Impact & Empathy: Angela & Ellie

The made and the makers: Angela Lian and Ellie Schiltz

It’s funny to think our first idea for this project was the concept of living on Mars. Space took many meanings throughout our process. The Hyperakt case study we chose as a starting point was Designing a learning space about learning spaces, which dealt with disrupting and reimagining educational spaces in the age of “digital edgelessness.” The second idea that branched off of this case study became a self-study of our own learning spaces, both in school and in the design field.

HiRes is a residency concept that Ellie and I came up with in the beginning as a response to our post-grad anxieties after a senior year impacted by COVID. We answered questions about what we felt we needed in terms of design education post-grad, as well as questions about what we felt we were missing from our own education. This research along with vigorous iteration-making led to a larger question later in our process about the purpose of design and how it functions. I chose to explore the concept of inclusion and space in design education, while Ellie focused on cooperative futures in design practice. We decided to create two books within a larger collection of print pieces to store and explore these concepts.

Angela’s Process:

The residency idea came from my own interest in attending a residency after I graduate next spring. For now, I don’t feel ready for a job right out of college, and I don’t think anyone should have that obligation. I imagine it as an alternate playground for me to experiment without the risk that a job has. I’m not done making mistakes and want to transition to another learning space.

My iterations started with the container of the residency, such as it being fully funded, having access to spaces and people, and learning among other global perspectives. As I continued, I became more interested in the relationships between the space and the people in design education. Ellie and I chose to use CYMK colors as a constraint for our iterating, as a nod to taking an established system and questioning its function. I ended up including these iterations in the section, Building Space, of my book as a visual representation of our individual thoughts straying away from the initial residency idea.

During the reading and research period, I came across the article, Reimagining the Design Classroom From the Perspectives of Othered Identities on AIGA Eye On Design. It became a jumping-off point to think about what I felt was missing from my own education. Being a Chinese-Taiwanese-American, I realized that design both functions and is largely taught through a narrow eurocentric perspective. The article talked about how the educator must provide a space for othered identities to express themselves in their work by listening to and sharing other perspectives in design education. I wanted to explore the relationship between space and inclusion and how they function together. This interest blossomed into three categories of Listening Space, Open Space, and Building Space.

This categorization helped me organize my thoughts in terms of my original inspiration, my own involvement in space and inclusion, and an imaginary space to apply my new insights to design education. Ultimately, Reimage is a book of thoughts in progress. I don’t consider it a final product, but rather a documentation of transformative images, both textual and visual.

Ellie’s Process:

The idea of a residency feels so unique to the career pathways of artists, designers and the like. In what other profession is there an option to remove yourself from the constant expectation of high performance workflow and 9–5 grind -even if only for a few months- to fully immerse in a project or two, the only expectation hanging over your head being your own? The idea of a residency is almost counter-cultural; it’s a meditation on being and refining practice in a society where over-productivity and harnessing the attention economy is preferred.

This idea of counter-culture and personal identity within the design world inspired the general theme of my iterations. I chose CMYK colors to tie together most of the designs visually. I used Illustrator because I feel the least confident in my vectorization skills and wanted to see what I could create in a program that still feels frighteningly boundless to me. For 12 of the iterations, I set a 10-minute time limit as an additional constraint to push myself creatively and forget my anxieties about creating “perfect” work. I loved using gradients and halftones and using the harsh outlines of black shapes to butt up against obnoxious process colors.

I struggle with tying in my illustrative style into my design work, so I created the little flower buds to satisfy my craving for an anthropomorphic character to represent growth and satisfaction. The iterations in which I used my little flowery guys were the iterations in which I felt most successful, even though I really wanted to detach myself from the idea of “success” in creating these. I wanted to focus more on overcoming fear of experimentation and the unknown.

Angela and I both had a three-pronged approach to our book formats, which included articles that were of more specific interest to us. I leaned more into the ideas of collaboration, ways of creating, and design as an ethically ambiguous pursuit. Personally, I’m terrified of what graduating might look like for me come 2021, and I had already done some research for an alternative to immediately flinging myself into a corporate setting as an overworked junior designer. I came across the Precarity Pilot manifesto on Modes of Criticism, further launching my interest in post-capitalist creation and work. I also incorporated the Eye on Design article by Jarrett Fuller, Every Act of Design is an Act of Future-making. Both felt relevant and extremely important to me as a designer going forward in the 21st century.

Final Output

We decided to create one riso print and one small zine each to accompany our individual books. They serve as alternate modes of print to translate our ideas. Inspired by Paul Souellis’s compilation of Queer.Archive.Work, Angela and I decided to show our own compilation of design for this project in a clear plastic bag. It’s pedestrian, accessible, and shows clearly the collection of ideas we came up within this month and a half long process of exploration. It’s a transparent look into our critiques of the current state of design practice and education.

Ellie’s book: https://online.fliphtml5.com/tihsb/ukrd/#p=1

Angela’s book: https://online.fliphtml5.com/ermld/nkbk/#p=1

Graphic design student at Boston University