From high to low and high again
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Citation (published version)Kristen Coogan. 2020. "From High to Low and High Again." Message, Volume 1, Issue 4,
Studying history in the age of the Wikipedia, Instagram and Snapchat warrants a reimagined pedagogy. While still curious, the Gen Z minds sitting before us have been conditioned to have shorter attention spans, seek instant gratification and multi-task to a fault. They came of age in a digital culture and thrive in an active and sensory studio setting. This hyper-accessible and hyper-exposed condition demands a new pedagogical model—as stewards of design history, we have to reframe the past in the language of today to teach the designers of tomorrow. We have to meet digital natives on their own media-saturated turf. Building on this idea, we can decode the evolution of style and forecast stylistic innovation. According to the steps outlined by Lorraine Wild in Eye Magazine #36, we critically observe style as a linear thread repeating itself over and over. Wild posits that style and ‘good design’ are intertwined; that ‘good design’ creates intrigue, gets consumed by the mass market, which superficially hijacks and proliferates form, resulting in cliché, embarrassment, then death, followed by fetish, revival, and curiosity, until we again arrive where we began: with style (Louise Sandhaus and Lorraine Wild). The cycle runs persistently throughout history to present day. This postmodern, hyper-exposed and hyper-accessed reality threatens stylistic novelty, while the past offers a wellspring of formal, conceptual and philosophical inspiration. This essay attempts to draw formal, conceptual and philosophical parallels between the past and the present both as a lesson in design history and a critical analysis of style—as well as championing real-time design history as a new pedagogy, where pop-culture becomes a critical component of a design history discourse.
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