Inquiry: Faces in the crowd and the orthodoxy of design

Credit: LJ Frank, Artist

by LJ Frank

A few hundred miles into the drive, an interval at a coffee shop with familiar sounding brands and a pause from the meditative feel of driving. Language has a rhythm of its own with each mile of experience, passed animated faces and fidgety hands holding the steering wheels lost in anxious moments talking into headphone sets with abstract smiles and nodding heads.

Exiting my worn, blemished car and approached by a man with a comfortable grin who had pulled his similarly gray modeled vehicle next to mine, looked at me up close and said, “I thought I was different but realized I still get lost in the maize and have to occasionally attach a small flag to my car’s antenna to find it amid the sea of gray, black and white ‘faces of the cars’…guess next time I’ll buy a bright red one.”

“Good luck!” My reply was automatic as our vehicles were probably the only things we had in common based on fresh looking stickers pasted on his car’s windows suggesting we were at opposite ends of the political and spiritual spectrum with nothing to talk about except cars. Politics and religion affect our social constructs. We passed a few moments discussing fluff.

In our individual quests for uniqueness, therein may lay the sameness. The dissimilar is the similar all over again and appears to be linked to the orthodoxy of design and advertised as a unique piece of engineering. Historically, wealth and power determine orthodoxy and to resist that orthodoxy is to commit heresy, and that moves beyond a meaningful philosophical discourse. We design things in life that look dissimilar on the surface to show our difference but they’re not. Still, wealth is a signature design of self-entitlement depending on context. Perhaps choice is but an interesting concept within the pragmatism of survival.

I got back on the road after a 15 minute coffee and cinnamon roll break – a ritual leaning towards the bearable lightness of being. Several hundred miles later I lay down on a needed stiff hotel bed that felt like barn wood planks and I dreamt of a journey about snakes shedding their skins as if being reborn. I also dreamed there was a group of people nearby with transparent skin and I was able to see their organs and the mechanics underneath and wondered how would we design the next orthodoxy let alone indulge in our work and play with such a striking display of our nature.

I woke up as daylight began to burn the morning sky. Packing and getting in my car I headed toward the highway and the rising sun while listening to some background music of Gordon Lightfoot’s If you could read my mind and sipping from a free recycled appropriately thick paper designer cup filled with the traditional orthodoxy of straight up black coffee.