Design: The Bigger Picture – Guest Lecture

We really forget how lucky we are.

Wednesday, a Guest lecturer visited Lincoln University to talk to us. We  assumed he would be showing us some nice typography, posters, branding or packaging. Instead he showed us something far more important – the bigger picture.

Sitting at my desk this morning, drinking actimel and typing away on my Mac, it is hard to imagine how my life could be if I lived on the other side of the world. Let’s face it, we have it made here in Britain and we take everything for granted.

Professor Paul Cleveland teaches at Griffith University; one of the top 10 Unis in Australia. You might say: ‘Australia? What does he know about the bigger picture? All they do is surf over there!’ But actually, he knows a lot.

He spoke to us about Timor Leste (East Timor), a colony abandoned by Portugal near to Indonesia and Australia.

When abandoned, Timor Leste collapsed. The people were left to their own devices. Young people had nothing to do, no school, no jobs, so they got into trouble. Timor’s Museums were looted of its historical & cultural objects. The country’s identity was stolen.

A deal was struck with Australia to help Timor, however the deal involved losing a lot of Timor’s oil sources so their main income was almost halved. Oil doesn’t last forever anyway, so they needed to build a future for Timor – some industries.

The Timor Leste Project spent a lot of time researching the history of Timor Leste, trying to get it’s identity back. They went into small villages to collect music, jewellery, photos, food – any item that would help them to build up an image of Timor Leste’s culture. They discovered that Timor contained a lot of artists, but that they didn’t know how to use their craft to make money.

To help the Timorese people, the Timor Leste Project started developing creative industries so the young would have a future after their oil had ran out. This is where Prof.Paul Cleveland comes in. Creatives from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University have started to train some Timorese people in film making, furniture making, product design etc so that they will be able to go back to Timor Leste and teach what they had learnt to others. This will get young people into art schools instead of causing trouble.

The Timor Leste Project also taught the Timorese how to use what they have already by producing chairs from used tyres and spoons and bowls from coconut shells.

The Timor Leste Project helped set up an independent committee, Totoli Kultura, which was non-political so that the plan would stay in place regardless of what happened to the government.

They had 5 main objectives:

1. to help conserve Timor Leste’s cultural history
2. to stimulate cultural innovation
3. to assist in nation building
4. to support creative arts education
5. to generate employment for young people.

They’re still working on doing all of these to make Timor Leste a better place. The organisers of the Timor Leste Project are also planning to ‘culturally map’ other islands such as Tonga and Fiji. What a great bunch of people.

Thank you to Prof. Paul Cleveland and also to the University of Lincoln MA Design course for arranging the lecture. This lecture blew me away. It’s really easy for us to think that Graphic Design is all about making things look nice, but that’s not everything.

This lecture was about making things better for others, developing the creative industry globally (we need influences from all over the world) and pointing out that design is about problem solving.

Graphic Design is about communication and solutions, therefore Graphic Designers need to be intelligent, inquisitive, caring people. Graphic Designers can get peoples attention, make people look, listen, smile or cry. This lecture came at a great time – we’re just beginning our 2nd year and now we can think about how our designs might change the world, not just look nice.

I hope that one day I can help change someones life. I love guest lectures!

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