SUNY Purchase ︎ (DES3240) Design Issues

License to Ill(ustrate)


Create a license for (graphic?) designers, a related codification and ephemera of the rules for said license, an imagined future or present with said licenses, or a counterargument explaining why there should not be licenses for designers.


You can make a case that Graphic Design effectively “began” with the caves at Lascaux, woodblock printing in China, the Guttenberg Bible, or that the painter/patron relationships of the Renaissance are similar to designer/client relationships today. However, the term “Graphic Design” didn’t exist until 1922 when W.A. Dwiggins coined it. Based purely on this fact, Graphic Design is a relatively young field, programming/UX/UI Design even younger;the limits aesthetically, conceptually and philosophically are still capable of being defined. In comparison, aerial flight has been around since 1903 and film and photography slightly before this.  I bring these facts up because, throughout Ruined by Design, Mike Monteiro proposes the idea that designers should have licenses, his rationale being that you wouldn’t go on a flight with a pilot who was unlicensed. 

With that in mind, this project will explore your opinion and relationship to this idea and what effects it might have on the field, or simply what would be a cute license that you would be proud to carry around and what related design issues that brings up.


  • I would very much like to not limit what you can do for this project however, there must be some designed manifestation of your perspective on the piece (see Considerations below).
  • If you are simply choosing a counterargument (that is to say you think there should not be licenses), you can write a designed response (not unlike the ones for the readings), present a dystopian narrative of a world with licenses (as a comic book or animation for example).


  • Your perspective ︎To my mind, you could do the following:
    ︎Agree enough to create a license or related ephemera
    ︎Not sure how you feel, but want to explore the aesthetic possibilities of a license (security, history, durability, affordance, etc) 
    ︎Vehemently disagree with the idea, and need to present a counterargument in some form.  
  • Terms︎How does one acquire the license? Does it need to be renewed? How will it affect people on Fiverr? How will it effect design education?
  • Form︎How hard is the license to falsify or forge? Would it fit into your pocket? Would it go onto a plaque in an office? 
  • The world in which the license will be inserted into︎Is it for now on Earth? Is it an aspirational proposal for the future? Is it for a fictional universe?  

No Shuriken Mode Challenges

  • Team up with people who agree with your perspective and create a license (badge, card, etc) for all people involved. 
  • I don’t think this would be particularly difficult, but I think that it would be super cool to see some laminated ID cards.
  • Something more sculptural like a police badge. 

Relevant Dates (this project is 4 weeks long)

  • 02/12/2020︎Project Introduced

  • 02/28/2020︎In-class progress update

  • 03/11/2020︎Critique!


Leeloo Dallas’s Multi Pass from The Fifth Element

Bob Lazar’s supposed ID badge when he worked at S-4 (A facility in Groom Lake, Nevada that reverse engineered UFO’s (allegedly).
A NY State Driver’s License from 1941 (see more here)

A NY State Estitician’s License (from Virginia’s blog) Hans Moleman and Homer Simpson’s Driver’s Licenses from The Simpsons (more cartoon licenses here)