Google and beyond

I, along with dozens of other first years, just had the Beyond Google talk. Basically an advert for the university’s advanced library catalogue search, they, assumingly fork out a significant sum of our tuition fees on.

Intentionally provocative intro aside, I was really impressed with what’s available courtesy of this institution. My mind tends to wander when students give the same boring presentations, whereby they rephrase the first, then a random paragraph from the middle, of a Wikipedia page. This is a fantastic resource to help eradicate the uniform nature of these. Presentations are designed to share newfound knowledge, and with this resource in the student’s toolkit, I have high hopes the delta between what I learn from my lectures and from my peers will shrink.

Speaking of presentations, the classic — divide the class up into groups, give them a task for half an hour and have them share their findings / creations one-by-one back to the class at the end — was applied in this session. Again, intentionally provocative intro, it just comes so naturally. One thing this always highlights, is the shy students. The ones, I feel have the most to share, but allow the nurtured social pressures hold to them back. I’m not saying that to be polite. Those who have simply said less, have been observing more, have had more time to curate and critique their viewpoint before they voice it. That alternate perspective holds great value. By the same manner, choice, provides value, so do perspectives.

No number of perspectives can spoil the broth. Designers will always strive to gain as much context, to produce a perfect design. But they are running on an uphill treadmill. Culture, society, technology and people’s values and attention are all fluid. And designers will always be catching up to all this (, while manipulating some of them in their tracks). Gaining as many insights from a growing volume of perspectives is one tool to help prevent the ignorant design decisions, that all too often, we read about in the papers. For this reason, though I mocked it earlier, I encourage as many of these intimidating presentations as possible, to help elevate the ones in society who feel they have no right to a voice. Though it’s I, the young, white, confident male, who needs to shut up.

Though only very briefly, the librarian, I’m glad to report did surface some political issues associated with this resource, including closing the door to those whom cannot afford to access these resources. He strongly expressed that he believes all information should be freely available, though I need to raise the argument of the viability of sustaining the production of these assets that requires these paywalls to exist. Designers often avoid politics, and for the sake of brevity, I will here too.

Other issues have been touched on before in other sessions including the white, skateboarding, male homogeny of designers in the industry (, name 10 designers you admire). And the stigma against the self-taught professional designer. Whether my lectures agree, I strongly feel these subjects need to be discussed as part of the curriculum, rather than surfaced as a tangent during a lecture.