Designing The Apocalypse

September 4, 2015

This past May, I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in graphic design. My class was a guinea-pig class in many ways, the most significant of which was the fact that we had to write and exhibit a senior thesis. This was something previous graduating classes had not had the pleasure of doing.

Like most of my 2015 senior compatriots, I resented this new requirement at first. How was this going to help us get jobs? We need a portfolio, not a paper! Most of us realized that if we were going to stomach working on the same project for a full year, it would be smart to choose topics that really made us tick. If you’ve read my previous peepshow posts, you know my interests are a bit out of the ordinary. As the year went on, my rebellious spirit twisted this initially boring and stifling duty into something strange, attention-grabbing and wholly unexpected. If I had to do this, I was going to do it my way.

“So, the apocalypse is a pretty fun topic, right?” I thought. The correct answer is a resounding yes, in case you weren’t sure. My thesis, “Designing the Apocalypse,” was a 3,168-word argument which asserts that designers will not only play a valuable role in post-apocalyptic survival, but they are also crucial to rebuilding society as a whole through their aptitude for design thinking, user-centered problem solving, and collaborative savvy. If you’d like to read it, hit me up.

This culminated in “Indispensable,” an exhibition of bespoke post-apocalyptic survival kits for different “archetypes” of people, which operates under the assumption that what a person needs most in their survival kit is whatever keeps them useful to other people. The idea is that the items in their pack alone would not be as useful as the items paired with the archetype. (I.e. if somebody kills you and takes your stuff, they won’t be just as well-off.) Nobody survives alone for long, and we are our own best survival tool. I partnered with five people in the community with different backgrounds and skill sets. I spent some time with each one, identified their unique skills and strengths, and pinpointed what their most relevant and useful contribution to post-apocalyptic survival would be.

With this in mind, each archetype and I co-created a list of 8 to 12 items that would allow each of them to ensure that their unique skills could be put to best use by a community of survivors, ensuring their indispensability within that group. If you’d like to see this exhibition, too late! It was only up for a week in mid-May during the U of M’s senior show.  But here are some pictures of it!

If you don’t want to die in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, be good at stuff.

front full medic kit scavengineer kit pathologist kit