i see visual communication designers as intermediaries, seeking interpretations and expressions of knowledge, information, and ideas in a complex technological culture.
visual communication designers occupy a position in which all sorts of dialogue, negotiation, and power hierarchies are at play. with educational and professional experiences in a diversity of fields, I assume the role of a cultural / intellectual intermediary, engaging in research and analysis in broad domains of knowledge; working as a skillful human communicator; delving into content areas that require evocative visual expressions as well as ones that are significantly data-driven.
i see myself as someone who works with the common codes of society as well as the specialized codes of a discipline or trade; who is a ‘specialist’ in visual expression and ‘generalist’ in human knowledge and expression. the role of cultural intermediary requires me to adapt to new communication tools and technologies.
early research :
and book design
my research into design ranges from the narrative and interpretive to the analytical and informational spheres. I took my first step in research with book design in a design/cultural studies program (MFA, Bilkent University) with a focus on media studies and literary criticism. My masters thesis was a study of non-linear illustrated books, and how their designs reflected fragmented, multiple story worlds. I continued critical explorations of narrative in the visual communication masters program at SAIC.
my book advantage was a dramatic/poetic interpretation of ideas relating to the history of technology incorporating Lewis Mumford’s and Jared Diamond’s theories; History of Rome was a visual-critical expression of political systems borrowing dramatic sequences and imagery from microbiology. Those ideas and research culminated in a book course I developed at SAIC. Students created visual associations between multiple narratives and designed pages as graphic reflections of a multi-dimensional narrative space.
recent research :
my next research endeavor was information design, exploring design’s cognitive potential in articulating, enriching, and disseminating human knowledge. I developed and began teaching an information design course at SAIC that was driven by two things. One was the critical framework of the designed world and the human experience that I was acquiring in the design history PhD program at UIC and the other was my background in mathematical statistics. While my book design course is informed by subjective experiences conveyed through creative writing, the information design course sought to convey knowledge through expository writing.
the course serves to sharpen the analytical and interpretive skills of students as well as their mastery of image-making, typography, and page composition. Lectures, tutorials, and real life projects serve to connect students with diverse fields of knowledge, stakeholders, and audiences. Hundreds of student projects explored visual explanations, ranking and classification, data visualization, and wayfinding aids in scientific, technological, historical, social, and cultural venues. In addition to student-initiated projects, I also supervised real-life projects such as a wayfinding project for the University of Chicago’s Regenstein library; a budget presentation and wayfinding project for the City of Chicago’s Innovation and Technology department; and an energy guide for researcher Vaclav Smil.
i am currently preparing a book manuscript based on my recent Popular Culture conference (2013) paper hotwheels and matchbox. The battle between a European and an American toy company to define the ethos of toy-car play at the end of the 1960s is seen as a microcosm of larger forces of the industrial world. As European and American toy companies competed on the grounds of ideas such as big vs small, and hot vs cool, their automotive industries, too, were competing—while their ethical positions were yielding completely opposite outcomes in terms of business success. This book is also a general look into the idea of social peace and stability in Bretton Woods period Europe—as imagined by the English toy company Matchbox for European children, and as manifested by the toy company itself, that held an exemplary position in England's industrial scene throughout the 1960s.
i am also working on a book manuscript based on my dissertation. This design history book seeks to understand the making of the modern Turkish household, by looking at core products that transformed it : water heaters, refrigerators, private automobile, and the TV. All were produced by one design and industrial empire, Koç Industries. It probes the role of political institutions, businesses, geo-political power structures—and ultimately the role of multiple modes of design that helped popularize these products and contributed to the highly increased social, economic, geo-physical, and informational mobility that remade Turkish families as modern consumers between 1955 and 1980. This work is simultaneously a contribution to an emerging global design history that sheds light to the development of design idioms, technology, material culture, and social mobility in countries that lay outside the loci of industrial capitalism.
i have been actively involved in design scholarship as I began my PhD studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). my scholarly work situates design in the larger scheme of things to foreground design’s impact and the forces by which design is impacted on. my writing offers a multi-dimensional way of looking at the designed world, going beyond art/design history’s usual concern with aesthetic and symbolic aspects of artifacts. it does not rely on analysis of visual and verbal discourse alone. i have published scholarly work and presented at national and international conferences since 2004. these include essays and reviews for the Design Issues Journal, and presentations at the MEHAT conference at the University of Chicago (2004); 4T conference in Izmir (2010); the Society for the History of Technology Conference in Washington SHOT (2010); the Popular Culture/American Culture Association Conference in Boston (2012); International Congress of Technology (ICOHTEC) in Barcelona (2012); Popular Culture Conference in Washington (2013); and SHOT (2014).
i am currently working on multiple publications in the fields of information design, design theory and design history. "representing science: making visible and making sensible" is a forthcoming article and a possible art and design history book based on my 2014 Society for the History of Technology presentation. This work explores conjunctions of visual thought in art and science from Kepler to Klee. making visible is a monograph that I have been working on since 2013, in which I create templates for writing and designing infographics as their audience and scope changes; showing how infograph elements may be reconfigured for diverse fields of knowledge in the form of data graphics and visual explanations.
one book manuscripts is under review. It is a design theory book based on a project from my foundation course at SAIC titled the four elements: colors of fantastic four. It is a visual essay and a workbook of design foundations— demonstrating how an overarching intellectual theme (“the four elements” of classical thought) and its popular manifestations (The Fantastic Four comic book) can be used to walk students/readers through episodes of visual though. The artwork featured in the manuscript was shown at the 2015 International Fumetto Comix-Festival, Lucerne, Switzerland.