Creation for and of self

It may be apparent that I like writing things, and I clearly like writing about myself; so having the chance to do both for an external body, well that’s a body that I can boogie with.

Lecture in Progress is such body, the sister company to It’s Nice That – covering arts and design in various interviews, links and self-initiated content. As the name kind of gives away, it’s a learning resource to supply lecture levels of information for the informed. They asked me to write about myself, which I do all the time, but writing about myself for someone other than myself proved a real challenge.

When you write for you, there aren’t any hang ups on whether you come across like a bit of an egomaniac because of course you are, you’re writing about yourself. Like any creative output, when I do anything for myself I’m only limited to the suitability for it’s purpose that I’ve self defined. It’s clear I’ve got a bit of an ego; enough ego at least to want to write about myself regularly and express my opinion in hopes that others would care to see and read it.

Just like the difference that this platform has from my employment, I am the client for myself and the production of anything needn’t please anyone beyond the almighty I. Though to produce writing for an external, whereas all words past were for my own benefit, is quite a difficult task, wrapped in a strange familiarity.

Creating words of myself felt somewhat dull and undesirable, which isn’t something I expected to find. I assumed the passion I felt for voicing my opinions and observations would be partnered with how I could write about myself, but it turns out if you try and objectively look at yourself; you only mislead yourself into thinking you are either more dull than you realised or much more brilliant than the world does—the latter of which I won’t realise until much later when I develop the world’s first Vincent cult.

I have compared writing about myself and self-initiated design because they are both creative outputs defined and demanded by myself, but they are leagues apart in content. Whereas design for myself could be a self-promotional project, writing about myself is actually just making it about me. I’m quite certain that design that only involved promoting and displaying the physical existence of Vincent Walden would be horribly dull with a hint of knitwear. Maybe knitwear with a skull if I make it a little more edgy.

I’m convinced that up to this point you’ll have reached an overwhelming amount of Walden self-analysis so perhaps I should actually explain the article I was banging on about at the start, walls of text ago. In LIP’s series of interviews with recent graduates titled First Hand they are collecting a varied picture of early graduate life and the strife that comes with post-success career. I spoke about mistakes, the ones I’ve made and the ones I still make ’cause we’re all human, and the contrast in work I’ve found from working in-house for a charity then jumping so radically to a local agency where I currently reside.

I implore you to sign up, have a read and revel in their extensive content; not merely because you can read what I’ve written (because I’d ruddy love that) but also because as a student or a creative, their extensive catalogue of resources, links and articles is worth the small trading of an email address and name.

Stay excellent, love Vincent x

The privilege of success

In fiction success comes to those who work hard for it. In reality success comes to those who can afford to work hard for it; that is the privilege.

If you look through your cynical goggles you’ll likely understand that it’s much easier to see people succeeding when their balance has never been read with a minus sign upon it. It’s not money that can make you successful, but it’s certainly a catalyst for any hard working person—the privilege of a lesser-debt existence is a large slice of the privilege of success.

On the topic of success it’s hard to write objectively when I too have felt the warm embrace of privilege, aiding me in my studies. I would call my success an achievement of my own, but I should be an idiot to think that the path I took would be allowed to be taken by any person. I would be mercilessly ignorant if I pretended not to see that many peoples success (or therefore lack of) was merely just to do with the quality of work that they had the ability to produce.

I was privileged to have support. Financial support, emotional support and educational support. Financially, I had the ability to speak to my parents and ask them to give the minimum I needed to focus on my education and not have to take a term-time job, otherwise taking time away from my education; this isn’t an option many have and is an option I gritted my teeth to ask of them, but my privilege was that this option was not just a possibility but also available.

Emotionally, I had taken a huge undertaking that was supported by all who I care for and all who care for me, a network of support that all didn’t know existed, that most didn’t have and few actually had. I had a hard working partner living with me and a supportive family that weren’t using their stigma of an arts education against me—something that wasn’t as common as you’d hope when encountering adults, parented by adults. It’s surprising how juvenile beings of forty plus earth years can be.

Money, clearly is a privilege but in the world of employment there is no greater foot up than being white, never-mind also being male. Neither of these are factors that I or my extended family could control, but none-the-less it certainly could influence my life and my success. To spend your existence feeling guilty for your race and for your gender is futile but to pretend to not see the privilege—you may as well gorge your eyes out for gross stupidity.

For someone like myself who has encountered such great privilege, there is both a knowledge that just as people find much less than myself; there are others who swim in vast amounts more. I find myself not feeling guilty for the opportunities I’ve had for I do not take them for granted, I understand the weight they hold and the rarity of their existence—to be ignorant of this is to be content with the injustice of privilege.

I unknowingly sat on a great hill of mounted privileges, being white, male and of financial comfortability. None of these things directly gave me a job over any of the others, but they certainly did not hinder my chances. The privilege I have is that almost all variables for success, were open and allowed me to do so. To have success is a privilege and privilege does not guarantee success—there is only failure when you disregard the privilege you have.

In the general scale, locally I held a large quantity of ‘Formula P’ but, on a global scale any person who studied with me held a cornucopia of Formula P compared to the rest of the world. I am the stereotypical designer by race and by gender, allowing for great privilege but to even be able to read this internet-based text means that your veins run with fluid ounces of Formula P compared to the blood flow of a large preparation of this earth. You lucky bugger.

It’s not what you know

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know—possibly the most common term thrown around in any given design industry. But surely, you can’t just make it by being Facebook friends with David Carson.

For anyone who’s made a great failure of their dream, they’ll have uttered that it mattered not what they knew but merely who they in-fact did not know; but can success be defined solely on the community that any given person floats in?

It’s worth noting that your connections are vital, they are your source of projects, source of entertainment and your socialising—but I doubt great design fails to be great if Debra Sussman never shook your hand. If your work is strong enough, it’s what you know that will develop who you know. That said, if you know nobody and show nobody great design may as well be a tree falling in the woods.

They certainly heard this one fall

So here’s my conundrum. I believe that who you know is very important, but not the singular reason for any success. I too have seen my knowledge of a person beat out the knowledge of the subject held by others. This is because any person who hires you for work, is a human, and humans exist through interaction—friendliness, trust and communication are the basic principles of a good client relationship and a good human relationship.

Even if we are to take the analogy of ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ as objectively true; it still does not exclusively denote that your social circle defines your success. If in a career, it’s highly likely that who you know is built upon meeting people through what you know, your talents and interests inform the people you do or do not connect with. If all work came directly from a blind choice of person over knowledge, you’d still make that selection because you are known to the person because of the knowledge of any given discourse that caused you to meet.

To claim that any triumph should come from who you know is both a defeatist and a well-educated statement, because you discount the circumstance that defined the meeting between any given two people that may or may not heighten their success together. It is not a false statement, for it can prove true – as it often does – but it also is not objectively truthful.

So as a juvenile attempt to confuse you, here is my algorithm of social knowledge and technically knowledge, feel free to never use this to define whether your success or failure was of what you knew or who you knew.

If the work you are doing is for someone you’ve worked with before, then it’s both who and what you knew; though if the work is for someone you’ve never worked with before but know personally, then it’s who you knew—this is variable dependant on whether they have given the work to you dependant on previous examples of your work, then it becomes a matter of what you knew. This too can be debunked if the work is given to you blind from the recommendation of another, in this case it is neither truly who you know or what you know, but in-fact a passive knowledge of both. I now realise this isn’t as confusing as I once prescribed.

The truthful nature of the statement also relies on the stance from which it is said. For a put out student, struggling to make their way into the industry could exclaim this and it would prove untruthful but poignant through frustration, weighted by a naive understanding of social pyramids. For an art director to say the same statement, from their experience it may prove true for their situation – just as it was false for the student – but not factual overall, because their knowledge of the ‘who’ came from any persons knowledge of the ‘what’.

If you want to believe that it’s not what you know, but who you know then know that you are not such as mad as to cast stones in hope of catching fish, but you are also disregarding how any person can come to know who they know, or what they know.
It’s neither truthful nor a lie, it’s merely an observation of an end point of an extensive process professed with great pessimism. Obviously.

What happens when design isn’t white?

Everything you know and love has been catalysed by integration—language, humour, economy and (most importantly) food. So why is design still more white than Apple packaging?

Honestly the most white GIF person I could find

Go on any studio website, click the About Us tab and you’ll likely see a couple of white men and if you’re lucky a few white women too. Go on my website and you’ll also see a white man and no women, unless of course you are reading this in the far future and perhaps you might see a genderless species should science have progressed thus far. The question is, where are the darker skin tones? Where are people with names other than Dave, John and Susan? Where is the colour in this monochromatic design sphere?

According to AIGA’s Design Census for 2016, they are pushed behind the 73% white domination. They – being the other; other meaning anything other than caucasian – are the 23% that is rarely seen but are likely spurring the change and multi-culturalism that our beloved industry needs. The Basquiat’s and the Khalo’s are being drowned by Constable’s worldwide—though there’s nothing wrong with the Constable’s, colour perfect upper-class landscapes aren’t nearly as fun as Bollywood.

If we poked our duvet pale faces out the doors of tradition, heritage and monotony for a minute, we might see their is a world filled with non-mainstream creativity that has otherwise existed in a tourist like curiosity state. There are colours that we didn’t know existed and fonts other than Helvetica—there are haircuts other than ‘a bit off the top’ and there are skintones warmer than Dulux’s Minimalist Canvas.

GIF unrelated, but horribly pleasant

It’s all well and good me mouthing off about the lack of difference in design industry as a white middle class boy, but if I were to put myself in the mindset of a minority person—I can’t image a sea of white faces being lit up even brighter by digital white frames otherwise known as the iMac would certainly be a situation that I wouldn’t be comfortable with. It’s not that anyone with light skin is a racist shite – because statistically the creative industry holds very few ignorant arseholes – but if I can’t relate to something, I too would be hesitant to throw all my weight into it.

For all I know the communities of non-white might just not be interested in design, but when I look at the heritage of Asia, Africa and South America, I see creativity woven into daily life despite the strife and amongst the triumph—so it would be a bizarre situation if on mass, the more creative communities of the world didn’t want to make their existence of colour and expression into a career.

So what happens when design isn’t white?

This.

Dirty House – David Adjaye
Touch Me Minto (Halo) – Amna Asghar
Jazz in Silhouette – Sun Ra

Would you believe, it’s not too hard to find notable Indian, African and South American designers by name, but their work is documented in a western format, so it’s very difficult for a time struck young lad (myself) to find copious visual examples of their work through the internet. Worse than that, one of India’s most prominent female designers Sujata Keshavan is described as ‘Ramachandra Guha’s wife’ before her highly regarded career. What a world ey?