Mariana Fernandez-Magnou

Damn Right Design: A Proposal of a Creative Platform to Facilitate Socially Responsible Graphic Design

stylized image of a view through a window of a distant building front

The term social design refers to the design that aims at creating and promoting activities and products related to issues that are usually not addressed by the commercial industry. It has gained great interest in the recent years, mainly in the disciplines of urban and industrial design. The graphic design discipline, in particular, has been involved in social movements and social advocacy such as labour and women's movements and political protests even before the graphic design was considered a professional discipline (Cushing and Drescher, 2009). For instance, design thinking strategies have been well equipped for such tasks, but they have tended to take a commercial, business-like perspective used within corporations where there is no real engagement with the final users and their context. Hence, this thesis argues that the discipline of graphic design still lacks awareness of the significant role it plays in addressing social problems. In social (graphic) design projects, designers move away from the more conventional design practice that takes place within an advertising agency or design firm, to work together with different organizations to address diverse social issues by contributing with their skills – skills that are much more than make things “look nice”. I claim that designers haven’t realized the importance of their visual skills to help in such causes. Through Damn Right Design, this thesis proposes a creative, graphic design focused platform that aims at helping graphic designers to understand how they can be of use in addressing projects for communities or social organizations. Its goal is also guiding designers to ponder over their attitudes, and how to implement design thinking tools in mindful ways.

Wendy Wong, Supervisor
Russ Belk, Advisor

Justine Rudnicki

The design of dissent: Graphic Design for Socio-political Engagement

composite image of a stylized heraldic eagle on the left and a man's face with inlaid text on the right

Design engages with the political and expresses resistance to hegemonic institutions and ideologies when it employs disruptive visual communication. In a context of contemporary visual communication, images often lack a theoretical and practical framework to create inquiry and social change. Informed by activism, visual rhetoric, political theory, and design criticism, this thesis offers strategies and practices for socio-political engagement by melding these approaches into the discipline of graphic design. This thesis makes the claim that graphic design’s relationship with the public interest is one that should not be undervalued. It studies the implications of perception of graphic design work as a means of social change to demonstrate the efficacy of visual communication. This thesis asks designers to evaluate the way we as communicators and citizens express desires, beliefs, and critiques, demonstrating how contestation design exists as socio-political action.

David Cabianca, Supervisor
Angela Norwood, Advisor

Julia Grzeskowiak

Reviving Craft in a Context of Design: Physical Practice in a Digital Culture

image of three identical book covers positioned side by side

This thesis examines how designed artifacts can present two simultaneous realities within static and motion typography through an investigation of motion and depth perceptual phenomena. The deceptive nature of optical illusions revolves around conflicting realities, inducing a sense of ambiguity. This thesis incorporates the ambiguous nature of illusions in the mediation of visual messages within graphic design practice. The research constitutes the employment of optical illusions in visual arts, specifically in Optical Art, and graphic design. Particular focus is placed on the moiré effect and its applications, which hugely inspires the visual investigation. Each of the projects establishes a parallel with the contradictory state of illusions, forming a visual rhetoric in the depiction of multiple realities within elusive truths. These “blurry” territories within graphic design present a self-reflexive tool for both designers and their audience in becoming observers of themselves and a conscious awareness of how they perceive the world.

David Cabianca, Supervisor
David Scott Armstrong, Advisor

Francis Benoit

The Web Browser as a Tool: A Programmatic Approach to Graphic Design on the Web

composite image of 30 different images laid out in a grid

In recent years, the web browser's rendering capabilities have grown considerably. However, it remains a window through which design is seen rather than being used as a tool. This thesis seeks to develop a programmatic method that questions the web browser's original role as a display and redefines it by investigating its alternative role as a tool in the graphic design process.  Through exploratory work, this research demonstrates that the web browser can be a fertile space for visual experimentation. This thesis demonstrates that graphic designers can benefit from a more pragmatic and logical approach to creation and invites them to adopt a process similar to a programmer's process using the web browser as a tool. 

David Gelb, Supervisor
Angela Norwood, Advisor