game to the most advanced scenarios in chess. Lastly, the torus became a new object of research.  Sorting through academic articles centered on Conway’s Game of Life5 I realized how this shape represents infinity. Typographic Torus became another collaborative gesture merging math, science, and typography.

1.  The introductory statement from the Yale curriculum of 1996 for experimental design is “we are concerned with the analysis of data generated from an experiment. It is wise to take time and effort to organize the experiment properly to ensure that the right type of data, and enough of it, is available to answer the questions of interest as clearly and efficiently as possible. This process is called experimental design.”

2. John Sueda is a professor at CalArts Graphic Design, design studio founder of Studio Stripe, author of the All Possible Futures catalogue, editor of Task Newsletter, and curator Work from California at the 25th International Graphic Design Biennial in Brno, 2006, and  All Possible Futures at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco, 2014.

3. & 4. Both the definition (3) and the question (4) are posed in the context of experimental design. From page 28 in the All Possible Futures Catalog published in 2014 of a conversation between John Sueda and Emily Mcvarish titled The Farther Back You Can Look, The Farther Forward You Are Likely To See.

5 Also known as The Game of Life or more simply as Life, is a cellular automaton devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970. The gameis a zero-player game, meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. One interacts with the Game of Life by creating an initial configuration and observing how it evolves, or, for advanced players, by creating patterns with particular properties.