Our realities are largely composed of definitive states—this is this, and that is that. However, quantum theory suggests differently. In the case with light and matter, they are both a particle and a wave. They act as one of the two in accordance to how they’re being measured. In our perceptible realities littered by unambiguous dualities, the seemingly impossibility or at least inconceivability of this forces us reflect on the role of the observer. In a similar sense, much is experientially the same in our lives—it is both this and that all depending on the prescribed fate of measurement and role of the observer.
First, it seems most appropriate to share an experiment which helps to explain this phenomenon. However, it goes without saying, I’m by no means a quantum physicist or even scientist for that matter, and so rather than attempting to regurgitate what so many professionals have so brilliantly explained, I’ll let astrophysicist, Janna Levin explain:
“In the [double-slit] experiment, light is shone through two slits onto a photographic plate. If light is made of individual corpuscles, then when the photons hit the barrier with two open slits the only image on the photographic plate will be two thin slits from the impact of the individual particles.
If instead lights acts as a wave, then when passing through two slits the wave fans out past the barrier and interferes with itself, like two water waves merging on a pond. The net effect is an interference pattern on the photographic plate.
The double-slit experiment when carried out shows that light is in fact behaving like a wave, whereas the photoelectric experiment shows that light is in fact behaving like a particle. The nature of matter is dual and seemingly impossible.”
The image above can help clarify how the experiment plays out. The left displays how the light reacts when observed as particles while the right displays the light’s behavior when observed as waves.
Let’s not worry too much about the impossibility of this because this article isn’t about observing and measuring light and matter as either particles or waves—well it is, but it also isn’t. More so, this is about how our role as the observer and individual taking the measurements plays an integral role in our perceptible realities. A desk is a desk is a desk—until you sit on it.
Do we perceive the work for how it is created? Or is it that the work is what we perceive it to be? Or is it that the very perception itself is what enables it to be anything at all?
I find these questions not merely interesting in their own nature, but rather integral to what we do. The worst thing we can do is confidently suspect that our work is entirely definitive and independent of our own perception. Your design, your logo, your website, your poster, your business, your idea, extends beyond what you think it to be—every time it is observed offers the opportunity to redefine it.
The harsh reality is that you will never not be a designer, and as much as you may attempt to detach yourself from that role, your subconscious and predisposition will always force you to observe your own work as such. It becomes important to recognize your role as the observer and to then cover ground through invitation of other observers.
The original Trump/Pence logo made use of a nice T_P lockup just as it also alludes to some sexual innuendo—this of course depending on the observer.
But this is less about possibility of perception and more about the role of the observer and the decisions of measurement which inform the reality of our work and lives. Who ever you are, what ever your job is, your role as the observer is limited—your scope can only be so wide. Only through invitation of other observers can we begin to widen that scope, and often times all we need is just a slight shift which sheds new light on a new perspective.
You will only ever be yourself—you will never be the user, the client, the audience, etc. You will only ever be yourself. Let me say that one more time, you will only ever be yourself. And the only way to see light as anything other than unambiguous, singular waves requires you to either change your role as the observer or take on a different means of measurement.
It’s integral for us to continue questioning whether something is either a particle or a wave—metaphorically speaking, that is—just as it’s integral for us to consider the impossibility of it being both.
Is it that you aren’t a professional or is it that you aren’t observing yourself as such? Is is that you aren’t a writer or is it that you aren’t observing yourself as such? Then how do you position and format the experiment so that others observe you in the same light? Is it that your product isn’t successful or is it that you’re measuring the wrong things?
Just remember, a desk is a desk is a desk—until you sit on it.
P.S. Read this twitter thread. It’s a beautiful example of what we can learn when we listen to another observer—especially when they’re a person of color and we are not.