Last week, second-year students from Avans’ Communication and Multimedia Design department in ‘s-Hertogenbosch conducted projects in which they addressed social problems in a journalistic and contrarian way. The design students were instructed to identify a structural problem and then to conduct research; to protest, and then to effect change in their immediate environment. Each project team of about five students chose a problem and made three designs to address it.
A wide variety of subjects was discussed, and possible causes or culprits were identified. The students deployed their design skills in confrontational works. Some used a poster series to bring politicians face-to-face with their own drug use. The climate problem was playfully presented to consumers through a game and a new type of restaurant. One project, simultaneously painful and hopeful, addressed the state of LGTBQ+ affairs in other countries and within soccer cultures. Another project that made people talk was one in which the taboo surrounding menstruation was challenged in an exciting way: by starting a conversation about it over a cup of tea.
The concepts were also presented to people outside of the programme and audiences were invited to contribute their reactions. Students made contact with various organisations of different kinds, including the police, BNN and Sire, and also a company that specialises in pop-up stores. These engagements were central to the process, helping us to think about how the concepts might be realized.
Among others, a project concerning the social challenges that surround experiences of neurodivergence, made the news https://punt.avans.nl/2022/04/158832/. A project titled Critical Dutch https://kritisch-nederland.nl/, concerning info-bubbles and alternative perspectives on COVID-19, generated considerable attention online. It was clear that students were able to achieve a significant reach and to elicit reactions.
Artists and Caradt researchers Bart Stuart and Klaar van der Lippe were involved with this project, as they were with a previous edition https://caradt.nl/2020/04/22/studenten-maken-kritische-en-tegendraadse-ontwerpen-bij-maatschappelijke-problemen/. They emphasize the importance, for design students, of being introduced to the complicated choices that surface during such a challenge. What appeals to Stuart and van der Lippe is that the students have to take a position: as a designer, you are not an extension of an industry, or a of a financial project – you also have a voice. In seminars, they like to introduce a contrarian approach, as a basic ingredient for the more balanced professional practice that will come with time.
Coordinator of the project and also Caradt researcher Eke Rebergen is looking forward to a new edition next year.
More (sample) projects can be found at the project website https://creatieveweerbarstigheid.nl/