Reading Response

REVIEWcritique of social practice art


To succinctly sketch out the central discussion of this article, I would cite Ben Davis’s idea that Social Practice stems from a dispirited reaction to the commercial art industry’s obsession with profit. This topic is worth engaging in the contemporary scene because we as designers, should pursue art that makes a difference, beyond aesthetic qualities. Henceforth, I have hatched a brief idea on how art itself, can be the answer.

Take a glimpse of history, art was never assumed to be pragmatic, or collaborative. In other words, artists, writers, performers alike, tend to practice in solemn to stereotypically produce a pleasing work so that the patron will pay the one with his/her name signed.

Modern artists begun to paint their philosophy of the world on unexplored mediums, we call them contemporary arts. Traditional canvas can be substituted by the intangibles (digital platforms, interactivity-based works, etc), the tangibles (freedom in material choice), and everything that lies in-between (mix-medium). However, a shift in the medium does not automatically equate itself to a change in behavior. ‘The fixation on escaping commercialized art itself shows a narrow understanding of art’s role in a capitalist society.’ Undeniably, to disincentivize just any industry would sound unrealistic. Then, should we put ourselves on a superior moral ground to criticize artists whose works are primarily profit-driven? Or blame their passive engagement in cross-industry synergy? 

Art was never expected to walk alongside subjects that ‘saves the world’, but, to provide a discernible remedy to communities with specific needs, an assembly of professionalism across fields of mathematics, engineering, and the sciences is presumably vital. 

Coming from a product designer’s perspective, the majority of us still design for extrinsic rewards nowadays but improvements are notable. We cannot forfeit the contribution of lauded individuals who stepped up to ‘go after the disease itself’ by producing radical designs that have changed lives. GravityLight, Hippo Roller, Life Straw, are all products of cross-industry collaboration.

Every great design begins with an even better idea. Perhaps, if every designer is willing to brace up and seek opportunities for technical execution, the world can be a better place with fewer problems. All in all, cease letting the creative ideas in your mind slip just because it all seems impossible before it’s done.



REVIEW | designing for the digital age


While this reading is mostly instructional, the introduction written by Goodwin at the start gave an interesting perspective on the definition of design and ultimately how it straddles the line between science and art. Being neither science nor art means that design as a craft brings about its own set of challenges unique to it.

As mentioned by Goodwin, the term “design” is an arbitrary one, and there is never a correct definition for it. However, Goodwin puts forward some intriguing ideas in his own definition, particularly about how design is the “craft of visualizing concrete solutions”. I believe that design, in its naked form, is simply the process of trying to get from point A to point B, with A being the initial state and B being the desired state. Of course, littered along the process is multiple obstacles as highlighted in the rest of the article.

One of these obstacles that stood out to me is how the different stakeholders and other non-design related factors can actually affect the design process itself. When designing a product, it goes beyond just creating a solution, but creating a specific solution that caters not just to the user, it must also satisfy the criteria of the many financial investors and marketing executives. This shifts the entire framework of design beyond itself, and into the wider world of economics, business, and even politics.

It is not surprising, therefore, that a successful designer is one that works well within this framework, and has a process that is transparent to all the shareholders in order to maximise and achieve a solution. Proven once again, cross-industry collaboration is the key to push art to a new height.



One Reply to “Reading Response”

  1. Some other thoughts:

    Social engagement was too vaguely defined by the author. By literal definition, being engaged means one is actively involved in some form of activity. Hence, in my opinion, being conscious of the surrounding does not mean one is engaged, simply because there will be no exchange of activity if the artist do nothing about an issue.

    Language itself can be a form of art – Sol LeWitt’s set of instructions for the museums to ‘execute’ his art.

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