“If the project we have just traced out in bold strokes risks being taken for a fantastic dream, we insist on the fact that it is feasible from the technical point of view and that it is desirable from the human point of view. The increasing dissatisfaction that dominates the whole of humanity will arrive at a point at which we will all be forced to execute projects whose means we possess, and which will contribute to the realization of a richer and more fulfilled life.” - Constant Nieuwenhuys
Abraham Moles In his 1986 essay The Legibility of the World: A Project of Graphic Design, French sociologist Abraham Moles titles a section “The designer as a programmer of autodidaxis in the environment.” In it, he writes:
Extolling the graphic designer in the name of his or her effectiveness implies new responsibilities, to the extent to which one is willing to become conscious of them. The designer is not merely limited to the world of advertising, for example, to the traditional role of a transformer of wishes into needs. That passage is the one from "phantasia" to "mimesis" that the visualist performs in the service of what has been called publicity, by introducing into it an element of social conformism. We know that the work of the graphic designer, spread over the city or the social space-time, classically fulfills a series of functions. These functions are:
information: who does what, where, why, at what price
propaganda: "do this, or that, under such and such conditions"
social consciousness: "you belong," "belongingness is happiness"
consonance of humans with their goals: We know, from the work of Enel, that an appreciable part of advertising fulfills the a posteriori role, after the purchase, of strengthening the person in his choice in relation to his image of what has value life unfolds.
Graphic design is, generally speaking, the science and the technique of establishing a functional equivalency between a message and its purpose. It attempts to maximize the impact of communication through the combined or disjointed means of the written message, the sign, or the image; and it measures, we have seen, the efficiency of each one of those messages, using the ratio of the degree of influence on one member of the target public to the means used to create and spread that message. Graphic design's mode of access to the individual is the contingency. Humans wander through space-time, whether of the city or the printed page - where the graphic messages of the visualist appear. They encounter them, accept them, or reject them. On that contingency is based all the talent of the creative person, that user of fleeting moments, salvager of an interstitial availability of the individual in the spaces and times in which he or she acts and lives.
The graphic designer, through signs, advertising messages, posters, and notices, serves the beauty of the city through an art, minimal but present everywhere, that contributes to the quality of life independent of any degree of alienation the information transports. These effects are long-term, they mature over time and are not negligible.
We must therefore find methods adapted to the study of that everyday life. One of them is micropsychology which uses as a guide the concepts of micro-scenario and of generalized costs to permit the analysis of micro-anxieties, micro-pleasures, micro-structures, micro-events, or micro-decisions: the entire web of life.
Thus, we can anticipate the promotion of the role played by the graphic designer, into that of a sign engineer who precisely designates the symbolic aspects of the environment to prepare us for real actions. It is this application to the universe of that general principle of graphic design which allows us to achieve correspondence of the world of signs with personal lifestyle - to connect the symbolic aspects of successive landscapes or ideoscenarios, which form part of each individual's vital trajectory toward a temporary destination within the project pursued. It is really the social engineer who finds himself or herself in charge of converting to reality that equation between the given of the world and the life project - the equation, expressed in the most modest of meanings, of finding the lost and found office in the airport or the train station, cashing a check, or learning how to run a dishwasher with help from a manual.
Moles based his understanding of graphic design on his history as a sociologist and information and communications theorist. In 1966 he wrote The Sociodynamics of Culture, a book attempting to explain many cultural phenomena through the lens of market philosophy and the economic realities of the market. On the basis of Durkheim’s statement that social phenomena are things that can be measured and evaluated (that is, measured and evaluated phenomena), Moles built a bridge from the concept of “information” / “message” to economic theory. With a foundation in information theory, he proposed considering information in materialistic terms and introduced the concept of goods in reference to information. Moles’ theory of communication considers man as an individual deeply related to his environment, from which he has always received the first communicative messages and with which he maintains a close relationship. As a direct consequence, it modifies its behavior based on the messages received.
According to Moles, mass communication takes place in society through two cycles: one short and one long. The short cycle communicates the events through the mass media to society. It starts from a sociocultural framework, where there are observers who select events, report them through the media to society and opinion leaders. While the long cycle starts from a sociocultural framework from which a creator makes his realization or expression, he passes to the micro-environment, from there to the mass media and from there to society. In this cycle, many times, the communicative products are saved.
Moles says that culture advances through a cycle in which four factors participate:
Society, which acts as the macro-environment with its experience and cultural heritage.
The creators who carry out cultural innovations.
The group, which acts as the micro-environment, which promotes and drives the cultural innovations of the creators.
And finally, the mass media that circulate innovations.
From his earliest work on, Moles describes the space-time of the graphic designer:
Two very distinct spaces are proposed to the communication engineer in his or her graphic activity:
real space: boulevards, hallways, streets, train stations, piers, sidewalks, stairs, shop windows, signs, household shells, offices, work places. A whole series of spaces and of volumes are symbolically marked, and therefore they become symbols; examples are the door, the elevator, the teller window
the printed page: a privileged and universal space. The European DINA4 format flat surface of paper, for example, or the standard size of a poster, a space made for viewing, which the graphic designer fills, using what the manufacturers of components - the printer, the draftsman, the photographer - offer to the page make-up, which is the synthesis of a global form starting from particular elements.
Now, two fundamental processes exist for acquiring a knowledge of the environment:
exploration (scanning) through a sequential depletion of the signs, in an order imposed from the outside
exploration by sampling, either random or hierarchical (skimming), of deeper and deeper perception layers, from the obvious essential to the accessory, which is a priori perceived as being secondary.
New Babylon New Babylon is an anti-capitalist city perceived and designed in 1959-74 as a future potentiality by visual artist Constant Nieuwenhuys. Initially known as Dériville (from "ville dérivée", literally, "drift city"), it was later renamed New Babylon. Henri Lefebvre explained: "a New Babylon–a provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future." The goal was the creation of alternative life experiences, called 'situations'.
In the 1950s, Constant had already been working for years on his "New Babylon" series of paintings, sketches, texts, and architectural models describing the shape of a post-revolutionary society. Constant's New Babylon was to be a series of linked transformable structures, some of which were themselves the size of a small city, what architects call a megastructure. Perched above ground, Constant's megastructures would literally leave the bourgeois metropolis below and would be populated by homo ludens, man at play. The term was taken from Homo Ludens, a book by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant's social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community–all these were eschewed.
Nieuwenhuys' New Babylon was based on the idea that architecture itself would allow and instigate a transformation of daily reality. As Nieuwenhuys wrote:
"It is obvious that a person free to use his time for the whole of his life, free to go where he wants, when he wants, cannot make the greatest use of his freedom in a world ruled by the clock and the imperative of a fixed abode. As a way of life, Homo Ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need for playing, for adventure, for mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of his own life. Until then, the principal activity of man had been the exploration of his natural surroundings. Homo Ludens himself will seek to transform, to recreate, those surroundings, that world, according to his new needs. The exploration and creation of the environment will then happen to coincide because, in creating his domain to explore, Homo Ludens will apply himself to exploring his own creation. Thus we will be present at an uninterrupted process of creation and re-creation, sustained by a generalized creativity that is manifested in all domains of activity."