Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You're Doing It Wrong - and It's Working!

Jockeys Before the Race by Edgar Degas
 Public domain image: Wikimedia Commons
I considered titling this entry, "A Pole through the Horse's Head."

Recently, WIRED Magazine ran an article about design that was autobiographical in nature, and theoretically provocative in implications. The article, "Why Getting It Wrong Is the Future of Design" began with a discussion of Degas' painting, Jockeys Before the Race - which you see to the right.

The most obvious element is pole, which is jarringly juxtaposed over the horse's face in a location that is neither centered, nor adhering to the rule-of-thirds.In Degas' day, social media was ablaze with cries of "You're Doing It Wrong!" (Keep in mind that social media, at that time, consisted of letters and reviews and conversations.) But after a while, it became as obvious as the pole in your face that this gesture opened up a new way of artistic seeing and showing.

The article's author, Scott Dadich, recounts a design decision he made regarding WIRED's cover - a decision that he knew to be "wrong" according to the established professional protocol, a decision he came to regret after the cover went to press, (read about the decision in the article, I'm not telling you everything,) but a decision that opened up a new way of seeing and executing design in the magazine. Of this event, Dadich says:
We have figured out the rules of creating sleek sophistication. We know, more or less, how to get it right. Now, we need a shift in perspective that allows us to move forward. We need a pole right through a horse's head.
Maybe those of us who work in new media, digital literacies and related fields could learn something from this example about how we can do more than simply theorize about randomization, aleatory methods, and non sens as necessary post-modern catalysts for invention. And, as I ponder these issues, I might offer two words for those composing in these new media:
  1. Caution: It's not a wise thing to break the rules until you know you can execute your work according to the rules. The old adage, "Rules were made to be broken," doesn't seem so attractive when you meet someone on the interstate who has fully embraced that motto.
  2. Throw Caution to the Wind: When you have mastered the rules, break them. Turn off the guidelines, Edit the "Master Slide," violate the template, spin the convention around, and experiment. New media doesn't yet know what they want to do/be/do, so give knock down some fences and give them some room to run.