Design for the Dialectic: A Thesis Compendium

Design for the Dialectic—Book Design / 2019

Context: Graduate School Project
Year: Spring 2019
Location: RISD, Providence, RI
Typology: Edtorial
Role: Book Design, Art Direction, Typography, Content Creation, Writing
Typefaces: Maison Neue by Milieu Grotesque,
Santo Isidoro, Portugal

The Thesis Compendium

The Compendium is a precursor to the MFA thesis. Our first attempt at understanding and articulating our design methodologies, the thrust of this exercise is to produce a document with original pieces of writing complemented by design projects at that we presented at RISD over the years. With this coming together of text and design projects, the idea was to identify conceptual and thematic threads that united our work at the school, laying the foundation for an understanding of our larger design methodologies.

Designing for the Dialectic

What is a dialectic? Simply defined, a dialectic is a discourse between two or more individuals who hold differing points of view on a given subject, but are united in their pursuit of the truth through reasoned argument. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher was one of the first to use this method to seek resolution to contradictory views.

Unlike Plato, for whom a dialectic was something to be had between individuals arguing a common subject, the 19th century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, instead proposed that a dialectic referred to differing and contradictory definitions of a common subject or concept.

To summarize, while the opposing sides in Plato’s dialectical methods were human interlocutors, the opposing sides in Hegelian Dialectics are contradictory definitions of a common concept.

To Hegel, there were three pivotal dialectical stages by which one achieved resolution on any given subject. We began with the thesis or the proposition; the thesis is subsequently confronted by a contradictory definition or an antithesis; and finally, through the resulting tensions between thesis and antithesis, we acquire resolution or synthesis.

“As an individual, I have always gravitated toward territories where dialectical tensions ran high; where theses and antitheses fiercely collided. During my former training as an architect, we referred to such arenas of opposition as thresholds, or edge conditions of a given site. And it was at these very sites that human encounters, conflict, and learning, were at their most intense.”

Similarly, with the inexorable migration of culture into the digital space, I have come to find that it is social media—the digital Savannah—that presents us with the richest case study into the primordial urges—of dialogue, partisanship, collaboration, and conflict—that define the human condition. Hence, a large part of my design practice either operates within, or derives inspiration from the internet; specifically social media. 

Design for the Dialectic—Spreads / 2019

Design for the Dialectic—Spreads Details / 2019

Design for the Dialectic—Spreads Details / 2019

Design for the Dialectic—Spreads Details / 2019

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