Katrina and the perils of out of touch leadership
Research methods for art and design

making of the Declaration of Independence

Dunlap_2 Recently, I read the book American Scripture by Pauline Maier (Vintage Press 1997) which talks about the “Committee of Five,” who were the drafting and editorial committee for the Declaration of Independence. The committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R Livingston. It goes into depth about the multiple revisions to the content of the Declaration and how it was based on other declarations created at the time and in the past.

The book skims over the “design” of it except to say that it was hand written, the plain parchment original is lost, 150-200 copies were printed by John Dunlap but it was not the signed copies sent to Europeans, it was crafted more for the American people as its audience, and that Timothy Matlock did the handwritten version that was signed by all but two of the delegates. There is an interesting quote on page 149 about Jefferson's dismay at the mutilations his draft went through, "He had forgotten... that a draftsman is not an author...[it was not] presented to the worls aas the work of a particular writer, but a public documentm, an authentic expression of the American mind."  Jefferson also sent copies of the documents to his friends to see if they liked his version better than the final version. Would this be the first instance of "user testing" of American public documents?

This text opens up my main area of focus now with design and governmentality, in terms of trying to understand how public documents and communications, objects and processes enfranchise or disenfranchise individuals. It is different from the current focus on design in government in terms of innovation and looks at design as the actual apparatuses of governance. This is even different from looking at propoganda. I am more interested in the more mundane processes and artifacts of governance.

American Scripture helps point in the right direction.


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