Statements of Optimisation
A truism. Everything is subject to the same logic in a digital network. Everything becomes composed of the same base materials. 0s and 1s. Off or on. There is a flattening as a 3d object becomes the same as the new Bieber song. ‘The network’ imposes the need to accelerate upon these, to transmit faster, playing out a capitalist neoliberal role par excellence. This urge when applied to the graphic architecture of the web that we use to navigate can be considered symptomatic of networked conditions and renders the entire process visible. In the quest for speed data is discarded and graphic form becomes subject to engineering demands. There is a quantifiable loss as the act of transmission takes prevalence over that which is being transmitted. An act of Communicative Capitalism. The more networks proliferate and the larger the scales at which they occur the more such attitudes will become prevalent.
The acceptance of this and the attitude towards it is one of capitalist realism and technocracy; becoming suddenly apparent in the graphic forms that so dominate the web. Optimisation has always been part of design but is now inseparable from it. Design is now bound to the engineered code that triggers pixels upon a monitor. Form becomes function anew and designers become engineered operators surrendering themselves to the mindset of the stack. Accessibility, visibility, best practice, simplicity, scalability, professionality. Performance. Templated positions to be pushed against. Yet somehow, like the network itself, these attitudes remain hidden in a state of semi transparency largely unnoticed, unquestioned, accepted.
What is lost because of this? Or what may never come to because of it? How can we reveal it? Discuss it?
Choose to prioritise transmission over content. Speed over depth. Acceleration over information. Optimisation can become a charged act aimed at provoking a wider discussion of networked effects on graphic design as an individual discipline and design as a wider discipline and behold speed as a choice, not a necessity. Design dromocracy can be exposed.
To echo and misinterpret Michael Rock, ‘Fuck content’, let the need for speed take priority ad absurdum overriding the need for accuracy, depth or any other such concerns. Let networked effects become visible.
A ready example is provided by the process of optimisation that all works on this website have undergone. The residual artefacts make visual the mindset of optimisation.
School of Communication
MA Visual Communication, 2016
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Max Ryan is a graphic designer/coder/writer who has a vested interest in: code as context, network as practice, website as performance, and typeface as critique.