[-empyre-] Week Four - Design

Julian Oliver julian at julianoliver.com
Mon Jun 28 21:14:00 EST 2010

Hi Femke,

..on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 03:34:37PM +0200, Femke Snelting wrote:
> Thank you all for three interesting weeks of discussion. It seems almost too
> much to add 'design' to the mix now, but here we go:
> As you can read from Michael Dieters introduction, both Pierre Huyghebaert and
> me are members of OSP (Open Source Publishing)[1], a graphic design collective
> using Free, Libre and Open Source Software only. We are affiliated with
> Constant, a Brussels based Foundation for Art and Media, and active since
> 2006.
> To us, the part that software plays in creative work is just too interesting
> to leave with a single proprietary company. It might be the same for
> architecture, animation or writing, but in graphic design, there is not much
> to choose from if you want to play professional. Our choice for Free Software
> is therefore as much about an alliance with Free Culture, as a way to break
> with the shiny but dull surfaces of those habitual tools-of-the-trade.

Indeed this is of central importance. The question we, as creators dependent on
software, need to ask again and again is "Am I designing through these tools or
are these tools designing through me?"

There is a conspiracy of action in place when working with any tool - they
contain encouragements, tendencies and visual codes that ineluctably influence
how we use them. For this reason we ought to be suspicious of tools that are
designed by corporations with a mass market in mind; they represent a
generalisation of creative possibility and aesthetic interest, right down to
their branding. 

As Florian Cramer and I asked recently at Linux Week Linz, would the greats of
painting or photography have accepted the persistent presence of an OSX or
Windows logo in corner of their studio, let alone a Photoshop toolbar on their
canvas or print while they work?

While much Free Software exceeds the 'quality' of proprietary solutions, it does
offer a valuable opportunity to engage with Weird, Mutable and Porous softwares
in a market where human computer interaction is dominated by ever normalised
expectations of Intuitive, Solid and Slick interfaces. Think Similar (TM). 

Moreso, at the heart of most Free Software is a UNIX philosophy, tending toward
many connectable components rather than discrete monolithic 'suites' with unique
and closed-standard file formats.

Good to read you,

Julian Oliver
home: New Zealand
based: Berlin, Germany 
currently: Berlin, Germany
about: http://julianoliver.com

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