It could be said that the worst designs fail to stimulate or engage the average person. In Graphic Design this can come in many forms, a dull poster or a misinformed approach to branding can both lead to lower user engagement with what is being communicated. But one approach that attempts to upend engaging visuals is Interaction Design or by exact definition “the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services” (Wikipedia). In an increasingly digital world, designers are figuring out how this interactive world can draw people in, and how it can translate the physical world to the digital in an easily digestible way.
One example of one such project is Studio Monikers “Interactive Reflection on the Black Square” or more prominently titled “The Anti-Selfie Club”. It seems simple at first. The goal is to not let you or your friends take a selfie. Gather together in front of your computer camera and the program will obscure your face with simple geometric shapes including black squares, circles, and crosses. Try as you might, the shapes will continue to hide your face and after taking a picture your image (but not really) will be displayed amongst countless others trying to get their faces shown.
It’s a deceptively simple thing complicated in a narcissistic culture. The point of the website is not to take a nice picture of you, so why are you using it? People won’t be able to see your face having fun, so it can’t satisfy peoples want for attention on a digital platform. But still, thousands of pictures have been taken and posted since 2015, so the limited interaction continues to draw people in. It takes a common real world social norm like the selfie and turns it on its head, possibly making a game of beating the system and actually getting your picture taken. It stimulates people through nothing a camera and some geometric shapes.
Interestingly enough, much like the way interaction design takes real world cliche’s and gives them new meaning in a new landscape, the Anti-Selfie was inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s attempt to do the same. Malevich’s “Black Square” painting was intentionally obtuse because it wasn’t an attempt to present people with something from the physical world. As he put it “Up until now there were no attempts at painting as such, without any attribute of real life…Painting was the aesthetic side of a thing, but never was original and an end in itself.” Both projects are an attempt to skirt a common trend, and though they exist in different mediums, the relationship is important. Malevich was trying to reinvent what the painting really meant if it meant anything at all, and the Anti-Selfie succeeds in doing the same with a different niche.