Think Outside with Jason Grant

Published on the Asia Pacific Design Library Blog

APDL: What does a typical day look like for you?

Jason Grant: The day starts with duelling wonder and woe negotiating my three-year-old daughter’s wardrobe. Then me or my partner Catherine, dropping our five-year-old son at school on the way to work. Work is meetings, admin, designing, Skyping, sometimes lecturing, writing, reading, a tofu bahn mi from Kim Thanh bakery and trying to make it home in time for the children’s bath. Getting leaped upon by little people who wrap their limbs around you like koalas in a gum tree to break your heart with joy every single time. Then it’s catching up and hanging out with Catherine, and either karate training over the river, more work, iView, or, depending on babysitting availability, a gig or dinner with friends. Before the quicksand of unremembered dreams it’s a heroic but vain attempt to read more than a paragraph of whatever’s underway.

What can attendees to the Think Outside lecture expect to hear?

Probably how conflict isn’t merely destructive, that to the contrary, designed spaces of contestation are needed more than ever. There will be minimal recourse to Hegelian dialectics.

What are your top five favourite design books?

Subway Art by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant, Thames & Hudson, 1984
Designers Delight by Jan Van Toorn, 010 Publishers, 2001
Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Routledge 2013
Vaughn Oliver: Visceral Pleasures by Rick Poynor, 2000
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, 1967

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you do?

Professional Dylanologist.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Wow, these are big questions! Putting aside the belief that our greatest achievements are in the future, I hope we’ve been able to show how a design practice with a commitment to social and environmental justice can thrive and endure. And most importantly, I hope we’ve been able to help, in whatever small way, render the invisible visible, and the powerless powerful.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had received when you were first starting out in your profession?

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb (that’s one for the Dylanologists)

What inspires your work?

It’s unfathomable.

What principles inform your work?

Our work should relate honestly to the social conditions and values of its context. It should relate directly to real human need. It should be searching and sincere. It should be fearless and resolute. It should open real dialogue not fake or thwart it. It should make you want to dance or at least duck for cover.

Do you have any tips for getting your ideas off the ground?

Be naive and relentless.

What role do you think design can play in addressing 21st century problems/challenges that are typically considered outside of the realm of design?

So many of our current problems are directly or indirectly caused by design. A good start would be to acknowledge design’s complicity. But where does this happen? Not in our formal education or our industry organisations or literature or heroes.

There is vast agency afforded to design in terms of advancing capital – selling stuff, and selling the idea that selling stuff is the main idea. This is the ideological vortex that swallows all intent, that digests alternatives and shits out more landfill. So design’s oppositional agency is rarely conceded. But it’s like Marx said (sort of), although a bee or spider can build incredible constructions, what distinguishes the worst designer from the best of bees is that the designer raises her structure in imagination before she codes it in a website. Well, what else can we imagine?

Who is your double doppelgänger? Double doppelgänger (noun). Two people that resemble you when their faces are combined. Example: The Queen = Elizabeth Taylor and Dame Edna

Mum and Dad?