Lasso


Volume One

  1. Personal Archives
  2. Finding Footing
  3. Lone Traveler
  4. Pod Rotations
  5. Communal Material

My Tools

  1. The Magic Boxes︎︎︎
  2. Federico
  3. Image Index

Info

Lasso is a digital zine that compiles a selection of my graduate work over a six-month period as I explore “place,” collective practices, and personal tools in the field of graphic design. 

Mark

Finding Footing

July 2021

Digitizing my grandfather’s electrical tape lettering has become a method to understand where I come from, my path to where I am now, and what my working concept of success is. My background is not extraordinary. It is a commonplace where many can find themselves, but I believe that sharing our backgrounds and our sense of place can help innovative thinkers evolve what it means to be a designer or employ design thinking. Growing up on the East Coast with an Italian-American family is a significant part of my identity, giving me many tools that I readily share with others. My father’s street smarts, my mother’s practical approach to navigating society, and their shared culture led them to instill very specific values in the lives of their children. My career path and how I’ve arrived at certain points of awareness is all by design.

Small Trophies
Despite the many struggles that my grandfather grappled with in his life, he worked hard to survive in America, knowing that his efforts would lead to a better quality of life for his children. He was a solitary man who shared his pride in sentimental ways. When any of his children achieved a particular milestone, whether it be a first communion or a new car, he showed up for 15 minutes to say hello and take panoramic photos on his simple film camera before leaving. He would return a week later with the images developed and placed in carefully constructed frames made from manila envelopes. These small trophies were symbols of hard work and a window into his ideas of success. I learned that success was never a final destination, but a collection of moments that mark the places we’ve been and how much we’ve learned.

End Goals
Weathered Italian-American men love sharing mantras and unsolicited advice. This is a learned fact. “Success draws attention” was one phrase that was repeated constantly in my home. It often followed other misogynistic advice on how to play well and succeed in business. My father knew better than this, but lacked the language for more refined thinking. He was certain that I could achieve as much as anyone else, but only hard work and the right attitude would earn attention. Both of my parents groomed me for success. They didn’t believe in vacation days and battled their own fear and anxiety from working corporate jobs, having a home to maintain, and paying off debt to ensure that my brother and I would receive a good education. Much of this was the result of job layoffs, working through a recession, and having to cut costs on their children’s hobbies and opportunities. My unconventional interests were tolerated and encouraged, but the newfound possibility of making a living as an “artist” took some convincing. 

Thanks to the canonization of design, art school became a prestigious path. Getting into an acclaimed school was not only a personal success for me, but for my parents as well. They are still discovering how a fine art education stands apart from learning a trade, but understand how anthropology and mastering a medium can guide me to high standing in within a corporation. While traveling this path, I found that the tools imposed upon me were ones rooted in a white-dominated, patriarchal society in spaces that were not necessarily made for me. Talent was one thing, but knowing how to sell myself was another. Every interview and job application was treated as part of the course to reach the next level. After 10 years of playing along with office culture, dodging harassment, and strategizing my moves and relationships, I am now learning that most of what has shaped me is toxic to my lifestyle and to others who have endured the same. If I have an end goal, it is to create daily and enjoy my home in a space that is mine.

Go Team!
When it comes to collaborating with others or leading a team, I try to look beyond all of the corporate training hours and employ the lessons I’ve learned from playing sports. My dad was my soccer coach for most of my youth. His coaching style was empathetic, giving every kid fair time on the field. He took time to connect to the less competitive kids and discover the skills they had that made them love the sport. His leadership considered everyone as an equal member. His biggest challenges were dealing with the more ambitious kids with control issues—like me—who wanted to be on the field at every given minute. Taking the time to consider our colleagues’ working styles as well as learning about their path and how they share space and culture, can only lead to a better quality of work and respect for others. This approach wins games.

My livelihood marks a change in my family lineage. The possibilities that I get to work with are not the same ones that previous generations were made aware of.  Technology has created more of a divide to redesign all of our lives and expand its influence on the wider world. Social media and access to various perspectives and storytelling has helped me shift my language. In this new landscape, sharing our need for respect and joy can defeat a system that constantly humbles or inhibits perceived success. Though I hold on to many generational values, I have to reconstruct a few in order to create a stronger values to share with others. I’ve begun to look closely at the words I choose to use when I’m communicating and making sure they are ones that are empowering and insightful. I like promoting enthusiasm and respect in a team setting, knowing that organization is a tool. As individuals in coworking spaces, our daily practices should become exercises for our souls. Of course, there are many designed systems that make it harder for all to achieve peace and happiness. It’s my hope that there will be more collaborative efforts to navigate difficulties and champion communities in a post-pandemic society.

A New Place
I like to think about my grandparents, all who have passed, and wonder what they would think about my life. Their unrelenting hope for future success in America may look different than they imagined. I think they probably just wanted happiness in the form of many nice houses, clean clothes, and babies. Writing this in Barcelona, where the quality of life is much easier than that of America, my ideas of success begin to change. The ego and self-branding that comes with living an online life and charting every cool moment in our lives for the world to see, removes the sentimental nature of sitting with our achievements and having gratitude for our place in the world. We assume that visibility is integral to success. I don’t think I would have arrived here if it weren’t for spending a year at home with my family. Acknowledging this deprivation has become enlightening.




A ladder to success.
Mark