Social Media Phobia

I’ve admittedly been a bit hesitant to keep up on my blogs this term. For whatever reason, the evil side of blogging, tweeting and face book has bubbled up on my feeds more frequently than usual. Criticisms of criticisms seem to be all anyone is posting. More and more people give glory to the trolls by shining a spotlight on the ridiculous comments posted on every piece of content imaginable. Women seem to bare the brunt of it, particularly women in the spotlight. I can’t think of any man who is famous for being loathed but it’s easy to make a list of hated women. The worst part is that women are propagating this hatred against other women.

On my Facebook page, a friend posted this article ( about the ridiculously vile tweets left for Toronto Maple Leafs goalie’s wife April. She did nothing, just married a hockey player who lets goals get by him. Ridiculous. This reporter points the fingers at male hockey fans and calls them misogynists.  I bet women are just as guilty if you were to look.  Even if the comments are meant to be taken as a “joke”, they reveal the underlying yet very pervasive negative attitude toward women. The comments left on the article criticize the reporter for defining the behaviour as misogyny, which is a joke in itself.

The saddest thing, women are often the biggest offenders when it comes to misogyny. This is a prime example:

Joan Rivers, you are a successful, ground breaking female, why are you doing this to us? It’s not just Lena Dunham you’re hurting when you try to fat shame her and accuse her of promoting unhealthy eating and obesity, it’s all women. You have a voice that’s louder than 99.9% of everyone on the planet, please use it for good instead of evil.

I have no idea why Kim Kardashian is famous, but the vitriol she has experienced regarding her vogue cover is unreal. It’s a magazine, people, she wasn’t elected for public office, get over it. Then there’s Gwyneth Paltrow. Article upon article about why people hate her so much. People are currently tearing her apart because of the way she announced her divorce.

We will get no where fast if we keep cutting each other down, and it seems like the bloggosphere is doing more harm than good.


Design Dissonance

We have been assigned the task of designing new packaging for a series of dog and cat food products that are in desperate need of help. We have been given free range for the most part, aside from a few cost controlling measures. That’s wonderful, however, for me, its not the design thats their biggest problem, which they perceive to be the case, it’s the names of the products. I personally wouldn’t  buy products, no matter how amazing they might be, if the name is cheesy and ridiculous. So I tried googling help with designing for unappealingly named products. I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for, but I did find some lists of examples of bad design synergies. This article on design dissonance was particularly interesting, it highlights designs that are out of sync with the indented message.

And of course there are the multitude of products with names that will blow your mind, like these:

Soup for Sluts is particularly out there. I guess in retrospect my design challenge isn’t that bad compared to these gems.

updates on our program’s dilemma

In response to the backlash against the ideas surrounding the fate of our workspace, the dean entertained us to answer our questions. I have to hand it to the third years who organized things- they kept it professional and respectful, despite the confusion and strong emotion going in. And for the most part it stayed that way, save for one first year student who got sassy and looked foolish, but at least she was a reminder to the rest of us how that approach typically goes down.

I picked a bad spot and couldn’t hear what was being discussed at times over the girl in the next room singing do what you want with my body by Lady GaGa at the top of her lungs. What I did hear was a lot of semantics and double speak. Designated space is the new buzz word. Pio’s attempt at clarifying that term and it’s usage was interesting. At the beginning of the conversation, the dean played innocent and said that the only decision that was made is that there are no decisions and therefore “designated space” was not a term that should be used because no space could be given a designation. ya.  Long story short, we jumped to conclusions and started a narrative that included our beloved personal desk space being taken away. True, but as I mentioned in a previous post, giving us tidbits of information and leaving us out of the conversation leads to rumours and worst case scenarios. The administration realized this and wisely gave us this platform for discussion.  

Back to Pio’s question and the “designated space” issue. He read the course description online as it was posted that day, which included emphasis on individual desk space and access to professors. That annoyed the dean, and he revealed that the new literature leaves those details out. I think I saw a bead of sweat on the dean’s forehead. Will it be false advertising for the students considering which design program to attend? Pio tried to get him to clarify this whole don’t tell them we have designated space debacle, but the dean danced around the issue with an story about how no space can be technically designated as it could be in another space. Of course that was not what we were asking.  Pio should have followed up with “so can I tell students coming in for tours that we have our own desks and computers and our professors are right next to us?” That may have cut to the point, but I think he was frustrated and didn’t want to seem combative.

Overall I think our most pressing concerns were heard.  Rob and Bree did a great job of making that crystal clear. The administration acknowledged that they heard how important personal desk space is (personal to one individual and only one) equipped with a Mac to practice file management and to have control and accountability over our files, with our professor’s offices in the room or equally close by so we can constantly pop in for reassurance that we don’t suck.

They tried to reassure us that their plan was to take what worked in the program and make it better (does this mean bigger as well?)  The girl who got sassy did have a good question but she didn’t handle the double speak well.  She wanted to know what the current, tentative plans were for integrating the degree program into the space we currently have. the dean didn’t want to answer that but kind of shot himself in the foot by saying that they obviously had a plan because it was happening in September, but that plan will most likely change 100 times. She wanted to know that current plan, he wasn’t willing to give up that info.  Maybe there is no plan???

I’m thankful we had the chance to voice our opinion, they seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say. Now that we have said it, only time will tell what they do with that.

One thing that the dean said that I take issue with is his insistence that what ever happens will not effect us, it will effect the students coming in in the future. We stressed the fact that the quality of work we produce is strongly supported by the structure of the program and that the quality of the work will go down if this structure is tampered with. Conestoga design students have spent decades building up the program and the school’s reputation for excellence and many of us chose this program for that reason. The diploma carries with it a certain prestige and if future students are not able to maintain that quality of work, that prestige will tarnish.  It will affect us.

Winter Wonderland

I’m starting to gain an appreciation for photo editing. My photography skills are weak- shaky hands, bad depth perception, lack of time- but I do enjoy it. I really enjoy manipulating those images later to make them more interesting. Since it’s so miserably cold this winter, I thought I might take time to learn how to do winter photography.  One of my goals is to go to the arctic to do some photography, so I braved the bone-chilling temperatures. 

Winter photography can be tricky. The light can change frequently and the bright white snow can mess with your light meter, turning your scene grey.  Digital camera world has some good tips.

The goal is to get out at dawn or dusk.  My schedule doesn’t allow me that luxury, but I went out on a day that was so bright and blue, I got some nice shots. I toned down the blue a bit, and gave them a softer look.  I’m curious about people’s preferences, here are the before and after of a couple:


The Power of Colour

I’m watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  This is the most incredible display of how powerful colours can be. Using only colour, entire countries stood up against Putin’s tyrannic anti- gay laws and sent out an international message in support of human rights.

Greece wore gloves with rainbow fingers.



The Germans were walking rainbowsImage

The Czechs carried banners that featured hearts, an homage to a president who was famously progressive and supportive of the LGBT community.  

There were more subtle hints as well, such as this one from a New Zealand speed skater Image


Hipster style: the revival of the arts and crafts movement?

I have been re-reading Naomi Klein’s “No Logo”, and the way Klein describes the ” anti-corporate activist” reminds me of the 1800’s arts and crafts movement’s philosophy and the Hipsters of today. Klein describes a backlash against branded culture as saturation leads to cynicism. Being bombarded by branding to the point of irritation has the potential to turn people against the idea of the “brand” all together. They reject corporately created culture and go about the business of creating culture for themselves with an enthusiastic DIY attitude. This sounds like Klein is describing, ten years after the book was written, what we now call, a “Hipster”. It also sounds a lot like the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1800’s, founded by William Morris, that rejected the idea that progress was tied to industrialization and embraced handcrafting with traditional techniques.Image

 “To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it.”-William Morris

To sum it up, why would you waste your hard-earned money on mass-produced, machine manufactured stuff, when you can edit your wants down to your needs and invest in possessions that were crafted with skill by hand that would last? Morris advocates putting as much time and detail into everything an individual does and making every-day, utilitarian objects things of beauty. He emphasizes the idea that hand crafted is better, higher quality, longer lasting, he looked to the past for inspiration.

Hipster trend goes something like that. If it looks vintage, it has a certain tried, trusted and true credibilityDesign is currently flooded with the Hipster trend. The DIY, ephemera look is extremely popular, and I think it means that the dissillusionment that  Klein describes has come to pass for enough people to make the backlash mainstream.

Do some investigating about Hipsters and you get some interesting results. What is a Hipster, exactly?

“Well, almost every music buff you’ll encounter will be a hipster, so it’s important to have context. Modern hipsters are middle and upper class young adults who immerse themselves in alternative culture of almost every kind – film, music, art, literature, fashion, food, etc. A bricolage of cultural influences, the hipster is semi-cynical toward alternative cultures, embracing them while also ridiculing them as phony. Hipsters are true practitioners of doublethink in this sense.”
(Alex Weiss, 2009

And this is an amazingly hilarious puppet show that looks at the evolution of Hipsters, and the impact that they have had on society as a whole:

It turns out, Hipsters have a long and colourful History.They were originally called Macaronis.  Highlights:

1770 was probably the first time when tons of British middle-class kids had enough cash to blow on sitting around and looking cool. People in London really hated these ‘Macaronis’. They hated them so much they compared them donkeys, butterflies, frogs, Frenchmen, pasta, and women. You might recognize Macaronis from that Yankee Doodle ditty: “Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni.” -Buzzfeed- 


Hipsterism isn’t all about the style, which rejects labels and embraces used, vintage, and hand-made… or brands that manufacture a used, vintage hand-made style. Hipsters brew their own beer, bake their own bread, refurbish their own furniture, barter for goods and services and engage in all manner of DIY that they can tell a story about. Can you imagine someone 100 years ago acting like it was a huge feat to bake a loaf of bread? Its shows how far we’ve been removed from being self-sustainable. We rely on corporations to provide us with all the basics, and the flourishes, that we need. The Hipster obsession with reviving old skills is like a way of proving that you can still look after yourself. Maybe it strangely ties in with the other current cultural obsession; Zombies. We may have to fight for survival in a post- apocalyptic, Zombie- infested, nuclear fallout world, but at least the Hipsters know how to make sourdough.

The trend is on the brink of being played out. Hipsters are probably too cool for themselves at this point and there’s a lot of backlash. So what is happening? Here’s one theory:

Hipsters eventually have to grow up, and of course grow up means get an entry level cubicle job, upon the realization that only Ke$ha still likes beards, they promptly shave. Female hipsters dye their hair back to one color and remove the facial piercing they been hiding from their mom for 4 years. Having lost their protective coating they are instantly seduced by their former enemy, the sorority girl/frat boy. They maintain some of their characteristics by purchasing a Volvo or VW, however this does little to slow the transformation. As time moves on they become adsorbed in the suburban landscape and get married, while on their honeymoon, to some generic island, they complete their transformation.-

The fact that a website exists called “DIE HIPSTER.COMA PLACE FOR REAL NEW YORKERS TO VENT ABOUT THE INVASION OF ATTENTION STARVED, USELESS ADULTS THAT WE KNOW AS HIPSTERS” is proof of the backlash, as is the video linked earlier. There are some theories as to what happens next. Urban Dictionary describes a “Metahipster” as:

A subgenre of hipster that constantly satirizes stereotypical hipster behavior. Completely incomprehensible to normal people, irritating and awkward to normal hipsters. Can be genuine,trolls, or both.
Hipster: “Hey, Animal Collective is having a free concert in the city tomorrow. Do you want to–”
Metahipster: “–I can’t go. I’m getting my mop-top done in the morning and are taking an evening shift at the Marxist bookstore to help pay for these pants that I definitely got at a thrift shop and not Uniqlo.”
Hipster: “Um… wait, what?”
I hope the end of Hipsters does not result in a backlash against the idea of DIY and handmade. Ultra-consumerism needs a bit of light mockery. But where will design go when Hipster is no longer cool? No more badges and banners, arrows and lumberjacks, Futura Bold and rubber stamps, fancy chalkboards, bicycles and of course… moustaches.

So they are secretly threatening our program…

Rumours are swirling about our school, Conestoga College, threatening to change the format of what makes this program unique and what helps us to thrive as design students.  We have our own desks with computers that are assigned to each of us for the year and I personally credit that aspect of the program with the results that each of us produce.  We have different ideas for different projects, we set ourselves up accordingly, each student will have a variety of different tools and materials needed to realize their vision for a particular project.  We spend hours and hours outside of class time to produce our projects. Having designated space is important for our success.

Like I said we are hearing rumours.  We are being excluded from the conversation.  Instructors are being told to keep things on the down low, so naturally students are weaving together bits and pieces of speculation.  This is a huge issue with me, as it will be the students who have to absorb the biggest impact of this decision. There are surveys and petitions that are being circulated, but nothing official from College administration. We chose to attend this program over others because of they way it is delivered. We pay to attend this program. It is not cheap. We should get a say in what happens to it, at least for the time we are here. 



My theme for our “package of nothing” project has me entering some questionable Google searches. In short, we have to design a package for an intangible concept- it’s a very conceptual design project that everyone is really excited about. My theme is “the perfect crime”, so I have Google searched how to commit the perfect crime, what is the perfect crime, examples of perfect crimes, etc, and I assume that by the end of this project, I will be on some kind of list. Thanks, Edward Snowden, for the paranoia. 

As ridiculously paranoid as it sounds, there are stories of artists and writers who have found themselves in trouble for researching red-flag material for various creative projects. After traveling to the Congo for a year of research, David Axe, a journalist had the misfortune of having all of his book advance for his Graphic novel, illustrated by Eisner award winning graphic artist Tim Hamilton about the Congolese Resistance Army, seized by the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control. This office has been given the authority to seize assets believed to be funding terrorist organizations. Without bothering to actually investigate their suspicion, they assumed that David and Tim were financing Joseph Kony’s war in Central Africa.  He wasn’t, for the record, but you can read about his ordeal here: 

I have heard of a screenwriter who had a visit from the SWAT team for doing research about school shootings, and of course there are the stories of people people detained at airports for tweeting things like “off to destroy America”, which is British slang for partying hard in a particular place. Theres the couple in Long Island who’s house was raided because she was researching pressure cookers at the same time her husband was shopping for a backpack. There are lots of examples of Google search histories  being used as evidence against someone. Turns out, after a bit of research, Google does keep tabs on every search you do through them, based on your IP address and stores it for at least nine months.  They also install cookies that track every page you visit, that how you end up with those spiffy targeted adverts on your sidebars. Google acts all innocent and claims to be angry at the NSA for getting into their databases, but they are hardly internet angels. 

What you do online is not private. Ever. And its easily misinterpreted because it is usually without context. The more you put out there, they more vulnerable you are, and this person’s easy bank account hacking guide is proof:

For anyone wishing to exist solely in the here and now here are some tips:

And finally, for this of us who must keep on bloggi’n, here is a handy list of things not to say:
At least I will have an interesting design piece as proof that I’m not actually planning on committing a perfect crime, although that identity hacking scheme may be it.