Dear reader,

As I am trying to write the November letter I find myself occupied with ‘yesterday’s news’—not the lighthearted ‘yesterday’s news’ of our last letter, but that of the larger realities beyond the walls of our space, as well as the larger histories beyond the headlines. With one unwavering eye on Palestine, and the other intermittently checking NOS for updates on the formation of our government following the election victory of far-right populist party PVV, it is difficult to focus on the task at hand, even if the theme I planned to write about seems rather fitting: disillusion. To speak about disillusion in the context of our personal practices feels a bit frivolous at the moment. I guess the struggle I feel is a common one within design; the need to navigate scales of perspective.

By now we are already well into December. It became a bit of a long one, but please make sure to scroll to the end as we have a big announcement from our small XP space…

x K

Expectation vs. Reality

A few weeks ago we were invited by Vide Books to be part of the launch of Silvio Lorusso’s new book What Design Can't Do: Essays on Design and Disillusion at the Huidenclub. As XP representatives, Gijs and I joined Silvio and moderator Clara Balaguer for a conversation on the gap between design’s inherent optimism and the pervasive feelings of disillusionment and impotence experienced by many within the field. Following the book’s twofold division of Part I: Expectations vs. Part II: Reality, Clara asked us to each reflect on our biggest expectation.

Even though I had spent the days prior contemplating my own disillusion whilst sneak peeking through a PDF of the book, my immediate response was that I never really had grand expectations entering the discipline. With grand expectations I mean the idealistic belief that graphic design can save the world, or on a more practical level that I’d be finding a well-paid job in a design studio after graduation.

With no clear aspirations to hold onto, my brain jumped rather frantically from the clouded memory of a young clueless Kirsten doing a BA in graphic design to 30yo Kirsten finding comfort in dealing with freelance Reality among peers. To be honest I don’t exactly remember what came out of my mouth, but I sounded—as Clara confirmed—quite at peace.

No big expectations so no big disappointments, happy community...all is well? For some reason I felt bothered by how I seemed to have painted such a picture. In reality I identify so much more with the winged figure in Dürer’s Melencolia I, the engraving from which cropped fragments can be found throughout What Design Can’t Do, and is used by Silvio to represent the disillusioned everyday designer. Staring into the distance, she sits amidst a chaos of objects and unused tools, too paralysed to create, too stuck in introspection. That has been me.