Building a fucking shed in your own backyard
Disposing of fucking batteries
Cutting fucking hair for a living
Watching a fucking DVD
Importing foreign fucking cheese
Transporting a bottle of opened fucking wine home from a restaurant
Architecture is often perceived to be serious and reserved. But in Vathorst, a suburb about 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam, a new building takes a cheekier approach: It’s festooned with 22 emojis.
Attika Architekten–a Dutch firm with offices in Amsterdam and Zutphen–designed a new mixed-use brick building and decided to punch up the design with a few choice flourishes–namely the most recognizable and understandable emoji (which happened to be faces, according to a report on the Verge).
“When we start with a project we always try to understand its context and anticipate on that matter,” architect Changiz Tehrani tells Co.Design. “We also try to add a little bit more detail in our architecture–it can be a decorative fence, a nice phrase, or the date of the [building’s completion]. In this case we wanted to add something contemporary, interesting, and recognizable on this particular facade.”
To Tehrani and his team, emoji were the ideal embellishment. “Emoticons are the international language of now,” he says. “The world communicates with these iconic faces, and that is something special we think.”
So far the response seems to be positive. Tehrani has noticed students at the school next door taking photographs of the building. He says his clients were a bit hesitant about the idea, but trusted him to run with the idea. We’re glad they did, too.
Then there’s Artifax, an effort led by the Los Angeles design studio Use All Five, which is unearthing an unlikely protest tool: the fax machine. With a wink toward the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of local government offices, Artifax is encouraging people to fax pieces of artwork to elected officials to tell (and show) them why the arts matter. They’ll even provide the artwork: 20 artist and designer-commissioned works, including those by Pentagram, Open, and Isabel Urbina Peña, are available to use.
As with most messaging around budgets and statistics, the most effective are the ones that tell a numbers story. For example, fax your representative a reminder that National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities represent just 0.02% of the overall budget:
Or send a Natasha Jen-designed missive that compares Melania’s security expenses to the NEA’s yearly budget (which is less than half):
Once you have selected your artwork, the site prompts you to enter your zip code to find your local representative—an incredibly helpful piece of design.
Importantly, Artifax also offers a message field so that you can add your own message. It offers a script but stresses that personalizing it is better. This is something that doesn’t always get emphasized with new apps and initiatives to make it easier to call representatives but is important to note. While the way that incoming messages are handled varies from one representative office to the next, most organizers will tell you that it’s always more impactful if you can make a persuasive and personal argument—one that both speaks to specific issues and shows how it effects you, the constituent. Messages that are received en masse—whether a scripted voicemail or a printed image—can make it easier to dismiss or group into one initiative (“Oh, these are the 350.org people again”) rather than carrying individual weight.
There is one caveat to this worth noting, which is that most fax machines these days are automated to forward to a designated inbox in the form of an email. Your representative will likely receive this piece of artwork in the form of an email, not a physical printout. This undercuts the assertion on Artifax’s website that faxes “still have that material impact that commands attention; they’re physical, and inconveniencing, and that’s what it takes to convey an impactful message to your representatives.” But an image still demands attention to an extent, and using actual pieces of art to convey why funding that directly supports the country’s artists and institutions is certainly a nice touch. The medium is the message.
Faxing representatives alone won’t save the NEA, of course, but that’s also not what Artifax is proposing. This is a clever approach to voicing protest to the budget, and one that emphasizes the subject through original artwork, as well as the outmoded technology still accessible to elected officials. Initiatives to get people to participate in democracy are worthwhile, and designer-led efforts that deal with systems of local government are rare and great to see.
We also like to think that our lawmakers can appreciate—if not totally enjoy—the cleverness of using an outmoded technology to get through an entrenched bureaucratic system. (Except for the interns on the email front lines. The interns will definitely hate it.)