Joshua Singler

Blog

Patterns, Rhythms and Layers.

I’ve decided I’m going to start up my blog again but instead of documenting my travels, I’m wanting to document my research process as I navigate through my studies as an MDes student. Before I begin this blog I want to reflect on how I got here. I spent four years studying my undergrad from 2013-2017 at York University/Sheridan College’s joint Bachelor of Design program. In this program I found myself at a deeply formative stage in design but also personally. Within the second semester of my first year I came out to my family and friends that I had yet to tell. It was a time in my life filled with some of the highest highs and lowest lows. This was also the point of my life I was bed ridden with anxiety and depression for weeks. I wasn’t eating, talking to anyone, spending my days locked in my small dorm room. Over this time I went through different doctors, psychologists and therapists. Through CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and daily medication I finally dug myself out of that hole.

By graduation I was feeling more confident about knowing how my mind works and understanding my mental illness. I took on many projects in my final year and forgot that after university I had to find some sort of employment. So while others were preparing their portfolios and applications for Facebook and Google, I was pulling 48-hour binges on getting our graduation publication ready for press. I remember the sinking feeling in the last month of my program when I realized that I had no plan. For the first time in my life there was no plan for me. Since I was a child my mom remembers me always asking her “What are we doing tomorrow?” or needing to know the plan, or if we were there yet, and so on. So, as I often do, because there was no plan, I had to make one. I made the decision to book a one-way flight to Amsterdam to do some solo travel. It was something that mentally I told myself I wouldn’t be able to do. I told myself that mentally I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself that far away from family or friends. September and October of 2017 I went on this trip that I didn’t realize at the moment would be a significantly defining combination of moments for me.

But, as all journeys do, this one came to an end. Money ran short and I had to return. This time I had to return to live with my mom because I had gotten rid of my apartment downtown Toronto. I had no car because I sold it before I left for extra money. I had no job because I left it. I essentially came back after living the past 4+ years with endless freedom into an extremely halting and depressive situation. No fault to my mom, but it wasn’t the happiest time in my life. I got a job at the casino down the road, bussing tables. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty worthless. Three months went by, three months of relentless rejection emails and day trips down to Toronto for failed interviews. In February 2018 I was offered a position at a home decor company as a junior designer, part of their marketing team in Burnaby. I was thrilled. It wasn’t what I had hoped to make, but it was on the other side of the country, it was a new experience that I had been waiting for. At the same time I had been applying to grad school. By the time I had myself set up on the West Coast I had heard from NSCAD that my application had been denied and OCAD had me on a waiting list. I took these as signs that I did the right thing by taking this job.

Shortly after my first couple weeks working at this new company I received an invitation for an interview for the Master’s program at Emily Carr. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I talked to friends and family and the consensus was that I should work more, get some experience in that field, so despite getting an offer, I politely asked to delay it. For the first time (in potentially my life) I felt that I wasn’t ready to dive into something. It wasn’t until I got on the phone with the Associate Dean of my program, (now my advisor) and we talked about the program that I felt a bit differently about it. The office I was working in was stifling to my creativity, and so had been the last few months of my life, this opportunity was the reason I made the move out west and I was finally realizing it.

Now into the second semester of my research as a Master’s student I couldn’t be more excited about where it’s headed. Admittedly I do go through some moments where I question if I’m doing the right thing. If I’m funnelling money and time into something that won’t do me any service in the long run but those short lived moments of disbelief are usually reconciled by talking with a peer or professor or just listening to a good podcast.

This brings me to my area of research. I started the first semester from a very experimental and broad lens. I entered the program wanting to focus on tools of storytelling and their evolution. The way that they have altered our perception of the world, and the way we navigate and communicate in this world. Through the open studio and dialogues with professors and peers I saw a strong shift in my research. I removed the storytelling word from my research and added the concept of ‘the everyday’. My research as it sits today is an amalgamation of so many ideas, curiosities, areas of love and hate. I’ve always found difficulty landing on one topic or idea and my interests tend to be broad and wavering, making it difficult to be specific about my research. Right now, today, three words that are popping up frequently are:

patterns, rhythms, layers

I am an emotionally driven individual and I don’t want to separate that from my research. I am interested in researching and analyzing the way that we as humans interact and inhabit this world, specifically the public of Vancouver. How do we communicate in public settings with strangers? What consequences do these moments of communication mean for our world, for ourselves? How is a communication design practice factored into these movements of the everyday? How might a communication design practice offer moments of meaningful intervention into everyday life? All questions floating around my head.

Now, how am I conducting research? Well, as I’ve already laid out that my brain and thought process can be quite messy or scattered, that exactly how I’m approaching research. Just as an example, here are some of the methods that I have used; currently and to-be used:

Research Methods (In-Progress)

PHOTO TYPOLOGIES I've been taking photos on my cell phone as a component of my research for awhile now. I tend to focus on taking photos of a certain subject for an undetermined amount of time, then shifting to another subject when I feel the timing is right. From vintage cars to doors I've been attempting to pull out and recognize the beauty in the everyday.

SOCIAL MEDIA I've been documenting my process on social media and it's supplied me a unique sociological insight into decision making and habits. I'm discovering a lot of patterns, rhythms and layers from the way that I have been posting my process, however, also how I've noticed the way others navigate the application and online space in general. Where are you recording these findings? Start recording these findings in the note taking/common place book that you've been developing.

HABITUAL PATTERN MAKING  I’ve started experimenting with habitual pattern making, using a turntable, circle paper cut outs, different markers, speeds, times, types of music. This is a very early stage of experimentation so I have yet to compile and analyze any of the findings yet.

HABITUAL PATTERN MAKING I’ve started experimenting with habitual pattern making, using a turntable, circle paper cut outs, different markers, speeds, times, types of music. This is a very early stage of experimentation so I have yet to compile and analyze any of the findings yet.

PUBLIC INTERVENTIONS  This is a concept that I have yet to execute but it’s been on my mind since last semester. I want to spray paint words in public on sidewalks. Something that acts as a prompt to break the rhythm of the everyday, the mindless, idle mind. Something like “HEAD UP” or “LOOK UP”. I’m not certain that I will execute this, but I’m keeping it in my arsenal as a possibility.

PUBLIC INTERVENTIONS This is a concept that I have yet to execute but it’s been on my mind since last semester. I want to spray paint words in public on sidewalks. Something that acts as a prompt to break the rhythm of the everyday, the mindless, idle mind. Something like “HEAD UP” or “LOOK UP”. I’m not certain that I will execute this, but I’m keeping it in my arsenal as a possibility.

NOTEBOOK A SEMESTER  Starting from the first semester I’ve filled up one a Rhodia notebook. My aim is to fill up one for each semester of study. Inside these notebooks is mainly notes from classes, readings, and lectures.

NOTEBOOK A SEMESTER Starting from the first semester I’ve filled up one a Rhodia notebook. My aim is to fill up one for each semester of study. Inside these notebooks is mainly notes from classes, readings, and lectures.

(⌘) + (V) SCROLL  This is a project that I originally proposed in my application to graduate studies and I’ve adapted since. The original proposal had a paper shredder at the end of the scroll to essentially wipe the thoughts that I was typing. Instead, this model allows the scroll to pile up on itself so that I can reflect and review it once I’ve filled it up.

(⌘) + (V) SCROLL This is a project that I originally proposed in my application to graduate studies and I’ve adapted since. The original proposal had a paper shredder at the end of the scroll to essentially wipe the thoughts that I was typing. Instead, this model allows the scroll to pile up on itself so that I can reflect and review it once I’ve filled it up.

PHILOSOPHY  One philosopher that I’ve been reading recently is Henri Lefebvre. Although I’m not studying my MPhil I feel there is a lot that this field can offer to my research and the design field.

PHILOSOPHY One philosopher that I’ve been reading recently is Henri Lefebvre. Although I’m not studying my MPhil I feel there is a lot that this field can offer to my research and the design field.

WORKSHOPS I’ve begun experimenting with ideas for a workshop I will be holding through the DESIS Lab at my school. This will be my first time hosting a workshop but I hope that it will add a layer of information and further push my research.

BLOG This is my first post that I hope will encourage me to continue to post and keep my advisors aware and keep me on track and accountable.

Research Methods (Proposed)

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT Another public intervention that I want to work into my research is talking to and interviewing strangers. The question(s) would be quite simple, and act as a probe to collect and catalogue answers. With this information I would then try to identify patterns, rhythms and layers between the participants.

PHOTO TRACING Something I've been wanting to do with the bank of photos that I’ve been accumulating is to put tracing paper on top of them and to trace out key details in their structural makeup. Once I have a repository of lines, shapes, words, etc. I want to examine them both together and as separates to find commonalities, draw parallels, etc.

PHOTO MAPPING I’m currently trying to get a map of Vancouver so I can begin pinning up the photographs that I've taken, stringing around connections, looking at the patterns, paths, and rhythms that I have created for myself habitually through this photo documentation process.

DO YOU WANT YOUR RECEIPT? I've been playing with the idea of installing a receipt printer beside my bed so I can send notes, drawings, thoughts, and ideas whenever they come to mind, this would be sent from my cell phone and would print off as a continuous roll like the (⌘) + (V) project.

COMMON PLACE BOOK This is a new concept that I’ve yet to explore. I feel a lot of what I’m doing could be filtered into a common place book. I want to find some sort of a system to start cataloguing and collecting my research information in a clear and comprehensive way.

TAPE RECORDER I want to use my tape recorder and sit on different bus routes with my headphones on, block the world out but at the same time, record the sounds of the bus ride through the tape recorder. Once back home I will listen to the tapes and transcribe them onto paper through my typewriter or computer and they will fit somewhere in my common place book/notebook. 

J.

Joshua Singler