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Daryl Christopher on sustaining joy and graphic design

Ryan O'Connell / THE GATEPOST

By Ryan O’Connell

Arts & Features Editor

Arts & Ideas hosted Daryl Christopher for a participatory workshop in their “Humanity, Design + Happiness” series of events April 6.

Stephanie Grey, an art professor, introduced Christopher, who has taught graphic design courses at a number of universities in Massachusetts, including Northeastern and Lesley.

Grey said she met Christopher at the Rhode Island School of Design while both were pursuing masters’ degrees in graphic design, and that his positive outlook and curiosity was contagious.

Christopher said he had two things to share with the audience to help make their interactions with the world “a little bit easier to understand.”

He first discussed the importance of the series title, “Humanity, Design + Happiness,” how the terms are interconnected, and the relationship to sustaining joy.

He added he was surprised by this, since he feels like he doesn’t hear the word joy very often. He said he asked students in his Type 1 class to describe what joy meant to them, who described it as being close to happiness or having fun.

“Fun is amusement and light-hearted play, and the main difference, right, [is that with] joy there’s a deep sense of satisfaction, so think about that,” he said.

Christopher said that in the end, what is needed is relationships, and that’s all that matters. He added design, humanity, and these relationships are all connected.

He said these connections are always present in his life as a graphic designer, and illustrated it by presenting a short picture book to the audience full of paper cutouts which flowed into different letters, all part of the same typeface.

“We’re going to look at some designs, and I really want you to think about form, the way you think about the unity of form,” he said. “And then we’re just going to segue that into ‘How does that work with relationships?’”

Christopher flipped through the entire booklet for the audience, demonstrating the flow between different letters, and how they elicit different emotions. He transitioned next into a series of graphics showing abstract black shapes, and asked attendees to identify patterns in them.

He then asked attendees about their favorite letters and why they liked them, focusing mostly on the “feelings” people said they associated with their favorites. He added different fonts, sizes, and shapes communicate different emotions, such as a squared or circular dot in a lowercase i.

Christopher asked attendees to view a series of seven images next and tell him what they saw inside of them, all of them abstract art pieces, and most involving text overlaid somewhere in the frame.

He moved onto physical images next, prompting attendees to share their experiences and memories associated with an old baseball, a white sock, a fork, and an egg.

Christopher shared his own associations with the objects after attendees had spoken, sharing a story about a child scared because they broke a window with a baseball, and a boy who made sock puppets for children with cancer.

He then instructed attendees to write down a time someone was selfless for them in their lives, and to share the experience if comfortable. One attendee told a story about being given an unprompted gift in middle school, and feeling a sense of acceptance through it.

Christopher ended the workshop by encouraging people to be selfless every day, and shared a story about a time he cleaned up a young woman’s vomit on a packed train to help her feel better in the moment.

“I just got down on the floor and I was cleaning it up. And you know what happened - immediately, everyone’s eyes are on the back of my head, right? Which is good, because then they weren’t looking at her,” he said.

“And then I got out to Harvard, and a lot of us got up to move out, and I went over to her and I just put my hand on her shoulder and I just said, ‘It’s OK, it can happen to anyone.’ And she smiled,” he said.


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