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Cogs & Sprockets: Alexis Lloyd’s Design

May 1, 2010
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Two threads wind through Alexis Lloyd’s data visualizations, street art, toys and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that gorgeous snark: a deep sense of responsibility on the artist’s part, and a constant obligation for users to inquire.  Forget easy answers, when viewing Lloyd’s work, it’s challenging enough just to find the right questions to ask.

Consider the Ad Generator.  By pairing randomized words and semantic structures from extant corporate slogans with related Flickr images, Lloyd dares her audience to imagine relevant businesses implied by the ads.  Or maybe she doesn’t.  The Ad Generator‘s  nonsense output may be better understood as a tool to help us question how actual slogans connect viscerally with consumers in order to bolster our esteem of corporations.  Above all, the application she has concocted to raise these questions is fun.  The experience is like eavesdropping on an insane ad agency’s brainstorming session; the content may go haywire, but the rules become clearer as time goes on.  The Ad Generator is part of comMODIFIED, a suite of works that formed her thesis project for an MFA at the Parsons School of Design.  Like the Ad Generator, each component of comMODIFIED can stand alone, but together, they challenge the mixed messages emitted by advertisers.

An easier-to-pin-down project is called T vs. T.  Designed to challenge the notion that “if it’s important, I’ll hear about it on Twitter”, T vs. T pits the most discussed topics on Twitter against the most reported topics from the New York Times.   While the discrepancies between the two sources become immediately clear (guess which one is into “Justin Bieber “and which discusses “United States international relations”), the wrinkly notions of what we want to know, what we ought to know, and why become ever more imposing as the content unfolds.

Then there’s The Concrete Jungle. Dreamier than some of her other work detailed here, The Concrete Jungle claims to “bring elements of the natural world into the manmade cityscape”. How does it accomplish this? By gluing plastic animals into urban tableaux, of course. Ostrich Pipe (pictured) joins a gorilla climbing a fence, and a lion stalking zebra on a weathered stump to bring humor to the task of wringing nature from the streets of Brooklyn.

Perhaps the best insight into the artist’s perspective is Cog and Sprocket, one of her several blogs. Here, she posts bits of design that catch her eye for better or worse, her thoughts on programming for the iPad, and perhaps most important, her observations of thoughtful new approaches to communication. By displaying innovative ideas that appeal to her, Lloyd provides some insight into a question she continually wrestles with: how can new technology engender new ways for all of us to hold conversations. Her Twitter account provides ongoing insight on a smaller scale.

Alexis Lloyd is a prolific and thoughtful designer. While her work is careful to avoid certainties, its scattered reach is carefully controlled. The juxtaposition of caution with the desire to charge into evolving forms of communication infuses her designs with a sparkling vitality. She invites us to explore our dynamic world with her, and she always gives a fascinating tour.

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