Design is everywhere. From the houses that we live in to the roads that we drive on to the cars that we drive on them in. With design pervading every aspect of our lives it’s no wonder that an annual festival celebrating design and designers is Canberra’s fastest growing festival.
Someone who deeply appreciates design in all its glory is Dana Tomic Hughes a self-diagnosed design tragic and founder and editor of online design publication Yellowtrace. And that’s not all: she is an interior designer, design curator adviser and keynote speaker to boot.
We asked interior designer, friend of Leiden and ardent Yellowtrace fan Courtney Volant to catch up with Dana about design ahead of the Blogger Breakfast event taking place as part of the Design Canberra Festival.
Courtney: You began Yellowtrace in 2010, before the ‘instagram-era’; could you describe the effect that photo-sharing online applications have had on the attention span of consumers of online publications such as yours? i.e. Do you see a reduced interest in written narrative as opposed to visual?
Dana: Definitely. Our society has moved away from being verbal to being almost entirely visual. People, generally speaking, don’t have much patience for reading, so we now communicate visually more than ever, particularly with a younger demographic who devour content almost exclusively online, and in bite size chunks.
This is not at all surprising because, us humans, first see, and then we think. Our eyes and our visual response works much faster than our conscious mind. Our first impressions are based on visual stimulus, long before we have objectively processed their relevance.
C: You will be speaking about writing and how it has become essential to the future of design; does this notion stem from a concern that communication through design language is gradually being lost? Has the assistance of digital communication (by means of 3D rendering, virtual walk-throughs, etc.) perhaps reduced the need for written communication?
D: Design today is communicated in multiple ways. Life-like renderings and virtual walk-throughs are an essential process of bringing a project to life. Going through the process of delivering a successful outcome is a very difficult and complex task. From the outside, the amount of work that goes into a great or iconic project is rarely seen. This makes the work the design writers do all the more valuable to designers and their efforts.
I would also add that, in today’s age, we often mistake information for knowledge. While we can devour visual inspiration, take screen shots and ‘like’ posts till the cows come home, knowledge can only be accessed by immersing ourselves in the subject, and learning valuable lessons over time. Writing is an essential part of this learning process and ongoing development of our industry.
C: International and local design material is more available than ever. Do you feel that young designers are entering the industry with more awareness than their predecessors? How do you see this effecting the progress of future design in comparison to previous years?
D: I think this transparency and awareness of the global design industry is both a blessing and a curse for young designers.
Because we live in a time where the whole world is at our fingertips – through references image, websites, blogs, social media – designers, are generally moving towards a more unified aesthetics, influencing each other greatly. Whilst it seems the standard of design, or at least its presentation, is being raised year on year, it’s becoming more and more difficult to come across projects that demonstrate original thinking, break new ground and present something we haven’t seen before, and not just for the sake of grabbing our attention, or creating “the perfect image” that will go viral – but rather projects that are profoundly good.
C: Designers have the ability use design as a means of narrative. How important is capturing the designer’s intent vs. leaving a certain open-endedness to each article to allow the consumer to interpret the design through their own observations?
D: Design is subjective. It’s not a mathematical formula. There is pretty much no right or wrong answer, so to be definitive in how we talk about it is simply not possible. Ultimately, we can only have our own opinion on the subject, and it’s up to the readers to use their own judgement call if the writers opinion resonated with them. And therein lies the magic of design. Sometimes you don’t even have to understand it, but you can almost always count on it making you feel something, even if your conclusion boils down to the basic ideas around aesthetics.
C: ‘Trend’ is a term that often stirs up debate within the design community; how important is it for online publications to produce on-trend material? Does consumer demand for ‘trend’ items take precedence over articles that cover traditional design & practices?
D: Trend is a dangerous word. It sits completely at odds with traditional design values. Design is a lifelong pursuit that develops, evolves, and is never perfected or finished (ask any hard-core designer, I’ll give you 20 bucks if they don’t agree). Designing objects, spaces and buildings takes an enormous amount of effort and energy, and what we are taught at university is that good design needs to stand the test of time. Trends, on the other hand, usually stand for consumerism, and a throwaway mentality.
Back to your question though – you’re absolutely right in saying there’s an expectation for online publications to create content that’s super current and on-the-pulse. I personally believe it’s really important to have some balance. I’ve always made a conscious effort for Yellowtrace not to get swept up by the hype of the latest and greatest, and just focus on what I consider to be the best and most inspiring work in various genres we cover, regardless of how ‘current’ it may be.
If you would like to hear Dana speak more on design and her online publication Yellowtrace join us at the Design Canberra Blogger Breakfast.
Blogger Breakfast with Dana Tomic Hughes
11 November, 8.30am-10am
Courtney is a young Canberra-based Interior Designer. Although you’ll find her behind her Mac or out on site these days, Courtney spent her uni years slinging cocktails until the wee hours of the morning. She loves all things hands-on and enjoys trying out new crafts with friends.