The project we are working on about fairy tales is fascinating to me because it’s been all about story. Narratives make up so much of our daily lives, from the books we read our children to the shows we watch on TV; stories are how we discover the world around us. They have a powerful role in our lives to define gender roles, help us overcome conflict, and show us who the heroes are. And almost every story has a “moral” to it. The moral is what we are supposed to gain from the journey of the characters; what lesson it illustrates. The moral of The Beauty and the Beast is that true beauty comes from within. Cinderella makes us fight for the underdog, proving that magic can happen even to the most ordinary of people. Romeo and Juliet teaches us that love is more powerful than hate.
As designers, we are often helping to create a narrative through our work. Whether it is with an advertising campaign, the creation of a brand, or building a user-friendly website, we are taking our audience on a journey. In this journey, we often make assertions of right and wrong, good and better, and beneficial and useless. Most of our audience, unlike young children, have already formed opinions about what they believe politically and culturally. We have the unique opportunity, though, to confront stereotypes, challenge misinformation, and reform behavior.
The videos this week were a fascinating look at how designers can reflect on, engage with, and retell stories using technology in the light of cultural context. I was extremely engaged by the last video, in which Taryn Simon explained the powerful role of setting in her photographs. A few of us discussed on the message boards the importance of editing in revealing information. Even in a photograph, which many to believe is a means to “record” an event (not to retell it), we have the opportunity to focus in on a certain element of a story. We are freezing a moment in time and manipulating the viewer into seeing what we see. We cannot lose sight of our role as designers to create meaning with what we present, whether that meaning is intentional or not.
The fairy tale I have chosen to “retell” through my project is The Princess and the Pea. Some may say that the simplest lesson to be learned from this story is that it’s the little things that matter in the end. As a designer, my job is to be intentional about communication. I have an ethical responsibility to tell a story with dignity and respect. I have to at all times consider my audience, and make sure I always look out for the little things. Like punctuation in a letter, a typeface, color, photograph or shape has the power to change meaning. I was reminded of that by this letter I came across, punctuated differently in two instances:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Designers are not always the author of our stories. We do, however, have the unique opportunity to punctuate it. Sometimes, that can make all the difference.
 “The Importance Of “Correct Punctuation”.” Accessed February 24, 2013. http://cmgm.stanford.edu/~lkozar/punctuation.html.