Catch up: April 2020

Welcome to another of GRIN’s monthly recaps. Usually this would be a space for us to share some recent work, showcase some lovely clients and talk up our studio socials but given COVID-19 is keeping us all at home, we’ve decided to change things this month to help us all survive the ordeal.

April has been and gone and lockdown continues. We’re working as hard as ever at GRIN, continuing to produce great work for our clients but lockdown has changed our working practices a lot. With that in mind, this month’s Catch up looks different from the usual update, as we thought we would share a recent essay we’ve written concerning, well, writing itself.

This year we have decided to focus on regularly writing short essays and articles on our Medium page. We’re only just beginning but we have a lot we want to sink our teeth into. However, before we got too carried away on the writing, we thought we would share with you why we have decided to start writing in the first place. Below is our starting place and we hope you enjoy it.

Why write? (or in other words, why has GRIN started writing?)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this question is an irrelevant thing to write about. You’re on our blog for a reason. You clicked a link somewhere to get to this essay and you must have at least the passing interest in reading in general to get this far. So is it important why GRIN has started writing? GRIN is a creative design agency so in some respects, does it really matter what we write? Given that our bread and butter is visual design, you might ask; Does writing add to a visual communication practice?

Using the four motives that George Orwell describes in his essay “Why I write”, we can reflect on why GRIN has chosen to start writing.  Orwell’s four motives for writing are: Sheer egoism (a “look at me” attitude), Aesthetic enthusiasm (for the love of words and how they fit together), Historical impulse (i.e. documentary), and Political purpose (here Orwell understands ‘political’ in its broadest sense and sees it as an attempt to change someone’s mind, whatever the subject). Orwell argues that there is a combination of all four behind every writer’s desire to write. It just depends on what order, or weighting, each point is allocated. More than anything from Orwell’s framework, GRIN is motivated by the combination of Historical impulse and Political purpose. We want to comment on contemporary, historic and future graphic design. We want to collect and present (what we might consider) disparate topics or ideas and present them in coherent articles.  Some of this will be critical and so therefore, we would want to present concepts that challenge existing ideas, with a desire to change minds. However, as Orwell states regarding ‘Sheer egoism’, “It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one” and we’d agree. There has to be some element of this otherwise we’d keep all this to ourselves! It would be immodest to think that there is no ego involved in publishing our thoughts and opinions on an open, public platform.

Aside from this, it can be easy to overthink these things. However, as Made Thought pointed out in their journal “To Think”, the problem is that designers are not doing this. It’s all too easy to rush into a piece of design work, make it look good, and then work out the meaning afterwards. At GRIN we want to do the opposite. Writing is one way we can allow our practice to incorporate time for analysis, research and then organise those thoughts into something coherent, and hopefully, thought provoking. Which in turn, we hope will help generate dialogue within the field of visual communication. 

Or to really put it bluntly: we’ve started writing because we want to and we find it interesting. And hopefully a few other people will too.

Our aim is not an attempt to tell you what is merely good or bad design. Everyone can do that for themselves. Rather, through a combination of articles, reports and essays (all research-based, insightful and most likely opinionated) GRIN will present our thoughts on various topics and issues within the field of graphic design. These might take on a timely, topical subject or it might be a topic we have had on our minds for a long time. At any rate, we are using writing to organise our thoughts and share it in the hope of dialogue with the design community. Either way, we hope you enjoy what you read from GRIN and encourage participation and discussion on each article or essay we publish.

To view the original essay, please head over to our Medium page, where you can view our ever growing archive. This will be added to over time and we hope it can be a place to promote dialogue within the design community. In the meantime, we hope you stay safe, take care and please stay at home!