Surface Summer School

Michael Rock on the Role of Social Imaginary in Shaping Belief

The founding Partner and executive creative director of 2×4 shows students at Surface Summer School how storytelling and design are used to create systematic institutions and how fragile that reality truly is.

2×4’s Michael Rock, who is also the Senior Critic at the Yale School of Art and Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, took part in the Surface Summer School lecture series. He spoke to the students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design about the role of the social imaginary in mobilizing audiences, creating meaningful experiences, and shaping the world.

Takeaways: “Over time, a story becomes increasingly codified and ultimately systematic, embedded in our methodologies” Rock said. “The more graphic it becomes, the more designed it becomes, the more real it becomes.” Rock, who has created brand identity and user experience for brands like Nike, Apple, and Prada, showed the students how things that start out as routines slowly evolve until they are institutionalized. The coherences becomes entrenched, from the 12-hour clock to systemic racism to the drawing of borders on a map. “Maps create empires and claim ownership. The way we say this is ours is to draw a line around it,” he said. The false necessity, he said, is that you can’t get out of the system. “Maybe it seems trivial if the fort name is changed or the statue is taken down, but those are the things that start to make change,” he said of the current movement to remove statues and rename military bases honoring confederate generals. “When it falls, it falls really quickly.” 

See the full schedule for the lecture series.
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