On Social Design

Love, violence and mastering the joy of design

Design. Oh design how I love you. I hate you so much because my love for you makes me hate myself. I love being a designer but I hate design. I love designing but I hate talking about it. I love talking but I hate people who talk so much. I hate designers but I love to master designing. I am a designer, I love people. I am a designer, I am people. I am passionate and violent, I make and destroy. I want to be a revolution. I am a designer, I am.

Crazy am I?

A little girl who came to Toronto from Tehran, leaving her childhood in the land of fertility. Iran with my mother. Iran with my father. Iran with my brother. I just ran far away from everything, out to explore a new reality.

I tried to define myself so many times. I fell in love easily. Not with boys. No, boys didn’t come into the picture until late in the game. I fell in love with the energy of joy. Joy was all I ever wanted, really. Am I any different from you for craving joy? It was my best friend and I’m sure you are best friends too.

First joy came into my life through the piano. Memorizing notes and completion free of mistakes was joy. I took lessons for a year and learnt all the notes. My teacher loved me and she said I was a great student. I started hating it though. I hated it so I beat myself knowing I wasn’t going to be the best at mastering piano. It made me mad. Others were better, I just wasn’t good enough.

So I left piano and found joy again through sport. It was the start of a very long and brutal relationship. We broke up many times. Joy wasn’t very nice to me, even though I visibly invested energy into joy over anything else. I gave my heart away for the joy of sport. I cried when winning, cried when losing. I would practice for joy. But I hated myself! I hated not being able to master it. I would try so hard but got rejected so many times. Sport wanted it to work too but demanded too much from me. I felt like shit. I felt like I was trying hard and not getting mutual love in return – like as if he could never understand my love for him. I now think the reason for our breakup was because I wanted to master the sport over mastering the joy of the sport. Through my process of mastering, I killed my joy in sport. Others were better, I just wasn’t good enough. I broke my own heart.

The computer. Oh the joy of the computer was there for as long as I can remember. Commodore 64 in Iran was the favourite childhood toy. Gaming was joy. We came to Canada in 1996 and the computer became more embedded in our lives since my dad had always been ahead with computers and software. My brother and I had the advantage of being raised with computers. I still remember the dial-up days, with Yahoo Chat and ICQ. Not that many people in middle school were tech saavy back then. I still remember the computer labs very limited with their computers programs and barely any of them had access to internet. All-the-Right-Type was a speed-typing program that I will never forget. I had a joy for mastering that too. Type fast! Free of mistakes! That was joy.

What about art? Well drawing was fun. I liked drawing things. But hell no, I was by no means the best artist. I was decent but it didn’t give me deep joy and I never thought about doing any masterpieces. I didn’t draw for fun for that long. I forced myself to do it because I wanted to master it. I couldn’t. I wanted to draw from my imagination, but couldn’t. Someway or another, I ended up in a program that was starting in a middle school called CyberARTS. My grade 6 teachers recommended that I go there. So I got in. I think that’s when my life began to take shape. I started dating art and computer fun, but I was still in love with the joy of sports.

From grade 7 to grade 12 (1998 – 2004), I continued getting to know computers and art. I was already in the pot to become a graphic designer. I had no choice, it picked me. Graphic software was fun for me to learn. It was a new language and I loved being given projects to work on using that language. I learnt so much about the life through the process of each project.

Writing? Well as you can see I enjoy doing it. Writing to me has always been the best way to express myself and articulate my thoughts. Writing was a joy for as long as I can remember. Did I ever dream of being a writer? Nope. Did I ever want to master writing? To some degree, but it didn’t bother me as much as my other mastering obsessions. I viewed it as a tool to be creative and expressive. It wasn’t until this past summer when I took a Creative Writing course (after OCAD told me I needed to take one last credit to graduate) that I confessed to myself I am a poet. Lillian Allen empowered me. She told me I had it. She said it to my face. I didn’t take my English teachers seriously in highschool when they would give me high marks and lots of comments on my writing. My grade 11 teacher used to go crazy over the poems I wrote in her class. I just never thought it was worth anything. I liked doing it for myself. It was my method of becoming my own teacher and mentor.

When the athlete in me died, I was dead. I knew I had to fall in love again. So I gave it all to graphic design. I’m free baby. I’m out to love you. I had 4 years of professional loving at Ontario Collage of Art & Design to master the joy of design. I did it, and quite well actually. I mastered the joy of design and I’d like to take this time to thank myself for mastering this joy. I could not have mastered this joy if I didn’t love myself. So I thank me for loving myself and staying in this relationship. I continue to call myself a professional graphic designer but I thank myself for realizing that I am by no means the best at anything. Because the only thing I am is me. And that is the story I just told you.

I am love.

I seek the joy of mastering design because I am Ghazaleh. I want to learn. I want to apply my learning and I like to use my brain. I don’t want to be the best at anything that confines me because I want to be free of order. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I learnt that being a graphic designer is a privilege so I used it to my advantage. I threw myself out to the world with it. Here I am world! I design!

I could have never learnt more about myself by letting go of what I thought was best for me. I broke up many many times. But I was me. I had only me, my two eyes, ears, and my gut. I went to Florida with it, Chicago, New York, UN headquarters and even the MIT and Harvard campuses, on my own two feet with my own money. I admitted that I had some things to figure out.

Here I am now. 2009. What can I tell you?

I am Ghazaleh, the girl you always knew — doing what I want, designing from what I learn. Because design is beyond what you ever thought was real. Design is the process of mastering joy for people. So in order to master the joy of design, you have to design for people, constantly. Design is the ultimate creative force in each human being. Design means taking responsibility to make something that impacts those who interact with it. Whether its one person, a neighbourhood, or a nation, design is not an object – it is energy. It’s not what you make but the people who it resides in. It is people.

Be a designer. Listen. Look. Think. Link. Plan. Do…and never stop.

The fancier you think you are, the further away you drift from being a real designer. Stay true. Stay real. Find joy. Suck it up and fight for it. You have to be mean to win the grand prize. And winning the grand prize of mastering joy takes a lot of designing, even the grand prize itself.

Original article by Ghazaleh Etezal

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