Prototype as Provocation

I continue to be inspired by IDEO, who takes a human-centered, designed based approach to innovation and growth. Their latest newsletter challenged us to “get out of the hand waving space” and talk more about feasibility and how to implement with actual physical models rather than mere descriptions. Ideas are pretty easy to come by really. Managing project implementation and resource allocation is the tricky part. And sometimes the process of making solves problems, answers questions, or suggests alternative solutions that are even better. Vivian Barad and Danny Brooks of IDEO‘s Food Studio summed up an important part of my practice that I like to call “stop admiring your work and get back to it”!

Go for speed over polish: If you’re too in love with it and it’s too polished, it kind of closes down the conversation. Some low-cost everyday materials we’ve been known to use to make quick prototypes include foam core, aluminum foil, post-its, cardboard and more. We once prototyped an entire front desk experience for a major hotel chain using foam core.

I’m trying to finish a drawing project called City Lots which continues my exploration of race in America – the conversation we’re not having. City Lots uses old property ledgers from Petersburg, VA which are separated for white and colored folks. Not surprisingly, white folks own more property and their property is of higher value. This backdrop gives me a chance to explore systems of racism in America. I worry about cultural appropriation or finger pointing as I comment on issues as nuanced, obvious, complicated, and heated as racism and bigotry but I worry more about not participating in the conversation.

Hopefully, my work as an artist can help me clarify my thoughts and prompt others to more carefully consider theirs. If I treat my drawings as prototypes and not works of art, I’ll take more chances, produce more images, and spark more thoughts.

City Lots works in progress


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