Okay so I don’t have a website yet, but my Projects page is now up and running!
Having just about come to the end of my first academic year in graphic design, this would be a good point to take stock, sum-up what I’ve learnt and not learnt, consider the successes and otherwise. Perhaps a good way to start would be to look at the advice given by 5 professionals in a talk earlier this week. Matthew Wilson of web-solutions experts and designers’ best friends With Associates championed the benefits of collaborative ventures, while Sion Whellan of design and print cooperative Calverts took things a step further with a surely-its-too-good-to-be-true-? vision of harmony in the cooperative workplace. Sam Arthur of independent arts publisher Nobrow, and Kate Higginsonn of Dalston’s best screenprinting studio The Print Club and illustration agents Higginsonhurst, both agreed that its better to take a risk on setting up your own business instead of working or Coca-Cola, while Rob Perkins of global advertising heavyweights Weiden & Kennedy managed to make working for a advertising agency sound like a lot of fun, though a little bit sleazy (perhaps that’s just my preconceptions talking). What’s the conclusion? That graphic design is a broad profession, and the type of career designer has depends upon where they work and the choices they make about the kind of work they pursue.
Throughout the year I’ve done my best to keep up with various design commentators, leeching insights from Ben Terrett and Michael Johnson, enjoying amusing rants from Erik Spiekermann, and marvelling at the steady stream of excellent contemporary design selected by Alex and Will of It’s Nice That. My own blog has been invaluable as a way of prompting myself to keep looking for new stuff, and to have a proper think about that new stuff once I’ve found it.
Still, I’ve spent the last 8 months working non-stop, and have been surprised by how much I’ve managed to not learn yet. Web design seems just to be a case of applying familiar layout techniques to a different format, but until I’ve got beyond page 1 of the Dreamweaver manual I’ll remain blissfully ignorant of how much more I’m sure there is to it. Processing presents some exciting possibilities, but seems like a mountain worth climbing only once I’ve become comfortable with more fundamental aspects of the profession. While I feel confident with blogging now, there are many other online resources I’ve barely had a chance to glance at. Issuu, Blurb, and Fontifier remain in my to do file, while my Twitter account has been sadly neglected from day one.
Where I’ve perhaps not yet got to grips with the available online tools, I. Making type from polystyrene, ketchup, paint, glue has been a lot of fun, and has generally worked out pretty well (though I still need to get a real camera and learn to photograph work properly). I’ve learnt the importance of getting out from behind the laptop – to make stuff for real, see how things look printed-out, take a camera and go for a walk… I’ve been really surprised and a little intimidated at times by the high standard of work by other students on the course and elsewhere. I’ll make an effort to see all the degree shows this year, no excuses. I’ve learnt that working in a group can be difficult (you really have to trust your colleagues), but rewarding, and ultimately the only way to be successful.
I’m aware that the VCT content of the course hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve found that researching into the history and contextual writing about graphic design, particularly critical debate since the late 80s, has opened my eyes to many issues I was simply unaware of before. Last term’s timeline on Deconstructivist typography and the surrounding debate about the debasement of Modernist design values gave me a new appreciation of the work and designers from an era that I had previously dismissed for its nowadays unfashionable and dated aesthetic.
The picture above, by the way, is the first thing I ever posted on my old Blogger account, at the start of this wild adventure…
So, more yet to do. Here are some lists:
Projects in my to do list:
++ Design a proper font
++ Make a newspaper
++ Design some exhibition signage
++ Make more books
And things to investigate next year:
++ Creative processes and idea generation techniques
++ Processing, web design (all that stuff…)
++ Machine printing techniques and paper stock
++ Handprinting techniques – letterpress, screenprinting, lino, solar plate etc.
++ cycle to Paris (or get further than I did last time – Brighton)
++ Learn to drive
++ Bake more
Neuland is a review of emerging German designers edited and designed by Barcelona-based German ex-pats Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz of Two Points.Net. The book features an interesting layout that involves overlapping images, and colour-coded post-its containing information about each designer. Text is set in TP Kurier, a quirky font with a 2-tiered upper case S, created especially for the book, though based upon a font designed in the 70s by Małgorzata Budyta. Overall a very tidy package indeed (and a similar size to our FMP books – ideas, ideas…), and that’s to say nothing of the work itself, which includes Bank Associates‘ versatile 3-dimensional letterform The Patent, some exquisite typography by Kerstin Finger, and Katrin Schacke’s excellent DIY science experiments for her thesis project Stanley Magazine.
Paul and Victoria of Blast were kind enough to welcome a group of us on a visit to their Islington studio yesterday. Operating mainly in the areas of Brand Identity and Strategy, Blast have produced innovative work for educational and cultural institutions such as the University of Sussex, the Arts Council, and the BBC, as well as many more commercial clients. Projects have included the substitution of conventional brand elements for a dog (an actual dog, complete with promotional frisbee accessories) for recruitment consultants Harrison Pursey, and an online fridge magnet game for French paper manufacturer Arjowiggins. Working with illustrator Damien Weighill on a recent campaign for Conqueror paper, Blast created Conqueror Possibilities, a book and website that function both as a promotional tool, and as a resource of free download illustrations for clients of the company to use to spice up their powerpoint presentations. Paul described the studio’s output as a well-balanced combination of ideas and aesthetics, with an emphasis on providing an alternative to the usual logo & website requested by many clients at the outset. With 14 years experience, and a successful mid-sized business that employs 5 designers, it’s a strategy that appears to be paying off.
One of my favourite headlines, this. Oh boy, what were they thinking? In the happy-go-lucky spirit of the haphazard shop signage that dominates most Hackney high streets, I decided to present this particular headline in a well and truly mashed-up hybrid font. Taking a fairly extreme approach more akin to P Scott Makela’s Dead History, than Otl Aicher’s Rotis, I used over 40 individual fonts and 20 different colours to create an appropriately Frankensteinish feel. Mmm. Below are some experiments with Illustrator’s Blend tool. So if Clarendon and Cooper Black ever have babies, we now have forewarning of how hideous they would be…
Combining the chicken shop aesthetic so thoroughly documented by Siaron Hughes in her excellent book Chicken: Low Art, High Calorie, with the back-of-the-Sunday-Times-Weekend-Magazine-hand-painted-souvenir-crockery aesthetic, here we have a genuine one of a kind Hackney Gazette souvenir plate, bearing the local culinary motto: Eat Out Hygiene Horror.