Mapping Distances

Ymt, dear reader, is now a unit of altitude. An indication of level. It offers a birds eye view to give you an overview and to give you an elevated perspective. It is an uncertainty measure to navigate by. Ymt, a New-Norwegian word, still means hint or hints, but in Ymt 3 this unit shows readers what their perspective may be and how they may change it. Ymt, here, is a measure by which to navigate a time, place, and space of limbo—a non-space of sorts, our current dystopian reality.

At the time of making Ymt 3, in autumn 2020, we who are working on its design keep stumbling over the phrase The New Normal in emails from our institution, on social media, in the news, etc. Sometimes the context is hopeful, it indicates that there is a better future right around the corner in which the coronavirus and its effects on human life will alter things for the better, e.g. the planet will be saved from climate change because we all had to slow down. And sometimes it is used to hint, ymt, that we have lost something for good, e.g. that we should get used to having our privacy infringed upon as well as to having less freedom of movement. The phrase is also used to hint at an economic change, e.g. that neoliberalism will have to go and economic actors will have to adapt a stakeholder business model instead of shareholder ones. And so on, and so on. The phrase is used to further agendas. Ymt too has an agenda, and that is to develop our field, Visual Communication Design, towards representing design for thinking and design as thinking.

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‘The everywhere of thought is indeed a region of everywhere.’ 

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Designing a thing-of-things like a magazine, both printed and digital, is curation through selecting and editing, and it is formgiving and reflection on the content in parts and as a whole through the visual language. The student group designers, 2nd year bachelor students, have appropriated the mathematical term Angular Distance, which is the angular separation between two objects as perceived by an observer. They apply it to formulate a system of navigation that forces readers to acknowledge that they are coming from somewhere. It shows readers that they choose a starting point and should, perhaps, be aware of the influence of the imposed navigational system and the visual language commentary implemented through the design on what they perceive of the contents and how. We maintain, boldly, that the students‘ approach shows that they see their field as an epistemological one, and that they show you that, dear reader, through intelligent design and by creating a map of the unknown to you for you. And by challenging you to thoughtfully find your way while reminding you to be aware of your perspective and level.

Authors of both texts and images were asked to relate to the theme Distances. And somehow they all place, in one way or the other, emphasis on perception and on point of view. Collectively their works remind us that distances are relationships between two points and need a point of reference. And the design of Ymt 3 is designed to remind readers that changing perspective can lead to a change of perception. And that only by having a point of view, and the will to see, can you perceive distances—and possibly cross them. You can realise that, in the words of Rudolph Joseph Rummel, ‘Reality is given scale and perspective only by individual meanings, values, and intentions.’1 Readers are repeatedly shown that to experience distance is dependent on having a perspective. The designers of Ymt 3 have decided to try to elevate you and to make the topography deliberate distance visible to you, dear reader, through the visual communication as a whole, which they constructed from difference and levels of perception. The writers among the bachelor student designers express this in their own words, as well as through the Editorial Design, by expressing their own points of view, their own sense of distances, and by generously offering you an unexpected mode of orientation and possibilities for reorientation.

Being able to perceive distances is key to daring exploration. So is mapping and having a measure to go by. The conceptualisation of Distances as a theme communicated through the Editorial Design of Ymt 3 has developed in a way that seems especially communal and constructive. In a way the publication has become a world of its own, populated by its makers, who are inviting you to join them there and handing you a map and a compass to navigate by. Perhaps the flow they have reached through the design work is a consequence of feeling appreciation for each other more strongly than before? A realisation that it is hard to be, think, and do alone? Perceivably distances when explored and mapped become less imposing and less daunting? Perceivably the liminal spaces we now find ourselves in offer less polarization, less of a need to other, more empathy, more connection, and a better understanding of proximity?

We hope so.

Åse Huus and Dóra Ísleifsdóttir, editors.

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