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EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon Brinkley (DE '14) in his space in the senior design studio. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon Brinkley (DE '14) in his space in the senior design studio. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon Brinkley (DE '14) in his space in the senior design studio. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon Brinkley (DE '14) in his space in the senior design studio. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon with his installation at the Design BFA Exhibition. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: Brandon displays his temporary diploma at May 10's commencement. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Designer Brandon Brinkley

: The Brinkleys at commencement, (L to R) Laura Brinkley, Brandon, brother Josh, and Gordon Brinkley . Photo by Mark Bocek.

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Brandon Brinkley creates a handmade response to our digital reality. See his work at EXPO 14’s Design BFA Exhibition, on view through May 24.

Brandon Brinkley’s design work fills a small corner of the gallery in Cornish’s Beebe Building, where it is part of this year’s BFA Design Exhibition. His work is deceptively simple:  a small booklet surrounded by all the pieces that went into creating it. Brandon has also provided stickers that viewers can place near the various elements of his work, allowing them to reflect and comment on what they see. What isn’t apparent at first glance is that Brandon’s work is actually a design reaction to our increasingly digital, robotic, virtual world. Instead of using the click of a computer mouse to “like” one of Brandon’s designs online, viewers interact physically using the stickers. Inspired by a book by Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, Brandon’s project explores the way contemporary life is “curated online” by reverse-engineering digital response into a manual form — “the analog user experience,” as he terms it. “By taking a digital paradigm and making it physical, it makes what we do online and what we’re doing online and social media able to be examined in an outside way.”

EXPO 14’s Art and Design BFA Exhibition is on view through May 24.

What is this book Brandon says is central to his work in the exhibition? Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (La Société du spectacle) was published in 1967, a time when computers were having an increasing impact on society, but while the Internet was still a good many years in the future. According the redoubtable Wikipedia, in his book, Debord attacked “the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation.” A prime example of this concept (now familiar to any regular watcher of broadcast television) is “reality TV.” Participants “live” in created environments, modeling behavior for all of us in the real world.

How does a designer of today react to this assault of pseudo-reality that permeates contemporary culture? Brandon asks us to reconsider our connection to a digital world and what effect it is having on us. “The interface lives inside a digital container and really can’t be experienced with your hands besides with a track pad or keyboard,” Brandon says. “I’m kind of encouraging a return to materiality and physical activities.” The explorations of Brandon and his like-minded contemporaries are reminiscent of the reaction of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement responding to proto-modernism and the machine age by encouraging the practice of designing and creating things by hand. 

In the exhibition, Brandon’s wall documents the production of a real thing, a small booklet on Debord’s ideas. Hung in elegant ranks and files are the old-school printing plates he has used to create manually create the booklet. “This is an extremely process-driven piece, so all my process is going to be there, and it is a holistically concrete way of … seeing the things I made. There’s going to be a little publication … everything that went into producing this is going to be displayed.” It is one thing to show us what goes into a hand-made booklet. But Brandon has a larger intent behind the work:  to put a philosophy—a way of thinking—on display. “Philosophy exists in pretty much the written word,” he says. “How do you make visuals for that? How do you make an experience of philosophy that’s not a printed page?”

Since the Design BFA Exhibition opened, Brandon has had a few busy days, including receiving his degree and spending some time with his folks, who came out from his native Colorado to see him get his diploma. Brandon attended Columbine High School in Littleton, just outside Denver. Yes, that Columbine High School. He was in a grade school just down the road when the horrible events unfolded at the high school. Meeting Brandon and experiencing his upbeat personality gives hope that everyone in the town has put all that behind them.

What kind of work will Brandon do now that he’s graduated? “Anything I can get my hands on,” he replies, practically. But he has his dreams. “I’m into this print work that I’m doing. It’s kind of a dying art these days and doesn’t pay a lot. That’s unfortunate, but down the line I’d really like to get some equipment and go into business for myself and be a designer and producer of printed goods. Mostly I’m interested in publication and branding, they are very exciting to me.”


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