Design can help us to understand the world around us and for final year Kingston University graphic design student Charlotte Allen, it’s the perfect tool to pursue her interest in people and their behaviours. Looking to strike a balance between social and contemporary design, Charlotte’s desire is to “design for people and for a cause, not just for design’s sake”.
In a polarised, politicised and volatile world, the role of the designer is something that’s more important than ever for emerging practitioners to grapple with. It’s a question that Charlotte dived deep into through her dissertation, asserting “It’s impossible not to think about the crazy things going on now — Trump, Brexit, climate change — and I feel as designers we have to take a more social approach and respond to these issues”. “We should use our talents and strengths” she continues, “not to try and fix the problems necessarily, but to at least shift consciousness. I see my role as a designer in the world today, to help others through communicative and clever thinking”. Throughout Charlotte’s portfolio evidence of this motivation is abundant, from social intervention pieces like ‘Post-Office’, to ‘Wishing you were here’, a project highlighting the dehumanisation of war-torn regions through simple re-contextualisation.
One of Charlotte’s most intriguing bodies of work is ‘Tape Portrait’, exploring the increasingly common physical intervention that we make against the “serious technical and invasive issue” of our laptop and smartphone cameras and microphones being used against us as surveillance devices. Charlotte also uses the project to question the future of the photographic portrait. “The images presented through the tape are how others see us online, they become new representations of us as they cover up our actual identities”. Highlighting an issue that is only going to become increasingly pertinent for the connected generation, Charlotte is looking to engage younger users and encourage them to think a little more about the implications of their unquestioned acceptance of new technology.
There is plenty of room in Charlotte’s practice for playful and comedic interventions, ‘Under the microscope’ being a great example. Tasked with responding to a museum with a graphic response, Scarlett Chetwin and Charlotte aped The Grant Museum of Zoology’s collection of microscopic slides of animal species with ‘artefacts’ from 2016. From Kanye’s gold tooth, to a tear from a remain voter on the day the Brexit result came in, 365 curiosities were intricately and delightfully compiled. It was not a simple task, but one certainly paid off. “Those sorts of projects I always find are the most successful” Charlotte reveals, “the ones you spend up all night making but you know its worth it, and that’s why you’re still up making it”.
Charlotte looks set to bring a wide range of other subjects into focus in the near future, with further development of ‘Wishing you were here’ and a new site for and by those suffering from ulcerative colitis already in progress. She’s keen to move to Amsterdam upon graduation to specialise in installation, 3D and digital design and long-term would love to start her own multidisciplinary design studio.