Feeding the Monster Machine

Credit: Marcin Noviki (Design Displacement group)

Credit: Marcin Noviki (Design Displacement group)


A look into generative design with Design Displacement Group.

Elisabeth Graham
Writer

As the world careens out of control in both social and political spheres, one can choose to be passive or to engage with the discourse of modernity. Design Displacement Group chooses to do the latter.

The Design Displacement Group (DDG) is an artist collective that began in 2014. Their goal is to create designs that work post-signature in order to create poignant social commentary; this means that none of the 16 contributors that make up DDG have their names attributed to their art. DDG says, “It forgoes the idea of ego in design or the star designer that would have been heralded in more modernist times. We try to move to a more autonomous practice to look at the questions that might raise.”

DDG’s newest body of work, No Exit, premiered for the first time at Graphic Design Festival: Scotland’s International Poster Exhibition. No Exit is a generative opera that takes a harsh look at contemporary issues like Brexit, the United States Presidential Election, and the desensitization of society via social media. Visually, No Exit is jarring as it switches between video clips and text conversations in time with ethereal music. It is haunting, engaging, and endless. That’s right, endless; because what makes No Exit so special is that it’s completely different every time you watch it. DDG has created an algorithm that takes content from a drop box and formulates a whole new video for every viewing. Essentially: there are an infinite number of versions of No Exit. On this process, DDG says, “The advantage of this system is that it’s live [. . .] Versus a very slow process like film, here you have a very instant process. It’s able to adapt really fast so if we read a headline tomorrow, we can simply change a chapter in the opera, we can introduce a new idea, or we can morph something to make it very contemporary.”

One designer jokingly called the algorithm a “monster machine,” and while everyone laughed, it’s true. DDG says, “There’s no guarantee of what comes out. It can decide to show footage that portrays a completely different story than what we try to tell.” This is the beauty of DDG’s work: there is nothing permanent about it. In all design-based processes, there is the underlying assumption that the final product has emerged from variants. Within the chaos of DDG’s process, there are a variant amount of “final products.” The form mimics the discourse it is trying to capture.

Some might question if an opera can really be considered “graphic design,” and that’s exactly what DDG wants you to think about. DDG came together as graphic designers with one question: what is graphic design? In addition to their post-signature practice, DDG also creates all of their work within a perspective set 20 years in the future. In terms of content, DDG believes that this, “delivers kaleidoscopic, collaborative projects that are not aiming to be beautiful.”

You can experience the Monster Machine that is No Exit by visiting The Lighthouse from now until November 25.