Design is about collision

What is a collision? When two or more elements are activated to share a space, the potential for some collision to appear grows with the strength of the semantic, graphic of functionnal link between them. Design is a practise that seek to make visible, understandable and enhance those articulations. If we think that way, design is about organising collisions. And as the white space is an element of design, it enters in balance and conflicts with constrasted elements to produce meaning and poetry.

Starting point

Our interest in the issue of collision started from a designer position when working on projects dealing with an increasing number of articulations of meaning, mixed in differents dimensions, like maps, schematics and books. This can be considered as general graphic design issues and challenges, traditionally is solved by reduction and make coherent elements from diverse origin. Progressively, we felt that in some conditions, to confront with the genuine complex and articulated nature of meanings contained in the story or the dataset, accepting, managing and composing with a larger number of elements and positions is not only needed but also revealing. Thus managing collisions that will appear statistically more seems to become the pivotal point.

Traditionnaly, in the cartographic practice, every generalisation operation (changing from a scale to a more larger one) brings me choices and collisions to be resolved. The reduced space force generations of cartographers, so me, to find solutions to enhance legibility and abandoning traditionnal white space buffers, graphical techniques that we’ve try to use back for more creative and diverse purposes in all fields of design.

As digital tools are more and more intresic and less and less neutral in our processing of increasing complexity of data and in the specific, our experience within the caravan Open Source Publishing and and Co-position in the frame of the Libre Graphic Research Unit offer us a new landscape for revisiting completely these agencements. By using near-software coding and working closely with developpers-becaming-artist, the border between our practices thicken till a point where the overlap seems more bigger than the proper fiels, till a point where we can point it simply as a culture. By practising with samples and tools, collision appear to be one of the possible cornerstones of that way of thinking design.

What is the project about

If we express lay-out as “spatial arrangement of texts and other graphical elements”, we can study more specifically certain of these arrangements. If we think that way, design is about organising collisions. As we begin the study collision as the ultimate moment, the climax of a co-position, we see that it needed a focused study, and that this study has the potential to irrigate other cornerstones of co-positionning.

We can roughly distinguish two ways to avoid collisions:

  • By design, by humans, in the spatial field, when optimisation is needed (images : crickx templates + steel sheet cuttingsoftware)
  • In the computer, by math, by organising and placing data in the more economical storing possible (images : hard drive fragmentation + unicode codepages)

Both often ways has been explored heavily, but it seems to us that they have not often been putted in relations. The project explores the possible overlap between these two approaches. So we’ll leave the only-spatial approach and look in other dimension, like the time, how collision deals with versioning, with control and with conflict resolution (small graphviz maybe collision – versioning – control – conflict resolution)

The project aims to connect software developers and designers, speak together about a specific problem that touches both fields, and approach some specific issues : no current shared vocabulary, shortcut feedback loop between designer-developer-object, relations and back-forth movements between declarative and imperative modes of coding.

We work on several levels of design: micro (character level) and macro (multipage level), and see how the change of scale can inform both.

We can also prescient that the collision theme provide interesting mind tools to approach more ideoligical questions : how do we organise the sharing of ressources, how do we share time (with others and projects), how tools can maybe bring us back unpredicted or asthonishing new ways of dealing with these issues.

Two 3 day-workshops will explore different aspects of collision and how to avoid or temper them :