As the first installment of this explorative series, I will tell you its origin story. I was got the idea from the mission page of the Products of Design webpage for the School of Visual Arts. On the page there is this slideshow of images, and as they flip by, you can see that they are a ‘product of ——‘ – some interpretation of the consequence of the design. The concept for the program is to consider products OF design (results, consequences of design), as well as the initial intention of that design.
I think this is such an interesting concept. But instead of exploring products, it made me want to go backwards; start at the consequence and look at products that have caused it. And explore that consequence.
The ‘Phase Out’ is a very tricky business. For those that don’t know what I mean, ‘phasing out’ in this context, is the ridding of something from a system. When trying to ‘phase out’ a friend from your life or trying to phase a company into a new visual identity, you also have to decide what kind of ‘phase out’ experience you want. Do you want immediate and painful? slow ‘lose-touch’, “unintentional” ‘lose-touch’? polite breakup? Are you sure about this purging? Do you have reason enough, or should you just stick it out? In this series I wanted to talk about this consequences and go backwards, and use this as a starting point for all types of stories and assessments of design. For this month’s theme, ‘Phasing Out’, I’m going to bring up the very well publicized University of California logo (hat tip to Roman Mars and his amazing podcast, 99% Invisible, where this was discussed the other week).
To quote his blog for 99%Invisible, Roman Mars says about the well-publicized scandal: “If you’re not from California, or missed this bit of news, the University of California has a new logo. Or rather had a new logo. To be more precise they had a new “visual identity system,” which is the kind of entirely accurate but completely wonky description that gets met with sarcastic eye rolls from anyone who isn’t a designer, but there it is. But they don’t have a new anything logo anymore. Because of a massive public backlash, the UC system actually suspended the entire new brand identity monogram while we were reporting this story.” IMAGE: UofC old and new logo
The situation is so interesting because of how unsuccessful this logo was in phasing out its old crest, or even just phasing the old crest into a different usage. The result, the product, of this phase-out (and so many others recently, for example The Gap of 2010, American Airlines very recently, the Paul Rand UPS logo switch, etc.) was a huge public outcry about this logo, which personally I don’t LOVE, but I don’t think its so bad. It definitely would not bring me to hate-mail at the administration if I went to this school, and part of my reasoning for that is that I am not a professional graphic designer or even an experienced one. Branding and marketing are an extremely subtle affair, and I could not presume to know and understand the full intentions in such a logo. Either way, I think this really established the general public (not just the design community or the client) as a stakeholder with opinions that can effect change. This particular design also spawned uproar and interest in design. Here, although the intention was a young, new, daily-use, modern logo, and the phase-out of a more gravitas-filled crest, the real result was a public reminder and interest in the importance of design. I think this may have been a step back, but it was definitely a step.
In the film Celeste and Jesse Forever, it depicted the very slow and backwards-forwards movement of the ‘phase out’ of a marriage, friendship and romantic relationship (i.e. the weirdness of a breakup). The film starts with the couple getting divorced soon after their marriage and at a young age, and continues with the development of their relationship from there: their regrets, their phases in and out of marriage, their phases back and forth from to friendship to exhaustion to betrayal to hatred, and their phases in and out of love. Whether you liked the movie or not, I think the subtlety in which their situations and feelings constantly change is pretty familiar to us all. The weirdness and change during a ‘phase-out’ that we all feel was really the focus of this movie, and perhaps the idea of whether or not its possible to feel comfortable in our heads again, despite this change and confusion. This scene is so great, I think, because it shows the sadness of Jesse’s situation, the confusion of Celeste, and the lack of understanding for everyone who sees their situation:
Of course, in the new HBO television series, Girls, that everyone is talking about so much these days, (which I, I am not ashamed to say, am obsessed with) we see the ‘phase out’ in multiple scenes. On television we barely see “the (real) friend breakup”, but this show shows it (spoiler) late in season 1 between Hannah and Marni (“You are the wound!” “No you are the wound!”), and shows their okay-ness in seeing each other afterward. In season 2 we even see them still as friends, despite a bit of weirdness that might be under the surface. Why is this so rarely seen on TV? In life, I think its fairly common than most people phase-out at least a couple friends throughout their lives. Its such an easy way for a character to leave the scene, but because friend phase out’s are so real and common and absolutely awful, the writers, I think, don’t want us to undergo that experience unless they give us hope for a reconciliation. In my experience, a reconciliation is the opposite of the point of a friend phase-out. The consequence of this friend breakup, no doubt is to keep the show ‘realistic’ but also gives the audience the catharsis of the breakup of this friendship that it had been leading to for the entire season. This definitely is the ‘immediate and painful’ variety of phase-outs..
In the first episode of season 2 (spoiler), we also see Hannah uncomfortably and ungraciously trying to phase Adam out of her life, even though he is still in love with her and was hit by a car while she was breaking up with him. She is giving so many mixed signals to him, no doubt due to her sense of always making the worst decision available, which he chooses to completely interpret as “Hannah is still into me”. For all of these situations (Celeste’s and Jesse’s, Hannah’s and Marni’s, and Hannah’s and Adam’s), the result and intention of the phase-out is rebirth and fresh starts, but it takes a while to get there.
In architecture, as well as industrial design, the transition stages between major stylistic movements caused very interesting changes in the infrastructure of cities and in how everyday lives were experienced. Just like how most families did not immediately go out and buy a television set when they were first released, in cities like Barcelona we see these amazing, strange co-existences between strong, polar-opposite architectural philosophies. This new environment with old and new and ancient structures does not fit in with the idealism of any of the architects within it! Sometimes an architect or industrial designer reconciles, as Adolf Loos did (famous German architect), that times will change and that furniture inside or the environment around will change, and may not fit the architectural design in 10 years. But, often, even if this is the case, the designer will have his or her own opinion on the best approach to style and design, as they should. Thus, it is very difficult for the designer to not design for the past, but to cater to past designs and respect that their designs must coexist with them. Of course, this is another example of ‘Phase Out’. These physical relics of each architectural style, I think adds to Barcelona immensely. It allows you to see the history of the city in a glance, just looking over the skyline, and you have an idea of how each period changed this beautiful city.
Please let me know if you guys liked the article! Did you find it interesting? Did I leave something out? Share! :)