The third issue of Le Signe Design (the Cahiers of the National Graphic Design Center) is about DIY practices and is based on the work of Gilles de Brock, graphic designer who became a ceramic tile manufacturer.
Do It Yourself practices are not, as is commonly assumed, limited to home improvement, nor just a way of subverting—hacking—a given social and political organization. They are also a way of looking both forward and backward, at our future and our heritage. They involve our heritage insofar as they allow constituted groups to revive past knowledge and skills threatened with extinction. They look forward in that they make it possible to create tools that do not yet exist but could.
The applications of the Do It Yourself approach range from niche practices to everything everywhere, and what they have in common is that they are always in opposition to the mass market. Some examples of this extremely diversified movement include self-publishing, cosplay, biotechnology, hacking (especially in the sense of programming), and producing digital artworks and music. Its most mediatized (and often romanticized) contemporary manifestation is what are called fablabs, but this term is too limited to cover the phenomenon in all its vast variety.
The roots of the DIY movement go back to the magazines Popular Mechanics (1902) and Mechanix Illustrated (1928), popular education publications meant for readers in small towns and the countryside who needed to be self-reliant and repair broken manufactured items rather than buying new ones. The late 1960s saw the emergence of movements motivated by environmental concerns and a distrust of consumer society. Many people—like some student co-op members, hippies in North America and punks in Europe—wanted to share resources. Stewart Brand's famous Whole Earth Catalogue, subtitled "Access to tools", launched in 1968, constitutes our contemporary reference.
This issue is appearing in parallel with the solo exhibition retracing the career of Gilles de Brock, whose production is deeply infused with the DIY spirit. Yet his practice can't be reduced to the things he has actually made. It is part of the kind of knowledge-sharing economy proclaimed in Brand's counter-culture manifesto, able to go even further today thanks to the participatory and interactive Web 2.0.