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design philosophy


design philosophy

We asked Tom Ockerse to write a few words (below) about the design language he has developed for us. Tom teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and was head of their Graphic Design Department for twenty years. He has worked with us since 1989 and is on our Board of Advisors. down


We do not limit design to mere production of printed form, or style, or decor. Rather, design from its most comprehensive perspective covers many actions and aspects. These range from the tangible means to make and facilitate production, to the invisible means that mediate processes involved, including creativity.

What are some of these design contributions to an organization such as ours?
To organize the complex.
To identify the parts that belong to a whole.
To unify these parts into a system or what we call a language.
To make this language visible.
To give form to an idea.
To define the right means for expression (immediate, gestured, metaphoric, symbolic).
To establish an ambiance in which to engage, connect, understand.
To simplify access and consumption.
To facilitate production.

Design, considered carefully, addresses numerous concerns, such as:

Need (purpose, function, service);
Audience (user, reader, literacy, cultural differences, global relations);
Ergonomics (access, utility, legibility);
Values (point-of-view, past-present-future, humanism, dignity, beauty);
Technology (computers, printing, production);
Business (non-profit, community relations, promotion).

Why are contributions and concerns so important to what we do?

The Humanity Initiative requires a comprehensive design language to help represent the complex set of elements that play a role in our communication: ideas, identity, information, values, attitudes, qualities, actions. We have already begun to characterize this system in our stationery and other items for general purposes, and for our journal,humanity.

Further development of this language continues as we apply this to all means we communicate with (e.g. the website, the folklore series, newsletters). Moreover, being itself an expression of humanity, we consider this language a living system that at once provides consistent identity to link the Foundation (with stability and dignity), yet is dynamic enough to change with the times and specific needs.

THI is not about mere facts and statistical data, for which a simple language is sufficient. The material we offer concerns a great deal of heart and soul, and intends to exchange, provoke, deepen and enlighten. For THI to stimulate the poetry that is so important to the human spirit, design and editorial architecture must engage as equal partners. Only then can our journal, website or any other mediating form foster a dynamic union of conversing creators, including all those who participate in this process.

Therefore, as with poetry and art, what our material requires from those who participate is a thoughtful and contemplative engagement with what is presented. This often means to exact from the reader/viewer/participant a willingness to take time – not only to interact and interpret, but also to return to consider it further. Consequently The Humanity Initiative intends to pay similar attention to both its design language, considering it more than a mere technical problem, and its rather true sense of artistic endeavor.

Good design requires sensitivity toward all aspects of human interaction with objects and information. Just as a single part has no meaning in isolation, a single means has limited capacity to invigorate human intelligence.

Design aids our movements, our actions and interactions with things. For The Humanity Initiative, design, as the essential bridge to the soul, has the capacity to energize or quiet, speed up or slow down our movements and actions – and yet to bring all of these motions together in some uninterrupted rhythmic harmony, like a flowing stream. All the individual parts, visible but perhaps unnoticed, brought into relation by careful design operate to help serve their cooperative essence. Throughout its means to communicate, THI is in search of establishing that same sense of wholeness in which all the parts can dance with our human spirit.

If done with proper care and attention, design becomes an instrument for awakening. Its very means can bring into question our habitual human tendencies (a quickness to judge, the guarding of viewpoint, attachment to convenience, habit and convention). It can challenge us to keep an open mind and not limit perception. Just as we know that difference helps to broaden vision, and contrast serves to enrich perception, so will design serve to stimulate our minds and broaden our awareness. Design at its best enables us to open our senses so we can tune into the invisible and find ourselves moved toward a place of more inspired understanding.