Mirificam Press Interview Series: M. Joshua Cauller
June 10th, 2009 in Web Design Culture
by: Matthew Griffin
M. Joshua Cauller is a designer working out of York, Pennsylvania. In 2003 he earned an associates degree in digital art from the Art Institute of York. He has worked in Television and video production as well as web design. Right now he is the Art Director for the Barry Group where he oversees web design and video production. Take a look at his personal portfolio site for a showcase of projects he's worked on in the past.
M. Joshua is involved in Dove Community Cell Church where he serves as a cell group leader. He has also served for the past three years as the director's assistant for Dove's Church Planting and Leadership School. M. Joshua has become a great asset to Mirificam Press in the last year, participating in conversation and adding great insight. It's a privilege to have him as a friend and I thank him for taking the time to answer these questions.
If you could sum up your philosophy of life in just a few sentences, what would you say?
Incarnational Empire Subversion.
I need to explain that now, right?
We all know the world is screwed up. This is a direct result of layers and layers (and layers) of selfishness compounded upon itself. This has underwritten all of humanity, thus creating endless empires of outright sin. Conditionless, self-sacrificial love has this way of subverting those empires by its very nature. I believe in that kind of love; in both practice and concept.
So my philosophy is this: love Papa God, love compatriots, and love enemies. In short, Love is the goal. Empires get subverted on the way.
Why have you chosen design as your life work?
I never really thought about it.
Design is the only thing that makes sense to me. You know what I mean? How do you address the deep desires of the heart and captivate imaginations without design? That's the real question.
What is the purpose of design?
Marshall Mcluhan's famous quote comes to mind: "The medium is the message."
A medium is the extension of our human existence. It is a tool by which we engage in life. Any media designed with excellence spreads a certain message about our life and our humanity.
The iPhone is the most popular piece of contemporary technology. Why? Because of what it is? Or because of what it does? It connects us with music, telephone conversation, online communication, email, and the world at large. It is connects us. What does it reveal about us, it shows us that we're designed for human connection and it enhances our experience as such.
The Creator of the Universe designed his core message to be brought to the world through an unusual medium: us. I know what you're thinking, "What? That's insane!" Yup. That's right. This very fact reveals something ridiculously unbelievable about us as humans: The Author of Life believes in us even though we don't believe in ourselves. Maybe it's why believing in God is so hard. God himself believes in unbelievable things: screwballs like you and me.
Notice that in all of this information I just shared, I didn't really say anything of the Gospel message itself. My point is not the message, but the design of the message. And yet there is no division between the message and the design. Why?
The design and the message are one.
Do you think your philosophy about life informs your understanding of the purpose of design? If so how?
My philosophy is unashamedly one of a larger story. I contest that it is impossible to be truly without bias. And our stories always always always inform our understandings (whether we know it or not) - especially when it comes to that which we create. Our best bet is to simply be fully aware of that fact.
Rachel Maddow gave a speech about the history of mishandling nuclear bombs. She was speaking to a theater of us motion designers - people who had built their careers on making cool visuals that sell their clients' products, services, or ideas. But she rightly realized that what we're doing is much like playing around with nuclear weapons, oblivious of our own power or potential.
I know my designs have the power to blow-away a person's world. As such, I am gonna be wise with how I use it.
Do you think that design can communicate truth? Is it even important that design communicate truth?
If something doesn't communicate truth, then it's not designed.
Even if something is an outright lie, it must connect with something that is true in a person's heart. All great lies are built on truth. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that small lies aren't as useful as the big framing-story lies.
It obviously worked out pretty well for him.
Considering the wealth of lies in the world - especially in the world of design - I feel compelled to say that we must must must design and communicate from a firm intertwining of truth. Our designs must be true.
Yet, how does one do that commercially when we're required to hide all of our model's less desirable qualities and sell a product that we know people don't need?
I'm still trying to figure that out, unfortunately. If you have any ideas, please hit me up: shatterblade[at]gmail.com.
Perhaps our most honest work is found in our personal projects and time of experimentation?
What is truth?
Truth is incarnational.
Some argue about absolute versus relative truth. Blah blah blah!
The reality is that we believe what we experience, what our truth perception is built on. If a young woman has been abused her whole life by somebody who is a professing Christian, then her understanding of truth is going to be seen through that reality. Similarly, if that same young woman met somebody who was actually Christ-like and saw them incarnate truth and unconditional reconciling love, she might actually believe it. The truth must be incarnated.
Matt, your question asked here is the question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus. I wonder if Pilate knew that Jesus said that he, himself was the truth? Ironically, Jesus was claiming to be truth incarnate. Yet, Pilate didn't see it. How is this possible?
We all have this profound and disastrous capacity to reject that which we see and know as true.
Nevertheless, truth must be incarnated in flesh and blood.
I've claimed Christ my whole life. So when I met a guy who actually reflected Christlikeness, I was humiliated and pissed-off. It was his flesh-and-blood incarnation of Christ that hit me in my face with reality. Gradually, I wanted to live the way I saw him live. It led me down a path into a full-force collision with the One I'd only heard about before...
But that's not to suggest that I'm a know-it-all, either. I'm still learning. Still seeing more and more dimensions of Christ's truth and reality. Its a life-long-journey for sure.
Can design right the wrongs of this world? If so, to what extent?
We're given this wonderful gift of creativity. The interesting thing is that the exact opposite of creativity is destruction.
If our design is truly creative, it will create.
Creation is a good thing through and through.
Creativity has this incredible power of rewriting history and changing our human trajectory. If we really believe that and live in it, we can see worldwide transformation. We need patience, though. Creative deign is like a seed. Seeds must be planted and allowed to germinate on their own.
Start small. And never despise small beginnings. The smallest seeds (when nurtured) become the biggest trees.
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