NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 45

Design Today-II

Involved Design

Roosje Klap

For the past five years my colleague Niels Schrader and I have co-run the bachelor program in Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague (KABK). This is a full time curriculum built around four main courses: design, interaction, image and typography. We have added a triptych of electives to this base, including PlayLab (which revolves around artistic research), Letterstudio (about typeface design), drawing, and Design Office (with assignments from the outside world in collaboration with real clients and real budgets). 
Our students investigate the nuances of type design and typography, and become familiar with interdisciplinary research. During their studies, our students explore all aspects of visual communication and experience the work process from formulating a business plan to creating the result with a thesis and public final exhibition.

In our department we have some specific ideas about design. First of all: we think a designer should involve and engage. Design at its very essence addresses communication problems. It’s a platform for debate and dialogue. When you involve yourself in the subject at hand, understand its’ relevancy and position yourself, you are able to design better. 

To engage, involving the subject and your client is therefore key! At The Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague (KABK) we really stand for taking a position within our society and articulating concretely about this very position. You cannot do this if you do not do research, do not master the techniques of new media, or if you do not have a view of the context in which you find yourself. What we find very key to this is the attitude in which you take this position as a designer. Formulating your opinion within the context you are working. Define what the problem is, then articulating the answer to it using the means at your disposal. Instead of turning away from it, put yourself smack in the middle of it and face it! 

As a designer, don’t worry about how many likes you get, but rather focus on the larger themes you’ll have to deal with and accept responsibility!
Next to that we think it is essential to know how to cooperate and share, so be generous. Nowadays, the assignments out there have become so complicated that you can only solve them interdisciplinary and in generous cooperation. You are not in this world alone; we need each other.
In order to be truly creative, it is necessary to create a safe zone around yourself, so you can really be free (see also: be generous and cooperative). With this freedom, broaden your horizons. Throw yourself into the unknown. Articulate and feel free to fail!

Design nowadays is such an enormous field. On one hand, the craft and technical parts and on the other hand, there are clearly formulated content components. So: learn how to code, this is the new ‘craft’. If you do not know how to code, you are illiterate. We believe it is important to be your own master. Don’t fall in to the pool of digital uniformity. That’s why you have to learn to program: so you can play in this field. As a designer, you have to know how to play a role in this, how it works, and how to escape the grip of the great powerful entities.

Since September 2018 we also created a new master program for our academy, ‘Non Linear Narrative’: a two-year programme that merges investigative methods of journalism and forensics with processing technologies of computer science and visual arts. You could formally see this as the follow-up for the bachelor studies, so it is a graphic design master, but since our discipline is so rapidly changing we saw the necessity of naming it differently. Also it is open for other types of bachelor graduates, like journalists or filmmakers. With this master we are researching ways of making a contemporary narrative. There’s several ways to make solutions for our contemporary problems after all. It’s very exciting that our first master students will graduate this year. You are all invited to come and see the final show of our bachelors and masters in July 2019! 

I would like to end with two important pieces of advice for designers and students alike. First of all: ENJOY AND BE HAPPY, because Schopenhauer said wisely ‘The worst is yet to come’ and that is unfortunately the reality. A second piece of advice by the late John Cage and Sister Corita Kentw: NOTHING IS A MISTAKE. THERE IS NO WIN AND NO FAIL, THERE IS ONLY MAKE.

Roosje Klap

(1973, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) owns a studio for visual communication, mainly graphic design and typography, which she has set up after her graphic design studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Together with Niels Schrader, Klap is head of the Graphic Design Department at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, where the two implement both innovative and research-based design classes with a strong focus on crafts in typography and coding, which makes this department one of the leading bachelor design educations in Europe.

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