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November 11, 2005 || 9:10 am
Representation revisited

In response to Robie's comment to my post yesterday, its all very well to talk about the radical-ness of a means of representation in theory but it is a lot more tricky when dealing with a real client (in this case a local council) with a very low level of visual literacy (or should that be, a level of literacy that most non-architects have?) We are producing documents that are being asked to do the impossible: be all things to all people, not to produce architectural representation for architects to fawn over.

Archigram's images were certainly representing their ideas extremely well, but they were also doing the design, whereas we are in the position of trying to produce design guidance to forestall the worst tendencies of commercial development, and prod them into having to be more creative and characterful. We are not advocating a single aesthetic. We are also working in a time-frame that makes a more interesting process of experimentation about how exactly we do represent ideas about design a bit difficult, much to our frustration (in other projects we have had much more ability to communicate our ideas differently).

There is a really gritty point here about how design is communicated to lay people. Alsop argues that 'the man in the street' does respond better to his 'provocative' design drawings than to the usual bland crap, and he's right. Currently, I'm interested in how you can use text in images to point out things that may not be obvious to the naked eye. But the reality is, clients like ours have an expectation of how these documents look (bland crap) and we have to bring them along gently and by the back door to feel comfortable with something more radical (I consider it a minor victory, in this case, that they accepted really fantastic graphic design by Hyperkit). They employ us because they like our high level of ambition and design, but when it comes down to it, they're scared.

[It's noticeable, in this context, that commercial clients are much more accepting of stuff that breaks the mould: they're desperate for something that makes them stand out against the competition.]

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