CTS – Authorship & Storytelling

Authorship and Storytelling are important aspects of design.

Authorship is about creating work and responsibility for the “whole” but typically we talk about authorship in regards to books because fewer people are typically responsible for that book.

So authorship varies depending on the medium as while Mary Shelley is the author of Frankenstein while someone like Martin Scorsese is the Director of Goodfellas but is not responsible for all of the authored content.

Roland Barthes suggests that when reading a book the reader is consuming text rather than articulation of a person so Mary Shelley is the author of Frankenstein but the reader does not necessarily read anything about Mary Shelley in the book so the relationship is independent.

Authors are rarely credited for there work. For instance many of us in the room will not be credited for things we work on because a collective of people typically work on a project (especially in video games) so the “Developer” could be Square Enix but hundreds of people will work on a game. It is impractical to name who is responsible for every individual aspect so in a sense the work that designers do is rarely credited to them.

Authorship is not the norm: It is an unusual thing that affords status to individuals.

Wim Crouwel 

Jan Van Toorn thought that you may not always be credited for your work but you are still responsible for it and present for it so you have a moral and ethical responsibility to work (or not) work with a design. He argued that you will always be present in your design.

If you design something you still have an ethical responsibility in design because you are creating something that will represent different things for different people. For instance if you design something for a controversial item, such as cigarettes, and even if you are not credited you still think about if it is ethical. However it is not always practical because you can’t necessarily expect someone to give up a job because they were told to design a cigarette packet and refused.

When you, as the author, are part of a team (like in games design), are you trying to connect the user to an idea or if you work in advertising you do you connect the user to the brand and make them want it? For instance in video games you might want to teach the player mechanics and you have to design a way to do that, while if you worked in advertising then for Apple they used to have adverts with people as silhouettes dancing so everyone could identify with the people dancing, having fun and listening to music because there was no identity of the person portrayed in the advert.

Critical Design

Critical Design is a way of a designer tackling an issue they feel passionate about and have something to say, for instance instead of protesting you could create a work of art that conveys a protest against something.

Design Fiction

Design Fiction is essentially fiction about how design might change in the future and how it might impact us. It is speculative and not really predictive but to think “If these are the trends we follow today then how will it change in the next ten or twenty years?”.


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