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Nov 05, 2022

Poetic Research

Silas Munro, Brian Johnson

About this video


Polymode leads the edge of contemporary graphic design with a mission of equity. Our vision addresses aesthetic and social progress equally. Through our process—poetic research—we draw upon current and historical references that cross thresholds of exclusion. We unearth and amplify. We actively engage with the realities of our time, purposefully shining a light on marginalized lineages. Built on this deeply connected research, we design typographic, graphic and communication systems. This presentation demonstrates how to find a balance generating thought-provoking experiences and joy while making cool shit for the cultural sphere, innovative businesses and community-based organizations. We show value in both honouring design history and a willingness to throw the Bauhaus under the bus to facilitate BIPOC-centred design education. We offer ways to embrace a biting sense of humour and unruly optimism as we face of discrimination, oppression and racism. Through all of our design work, we explore ways to engage in poetic research.


Silas Munro

Silas is a partner of Polymode, a studio that leads the edge of contemporary graphic design through poetic research, learning experiences and making cool shit for clients in the cultural sphere, innovative businesses and community-based organizations.Past collaborations include the City of LA Mayor’s Office, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Mark Bradford at the Venice Biennale and MoMA. Silas’ writing appears in the book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America published by Princeton Architectural Press. The book is covered by articles in Smithsonian Magazine, The New Yorker and Black Perspectives. Silas has been a visiting critic at MICA, RISD and Yale. He is particularly interested in the often unaddressed post-colonial relationship between design and marginalized communities. Silas holds an MFA from CalArts and a BFA from RISD, where he met Brian Johnson and began collaborating. Silas is Founding Faculty and Chair Emeritus at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


Brian Johnson

Brian is a partner of Polymode where he focuses on creative direction, design production, writing and teaching. Born into a family of printers, Brian is deeply invested in the production of good design without the expense of sacrificing our humanity or environment. He is a member of the Monacan Nation and holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has guest lectured at the School of Visual Arts, Washington University, University of California Santa Barbara and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. His recent clients have been Glenn Kaino Studio, the Getty Museum, Studio Museum Harlem, Pulitzer Art Foundation, Phaidon Press, The New Museum and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum where his writing appears in Willi Smith: Street Couture. His most recent publication: Queering the Grid: Reading Codes in Dan Friedman's Teachings (with Silas Munro) has led him to his current design writing research on Friedman’s 1994, Radical Manifesto, which will be approaching its thirty year anniversary.