Design School Drop Out is a chapbook of concrete poetry, which came to life when I started experimenting with digital recycling. In my first year of university, foundation classes had me creating work for the sake of learning but not use. I was always perplexed by the digital clutter in both our world and my desktop, so I revisited this work years later in hopes that I could make sense of it. It soon turned into an ode to graphic design’s past which was deeply rooted in craft before the profession turned digital. There is something deeply personal about making things with your hands and I wanted to see that reflected in whatever I created.
This book explores the struggles a young designer goes through while trying to grapple with the loss of craft and how to make meaningful work. In the original version, I used found objects like spreads of newsprint and an elastic band to bind the book, as this contributed to the handmade feel. When sending it to above/ground press, I had included cropmarks to make the printing easier and they found their way into the book. The cropmarks are now my favourite part, because it allows me to see the boundaries in which I worked and brings attention to the reproduction that was part of the process.
I chose concrete poetry because there really was no other way to tell this story. I like to think of concrete poetry as stripping design down to its core and focusing on its most basic task: visual communication. It brings attention the aesthetic design of communication and to how we communicate by deconstructing letterforms, which are usually preprogrammed carriers of content. When paying attention to form, it allows an audience to look at the structures in which we understand language and how we communicate it. That’s why I think concrete poetry is so powerful and why more people should read it (you can start here!).
Rachel Kearney is a writer from Toronto who is interested in the intersection of poetry and design. She is pursuing her Bachelor of Design with a minor in Creative Writing at York University.