Beneath the Surface – June 1, 2021
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The Wild Unknown

By Isabel Bo-Linn


write everything down. I write in my planner, in note apps, on post-its, and spare envelopes. During my time in graduate school, I managed to fill four large notebooks with my writings. To an outsider, these notebooks are nonsense. Overly detailed, top-to-bottom handwritten notes, odd drawings, and nonsensical frameworks. The answer(s) to what lies beneath the surface of my work lies in these notebooks. I flipped and flipped and flipped and flipped and found – questions. 

These questions are not always explicitly answered, but their presence drives my work. These inquiries push my creative boundaries and help me reflect on past and future work. In her book How to do Nothing, Jenny Odell discusses how curiosity and rabbit holes are both painful and joyful to experience. “This way of looking, in which we are Alice and everything is a potential rabbit hole, is potentially immobilizing (103).” The see-saw of the known and unknown can be debilitating to the design process at times. The unknown, brought on by curiosity and exploration, could hold the answers we crave. I created a cartomancy with my questions and pictorial symbols to guide other designers through their processes and through the thick of the unknown.


Isabel Bo-Linn (MGD ‘21) is a recent graduate of North Carolina State University’s Master of Graphic Design program. Her research interests include design education, data journalism, and design fiction.

Works Cited

  • Odell, Jenny. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. Melville House, 2019.

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