Crescent City Sense of Place and A New Design Ecology

Crescent City Sense of Place and A New Design Ecology
An autoethnographic examination of identity, place and graphic design.

Using an autoethnographic research method, this thesis embarks on a quest to examine the phenomenology of sense of place. The physical landscapes of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana are explored as a portal for rethinking identity, design and the essence of sense of place at the triadic intersection of humans, culture, and nature.

Visual, material, environmental, and experiential elements of place yield a vocabulary of signs, objects, visuality, and materiality which culminates into a semiotics of place representing relationships between identity, culture and physical surroundings. Navigation for this journey is informed by theories of philosophy, phenomenology, ontology, psychology, environmental science, anthropology, architecture, physics, metaphysics, and theories relating to the collective unconscious and the conscious mind. These pathways yield new ways of thinking about the roles of perceptions, experiences, seen and unseen nature, and visual culture in creating place meaning.

In initially searching for understanding ways in which graphic design can be a catalyst for facilitating a sense of place, an additional discovery is found. Connecting with one’s own sense of place in turn facilitates rethinking graphic design. Design is reimagined through ontological, phenomenological, and semiotic approaches. Built from foundations, principles and elements gathered from the exploration, a sense of place design ecology emerges with a theory, methodology, and framework not only for rethinking design as a catalyst for sense of place, but as a larger paradigm shift for philosophically rethinking design on a fundamental level.

Susan Matherne

Thesis advisor: Silas Munro

This work is about the human relationship to place. Sense of place is influenced by the natural environment, human activities and interaction, but also perceptions, senses, and sensations. The bond humans develop with place influences identity, stewardship, culture, and even survival—making it one of the most profound aspects of human experience. What kind of imprint does design make to this map? How might we rethink design as a gateway to access this inner territory? How might we rethink sense of place by exploring it with a design mind? How might we rethink design by exploring a sense of place?

2828 Aubry Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70119, USA