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World Events and Creative Juices

Already 15 years have passed since Tinanamen Square. Do World events influence how you work? Do you get more creative? Are you unable to work? Or does it not make a difference to you?

Care to comment?

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PUBLISHED ON Jun.04.2004 BY Peter Scherrer
pk’s comment is:

i'll be the obligatory walking cliché: when 9//11 happened, it started me on a downward slide that had me not making any visual work to speak of for about six months. i wrote a lot, but nothing public.

On Jun.04.2004 at 01:16 PM
james song’s comment is:

if the gravity of the situation is severe enough, it will paralyze my mind. I think it's the shock of the situation that occupies my mind to try reason it out or make sense of the situation, thus diverting energy that would have been used to create something.

On Jun.04.2004 at 01:21 PM
Danielle’s comment is:

We have a discussion underway at Cranbrook Design called "What's the Zeitgeist?"

Check it out as an aside to this conversation; I think you'll find it relevant.

On Jun.04.2004 at 02:14 PM
Kevin’s comment is:

I remember when Tiannamen Square massacres happened, the sheer confusion I felt, being a chinese canadian. I knew that I had relatives there, none that I knew personally, yet this made the confusion even greater. watching the images on the television I felt so detached, yet I knew this was something I should be caring about. It made me question notions of identity, race, poltitics. media etc. And I was only 10 years old.

When the attacks of Septemeber 11th happened, I felt the need to react right away. I photographed the images on the television in the bar below my apartment,I spent hours on the web trying to gather as many differnt perspectives as possible, I made images in photoshop and posted them online, trying to resolve my own confusion and engage in dialogue with others.

I had the same reaction when the bombs started falling on Baghdad - except this time it was all the more visceral, because I had spent so much energy as an anti-war activist, and the futility of my actions becoming apparent was a painful thing to deal with. I tore apart newspapers and painted with my hands while listening to the newsreports. It was horryfing, but in a way cathartic as well.

The results of this can be seen here.

All this to say that yes, the world definitely affects me and the way I work. As graphic designers, I feel interpreting and presenting the world is central to what we do, and to me, the importance of trying to grapple with real human issues is infinitely more importnat than the design of the next corporate logo (though the updating/disgracing of Saul Bass's United Way identity, really, really, relly irked me as well).

On Jun.04.2004 at 03:08 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I don't know if this makes me a cold-blooded, insensitive person, but no, they don't. Many shitty things happen in the world, if I let everything get to me, then I wouldn't get anything done and be miserable forever. Just looking at the nightly news would be enough to send me on a downward spiral; shootings on the South and West sides of Chicago almost every single night with little kids as victims; apartment fires; car crashes; porches collapsing, etc.

Obviously that pales in comparison to events like 9/11, I'd be lying if I said these bigger events didn't affect me personally and that it permeates into the work, but I try to not let it affect me to the point of being unproductive. Try being the key word.

Personal "events" though… that's another story.

On Jun.04.2004 at 03:18 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

Tragedy makes me re-evaluate my life. Let's face it, most of us in the advertising industry are pushing purely commercial/superficial things like beer, cigarettes, cosmetics. Myself it is sports supplements. I agree with Armin... life is just as sad and unfair as it can be happy and I can't let the daily sludge get me down.

After 911, I decided to become a volunteer mentor for children from troubled families. My contribution to make society a better place (hopefully).

It's just a job, it's just a layout, most of my "problems" are nothing compared to other people in other countries. For as messed up as the US is, it is still the best country in the world.

OK-I'm off my soap box.

On Jun.04.2004 at 07:05 PM
Randy’s comment is:

Only a child at the time of the Tiananmen Square incident, I have the most vague of memories.

I find it interesting that posts thus far have responded to Peter's questions with an interpretaion of "World events" as negative world events. This was my initial response as well. How do 9/11, Mid-east conflict, North Korean relations, weak Asian economies, etc. affect me? Remember too, that World events are not always political: California wild-fires and floods in India. Still though, these are tragic. What about successes, victories, progress, prosperity, and happiness. Are they out there somewhere?

A designer's cynicism always sets in first; I think about the woes of the world, then halt myself. After so many news reports and after-work discussions of "World events" I feel regretful, melancholy, mournful, and helpless. This is were my work is influence (both process and product). With a visual vocabulary and innate skill for revealing and contextualizing these issues, designers can address them in a myriad of ways. In my case, I am in infused with the desire to relieve the stress, for myself and others. Can I make them smile or laugh? Perhaps I can inspire, charm, or comfort in a balancing act with the necesary criticism and critique. Life is scary; it is also beautiful.

On Jun.05.2004 at 01:06 PM
Rob’s comment is:

I think that I have to agree with Armin. While I obviously didn't ignore events like 9/11 or the Iraq War, etc...I really try to keep my focus on getting the work done. Obvious these things can be a distraction, and also an inspiration to the work we do. But I think for the most part I kept going within a day or two of 9/11. As most I remember that day, like most of you, rather vividly, our boss sent us home early to be with our families and it literally took a few days before anything got back to normal. That being said, the events did impact some of our design solutions, anything with targets, planes and skyscrapers, etc. was avoided for a long time. I even had a tie with the Twin Towers on it that I didn't wear for the longest time. I think I finally wore it again, but only once, a few months ago.

On Jun.05.2004 at 03:09 PM
Christopher Risdon’s comment is:

I don't tend to pull away from work, but if an event has affected or inspired me enough, I do tend to want to direct my energy to more personal/expressive projects. A little more of the 'artist' takes over from the 'designer'.

On Jun.05.2004 at 07:34 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Perhaps I can inspire, charm, or comfort in a balancing act with the necesary criticism and critique. Life is scary; it is also beautiful.

yeah, good points Randy. It's a hard balance to strike and after so much energy spent on critique, it becomes difficult to really turn that around into something positive. I know that I personally have a problem with how to do this but I'm trying hard to figure it out.

Great site, by the way - put a smile on my face and made me laugh.

On Jun.05.2004 at 08:24 PM
Jerry Reyes’s comment is:

After 9/11 I was shocked, hurt, angry. I soon had to abandon news-watching. A bit of Chomsky in school also helped to shut it off. I felt that there was too much going on in the world that I was unaware of and too small to make a change. I still only watch daily news in the morning to check the weather and that’s it. All the other big news finds its way to you eventually — on the radio, in the occassional flip through the papers while looking for the classifieds, people talking at work… So you could only shut the media off to a certain extent because it’s so pervasive.

I try to react more than inact when faced with tragedy. Morally, something that helps me is to teach page layout and design in an arts center for high schoolers in my community, where gangs and inaction are common. I also write and make personal work whenever time permits. To sum up, I try to fly higher than I was flying when I was shot down by tragedy.

On Jun.06.2004 at 01:03 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

I don’t believe events should have a great influence in our work. We work in search of solutions for our clients, specific needs need to be fulfilled, we (as designers) do not seek world peace or the solution to water pollution damage.

Yes, we should be conscious of the problems, events, and happy developments. Yes, we should learn from them and based upon our principles, values and personalities decide if we are to incorporate them into our daily routines. Recycling, volunteering, designing for non profit clients we believe in, sponsoring, mentoring, you name it. It is up to you to decide what to do, but it should not really guide your design concepts for your clients.

On Jun.06.2004 at 01:32 PM
James Moening’s comment is:

The anniversary of Tienanmen Square allows a moment of reflection on the labor pains of democracy. The American designer's concerns seem trivial when compared to the violence of student protest. Our liberties are safeguarded by democratic virtue. Let us celebrate the activists and lament the longevity of the suppressive Chinese Communist Party. (PS. Current events of all kinds affect my work: I am a newspaper designer!)

On Jun.06.2004 at 05:18 PM