Collecting / Collectives

Collecting represents an active mode of primary research here: used as creative and conceptual ‘fuel’: the collection constitutes the raw materials used to inspire and inform practice as a means to an end. Through classification and naming new narrative possibilities of the collection can also be revealed and presented as an outcome in its own right. I use the term focused wandering to introduce a research method that embraces chance in the discovery, identification, collection and review of intentional ideas and accidental formations (of X) in a mode of social semiosis.


Anyone can create a collection and find value in the overlooked or disposable object, such as waste transformed into something exceptional: for the designer this raw material of creativity is developed through a process of purposeful discovery and classification. As a mode of (new) knowledge in design the collection is both a source of inspiration and information. The act of noticing and collecting everyday visual matter is described as a process of trying to make sense of the material landscape, seeking to give value to everyday (and vernacular) manifestations of graphic design. Through the transformation of context, form and purpose relayed back into the public domain in visual form, new meanings can be created, often as a process of re-framing the familiar in an unfamiliar way. In the relational space of visual communication Nicolas Bourriaud’s (2002: 113) notion of the ‘semionaut’ is adapted to this research. The designer-semionaut facilitates new participatory narratives and spaces for meaning collectively within a community.


The collective identity of objects, themes and people is a source of fascinating for me in these fragmented times: what is the critical value of a group of designers? As the ingredients of design evolve, so do the terms with which design is defined and perceived. Therefore, in order to evaluate contemporary design in context, it is essential to sustain critical debate around its methods and impact. For instance, while empowering a new collective authorship, Helen Armstrong (2009: 11) argues that digital technologies also reconfigure notions of universal communication as a socio-cultural discourse.

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