Monday, 30 November 2009

Brown Day

A nice photo of my lovely (and completely to scale..) iPod! We managed to make £11.70 altogether, which would have sounded almost impressive in context if it wasn't for Paul Price and his ability to win at life. Had a much better day than expected, there were some amazing ideas - winners have to be Amber and Greevy, hands down.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Adobe Illustrator

In an attempt to muster some sort of skill I've started trying to become a bit more software savvy through Youtube tutorials. I'm not going to lie, it's a slow process due to there being no real order to the videos, and obviously the interaction levels of a video tutorial are minimal so the content is really restricted but still, it makes me feel productive.

Complete and Utter Mental Block...

For some unapparent reason I'm struggling so badly to generate any sort of solid idea for Visual Language; it's literally driving me insane.

I've tried brain storming it - nothing comes out. Look at my pathetic excuse of a spider diagram...

I know in the previous post I settled on the idea of a critical response to collecting, but I've scared myself away from that now, I have absolutely no idea where to start! I did consider selecting a few displays from the museum, taking photos then illustrating additional objects into the collections to see if I could change their overall context and meaning? Or, again taking photos of museum displays, but replacing all of the objects with a randomly selected group of illustrated objects, which take on a role of a collection when presented in such a curated format. I don't think I can really call that critical but it's seriously al I've got at the moment.

Although I said that I wasn't going to start with the idea of illustration as a visual language, in my mind I keep going back to it almost automatically and it's really annoying. I'm thinking about just starting a really simple illustration project to get myself going because at the minute all this thinking and no evidence of actual work is making me panic.

Something I considered was to just illustrate the contents of my handbag. Women carry them round everywhere they go and very rarely do they ever get emptied or organised. We keep things in there 'just in case' or 'because we can't leave the house without it' so in effect it's a curated collection of each individuals essentials; we all have our own method of classification, the size of the bag we carry dictates the number of collected objects and it becomes a sort of permanent exhibition that we cherish but which is never completely on display.

I doubt that idea will end up materialising into my final 'book' but at the minute I feel as though any work is better than no work.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Camp America Application

Last night I had to make a video of myself. Shit me it is so fucking embarrassing. I better fucking get accepted after this.


Wow, I can't get it to upload. What a wonderfully wasted effort.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Research Workshop

I'm just going to point out now that I still have no ideas for this brief. None. Nothing. But today's workshop was a step in the right direction. Having the brief broken down into its 3 components - visual language, the book and the content - really made things a bit clearer. Focus on one and the others will fall into place around it. I think up till now I was having trouble getting my head round it because I was trying to cover every aspect very early on; trying to come up with content, which medium I wanted to work with and how I was going to fit it into a book, craaaaazzyyy.

Sooooo, I just need to figure out which of the 3 will be my main focus - cue Nick and his oh-so-helpful tutorials.

I know fine well, 100%, I'm definitely not going to start with the concept of the book. I have ultimately saturated my desire to bookbind, ohhhhh this BOOK brief is so conveniently timed. If anything is certain it is that I will have minimal trouble when it comes to creating my final book(s) - unless I have some over elaborate ideas which to be fair is a high possibility.

Content? Nothing is jumping out at me. Collections is such and incredibly vague term that I am constantly flitting between ideas with extreme differences that are way too random to pin down.

So that leaves me with visual language... What exactly is my visual language? Well today I had some sort of small scale epiphany (don't get too excited). Previously I would have approached that with something along the lines of 'well I want to try and do more illustration so I'll use that as my starting point and take the brief from there'. But isn't that exactly what I said about the competition briefs at the end of Comm Tech, and I've actually ended up going in the complete opposite direction and will probably end up producing a complex piece of anti-design. So it's pointless me trying to restrict myself to a medium because evidently I do not stick to it.

That's sort of when I realised. A person's visual language is not necessarily about the materials they use; it is about the angle of approach, the message they try to portray and the way they see things. My final project last year was practical on the surface (bookbinding) but the real focus of the project were the conceptual issues of concealment. My D&AD response this year - critical, questioning, conceptual. Perhaps my visual language is my criticism - god knows I have enough of it. Maybe I should go into this brief with the aim of criticising 'collections'; pull the definition apart. What is missing from collections? What is wrong with them? Are they even necessary at all?

I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty overwhelmed at the concept of trying to critique a system of order that has been in place for hundreds of years. I don't want to drag this out for the whole project just to come to the conclusion that I can't actually derive content from this perspective so I plan to do as much as I can in a couple of weeks, re-evaluate and if I still don't have a solid idea then I'll move on. Sounds good in theory.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

D&AD - Research

Had an insanely intelligent chat with Richard Miles, stole some knowledge and whatnot, I really do not plan on typing up all of the information and research points he gave me 'cause to be quite frank I'd be here all day.

The main three topics he gave me to expand on are:
  • Situationism
  • Institutional Critique
  • Conceptual Art
I've scanned in the notes he made for me and also the expansion that I've done so far, I highly doubt that it's legible but I've been working pretty damn hard on this and it's getting rather intense.

Communication Technology Evaluation

At the beginning of this brief I had my heart set on printmaking. I was adamant that it was one area of communication technology that I needed to develop in order to further myself on this course and so I threw myself into it. I tried pretty much every traditional print technique offered both at Blenheim Walk and Vernon Street and it is safe to say I have definitely saturated my desire to print. Now that it’s over, I don’t think I can generalise my relationship to print technology because all of the print methods are so different – some I love, some I loath. So when asked ‘what have you learnt about communication technology?’ the only real answer that I can give is that it’s incredibly complex. Not just in the sense that there is such a wide range of traditional print techniques, but there are also so many different issues that stem from each one; cost, health and safety, eco-friendliness, timescales, inks, suitable paper types, machinery – the list is endless. What I have learned is that ‘communication technology’ doesn’t just relate to the actual piece of technology and whether of not you know how to use it; it’s an umbrella for every single concern tied to it as well – if you merely focus on the technology itself you’ll be no better off in the real world, it’s the application and understanding that truly matters.

I am confident that I know how to produce a variety of traditional prints now that I have had this chance to experiment, but for me that’s not enough. I need a chance to apply them to my design work, and to do that I need to learn how to apply myself to the design industry. I need live briefs; challenges that force me to pick up skills as I’m going along. So really the things that I still have to learn are completely unrelated to printmaking and more to do with myself as a practitioner – how do I find live briefs? Do I need a portfolio to get them? What sort of design is it that I’m looking for? And because I have these new skills, print will slot in effortlessly along the way.

Since I finished my practical work a few weeks ago I have begun to apply myself to competition briefs; at the moment I’m tackling the D&AD illustration brief and I’m also interested in the Penguin Book Awards and the YCN competitions. I feel as though I’ve contradicted myself in a massive way though. At the time I said that the whole point of these competition briefs would be to act as a platform for my print work, but now that I’m answering them I really don’t feel inclined to use print at all. In actual fact, at the minute my response to the D&AD brief is more conceptual and anti-design than anything else! So although I don’t see myself being actively compelled to utilise print in the near future, this brief has been extremely helpful in helping me to understand the type of things it is appropriate for.

With regards to the learning styles of this module I have found them to be a vast improvement on last year. Personally, I operate best through extremely self directed briefs – when left to our own devices we form learning groups of our own accord that we are comfortable in and benefit most from. For instance we took it upon ourselves to organise paper making sessions and visits to industry printers. The group tutorials were also much better. The fact that we were grouped by technology type made it so much easier to bounce ideas and criticism around, rather than having to explain your project week after week to people who can’t offer advice as they have no experience in the same areas as you. Another thing that I have become accustomed to is to working in the studio more outside of the timetabled sessions. That way if I have a problem I can go directly to the tutors (who have already had to sort my life out a few times now) and there are always third years lingering about, who, as clarified in the PPD interviews, are more than willing to dish out advice.

This module is the first time I’ve really got into a blog. Although I’ve kept a sketchbook as well for the practical things that you can’t fully grasp through a screen, the majority of my research has been documented online. Only now do I really see the benefit of blogging – so I suppose that’s a relationship to communication technology that I can brag about? I still don’t think the humble sketchbook has been rendered completely useless but I think I can distinguish which aspects of my research would be better presented digitally now.

Throughout the brief I did get a lot of things wrong whilst trying to print – nothing major, just things like accidentally bending my etching plate in the rolling press and misreading the heat/time exposure for flocking resulting in a lovely burnt piece of canvas. I think it’s a massive part of the learning process; it reminds you that you are only human, you don’t know it all and you will need to ask for help sometimes. Technicians would rather show you how to do something properly than see you get it wrong and ruin your work or a piece of equipment! This has also helped me to form working relationships with the print technicians –I feel totally comfortable approaching them for help and I know that if I’m enthusiastic about what I’m doing then they’ll be enthusiastic about helping me.

Overall I’ve found this brief extremely helpful. Not so much in relation to printmaking but more to do with how I manage my own learning. I know that nothing’s going to happen of it’s own accord and that self direction, for me, is the way forward.

Museum Visit

I took a trip to Leeds City Museum. I've seen the exhibitions a million times and the actual artifacts were of little interest to me but my main focus during this visit was the curatory aspects. Considering we're all novices to this sort of thing I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for but I did manage to notice a few things.

Rather than mounting objects on walls or back drops, where ever possible they are placed on subtle stands so as to appear to be hovering, angled upwards towards people's gaze and clearly labelled in some sort of index.

Text based wall displays were not overly crammed, any additional info could be found on inserts beside displays. Sans-serif typeface - reduces the formality of a museum environment and makes it more easy on the eye for the public; trying to eradicate the stigma of museums being solely for the upper class.

The idea of 'the cabinet' fully taken advantage of; used as an interactive tool for presenting information. Also embodies the idea of a 'book' - pages within cupboards and drawers.

The use of replicas to engage the public.

Within a display cabinet, regardless of its subject, the most important and prized items are arranged at eye level. Symmetry is maintained wherever possible and it's important that both sides of the cabinet are balanced to make for easy viewing.

Reference to the cabinet of curiosities that we learnt about in Nick's lecture. Man's declaration of superiority over science and the natural world.

Artists Book Intorduction

A few photos from the artist book collection at Vernon St library. Some really interesting stuff but I didn't see the appeal of a lot of it, and the collection catalogue was incredibly out of date so I couldn't find any information on the ones I did enjoy. It's useful to know it's there though, and nice to see some student work in there!

This is one of my favorite books. It's a foreign novel, completely annotated, photocopied and rebound. It's not so much about the design elements, more the thought process. The fact that it's in another language renders the extra annotation and explanations fairly irrelevant to all but a minority who speak whichever undefined language it is.

The book below was the most visually appealing to me, it was an extremely simple idea, no permanent binding involved - just a large pin loosely securing the folded leaves of paper placed in the centre page. I didn't actually register the title of the book, or its purpose, but the photography was so incredibly captivating! No complex layouts; full bleed images on high gloss paper meant the images were left to stand their own ground and I couldn't take my eyes off them.

Monday, 23 November 2009

LCC Meeting

Tonight I had a meeting with the circus staff regarding the Christmas show. I seriously underestimated the amount of planning that goes into it! I think I assumed that because it was a relatively small scale children's group that it wouldn't be that hard... hello naive!

Things that were covered:
  • times - what time can the staff get there, what time should the children get there, how long would it take to get ready, times of the show, time of the interval etc.
  • theme - need a recurring theme to link all the acts/costumes/music together
  • equipment - borrowing lighting and sound equipment from various places, someone is bringing a drum kit in for one of the acts, need to find a PA system
  • jobs - who is doing what - stage managing, greeting, front desk, costumes, face painting, catering etc.
  • donations - asking the parents to donate cakes to be put on sale in the interval, donations for the raffle
  • acts - making sure each child was involved in an act, allocating time limits, running order, tweaking existing acts
  • publication - letters to parents and posters
  • annual award - determining which child should receive the award and on what basis
  • purchases - what circus equipment do we need to buy for the show, how much are we spending on food, ticket costs?
I'm pretty sure I've missed shit loads off as well. It took us 3 hours but we got there in the end and it actually got me really excited about the whole thing.

I didn't really contribute much to the meeting because they've done this for years and we're just re-clarifying most things whereas I'm completely new to events organisation and subsequently spent the evening absorbing information.

My role on the night is to make sure they're all in their costumes on time - right then.

My Print Journal

I finally pulled my finger out and bound my book together. I'm actually pretty pleased with it in the end, as tired as I am of this brief it's still satisfying to see it all come together. The quality of the book binding isn't great, I'm capable of much better, but seeing as this is a resource book for my own reference I, personally, can overlook the ill-matched corners.

Because of the variety of paper/inks used I decided to separate each page with a sheet of tissue to prevent ink transfer. If I were to use this idea in the future I'd use a better quality tissue, probably some really decorative tissue with delicate thread-like fibers; but for the purpose of this book regular white tissue works fine. These dividing pages also provided me with a space to annotate the type of printing - the translucent paper means you link the caption to the image below, then lift it to see the print in its own right.

I know I have also said that I planned on scanning in the pages and practicing layouts on Quark, but now that I've started working on some competition briefs I'm a bit reluctant to go back on myself and do more work on this brief. As part of our Visual Language project we have timetabled InDesign workshops that will help me to develop my digital layout skills outside of this Comm Tech brief so I don't feel that any extra work on my prints is necessary.

D&AD Brief - Further Research

As Christian suggested I am treating this D&AD brief more like a critical studies brief at present so I thought I'd sponge off the best theoretical resource we have - Richard Miles. He seemed quite enthusiastic about the whole thing and was more than willing to help so today I went and stole his knowledge, 'cause god knows he's got too much of it.

He gave me some really strong research points:
  • Conceptual art - mainly text based, looking at 70's conceptualism
  • Institutional critique - in depth analysis of things presented to us by society
  • Situationism - construction of environments to satisfy a particular need
  • Slogans and resistance writers - Marxist quotations
At the minute I'm gearing towards creating a controversial piece of anti-design for submission - probably including my annotated version of the brief within it. I can submit up to 4 boards so I definitely have room to fully develop my ideas.

Part of me is mildly concerned that yet again I'm getting all conceptual and not answering the brief with something straight forward that I can just stick into a portfolio but seeing as though this is becoming a regular occurrence perhaps my questioning nature is simply part of the type of designer that I am?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Woodblock Printing

Hopefully my last bit of traditional printing for a while now! I decided to use woodblock type to indicate the use of Holly's photographs in my work. The idea is that this will be the first page of my print book. At the time I found the whole process quite simple and therapeutic, but it's not until I looked at the scanned images that I see how incredibly accurate you have to be with your alignment of letter! When I was taping them together they looked straight, when I set them in the press they looked straight, even on paper I could get away with it at a push but the scans just highlight everything that's wrong with the alignment. Awesome.

It's clear from the images below that the 'raphy' is adhering to some entirely independent axis that uninvitedly reared it's ugly head, and the left-hand alignment of each word is pretty off as well. I still plan on using them as I don't really have time to try again and also I'm not really that bothered about the aesthetics; I can say I've tried it, I understand where I went wrong and I know what I'd do differently so in that sense it's been a success.

Another thing I should have considered is typefaces. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. So at any point did it cross my mind that I should probably have planned the cover text based on the fonts available for woodblock? Quite simply, no. Impact on the front cover. Grotesque on the first page. Forgive me father for I have sinned... It won't look that bad because the whole book will be a mishmash of so many different handcrafted things but Graham would probably take one look at it and flinch. Again, I'm going to play the 'lessons learnt' card and hope for the best.

All in all I found it to be a really enjoyable process but I'm not entirely sure it will have a place in my design. I do love the subtle embossing of the handmade paper but unless I'm specifically looking for that effect then I think screen printing is a much more versatile method of printing typography.
Woodblock on tissue paper - bold crisp lettering, solid ink.

Woodblock on cartridge paper - much more granular, difficult paper texture.

Woodblock on handmade paper - worked surprisingly well, really nice absorbency but unfortunately inked the recesses of the 'y'.


Something really strange has happened with this brief and I don't really know how to react to it. My work has pretty much been directly copied by one of my peers - directly copied.

I don't even know if I should be blogging about it really, but I think it's one of those situations that catch you off guard and how you react is quite important. Granted this is on a much smaller scale but this could be something that happens when we're all released into the real world.

Do I confront them? Do I change my project so that it doesn't reflect badly on me when it comes to hand in? Do I go running to the tutors and tell tales? Or do I just sit back and hope for the best?

I have no idea.

At the minute I'm taking the moral high ground and hoping that it will be obvious when the projects are being marked. I've clearly detailed my plans from the beginning and I've stuck to them so technically I have nothing to worry about, and I'm confident that I've worked hard and to the best of my ability.

But petty, playground politics are niggling in the back of my mind. What if they get a high mark for an idea that initially wasn't theirs? My inner child is screaming "THAT'S NOT FUCKING FAIR!!!!" and is encouraging me to go over and kick them in the shins then run away.

More importantly, I'm genuinely hurt. This person is my friend, I've helped them to learn new techniques, showed them how to do things correctly when they were struggling, gave them suggestions and advice. This is either an extremely strange way of thanking me or they have seriously misinterpreted my helping hand. I honestly can't successfully vocalise the difficulty I'm having trying to comprehend how somebody can justify this to themselves.

This has really upset me and, I'm sorry to say, will definitely change the way I relate to them in the future, maybe even the way I relate to others? Hopefully not, I don't want to have to hide my work when I'm in the studio or refuse to help someone out. The dynamic we have established within our course is so, so good but now I'll always have this sort of thing at the back of my mind.

This has intrigued me as to what would happen when we graduate and there aren't tutors around to act as mediators anymore... It really is a dog eat dog world and unless you've copyrighted something what exactly can you do? I'll definitely be bringing this up at our next personal tutorials but for now I've come to the assumption that you just have to man up and fucking get on with it. If you sit around moaning then you're just wasting valuable time that could be better spent getting your new ideas out into the world first. It's a pretty cold realisation, but if someone's stealing your ideas then you clearly must have something worth stealing!

D&AD Brief - Starting Point

Before making a start on any design ideas for the D&AD brief, I've began to analyse it a lot more closely. I spoke to Richard about it in our Critical Studies tutorials on Friday and he's agreed to sit down with me tomorrow and teach me a bit more about the ins and outs of resistance. Here are some preliminary notes I've made.

Interview with 3rd Years

By no stretch of the imagination could you classify them as interviews.

I did find it really helpful though. I was 'interviewed' by Dom and Lisa and I felt totally at ease. I felt they were genuinely interested in what I was saying and the questions were relevant to me rather than scripted.

The most stressed point in my session was not to be afraid of approaching the 3rd years for help, which I found really comforting. I know whenever I've been in the studio I've been apprehensive about talking to the 3rd years but hopefully these sessions have lowered some barriers and we'll start to mingle more. Me and Paul have also just set up a facebook group for a Viscom Otley Run next month giving everyone a chance to socialise again, the freshers pub crawl seemed to go down well so hopefully this encourage even more interaction and a lot more of the 3rd years will get involved.

There were a lot of questions about my direction and what I see myself doing. Up till now I've been quite scared at my cluelessness regarding myself as a practitioner, but what I learnt in my interview is that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Just because I'm undecided doesn't mean I can't be good at the things that I do try and there's nothing wrong with having a less clearly defined area of work.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Leeds Children's Circus Visit #3

In preparation for the Christmas show in a few weeks the sessions are gradually becoming more and more organised. Instead of giving the kids freedom to choose their activities we're trying to get them to work on a 2 minute act for the showcase, either collaboratively or individually.

The session structure has now changed to:
  • short concentration games
  • practice time
  • presenting each act to the group
It's working out quite well, some of them still have serious issues focusing but we're really pushing the idea of the show to them to try and get them more motivated - it generally seems to be working!

This week was the first time I led an activity by myself - flying solo! To be fair all I had to do was to separate them into two groups and get them into two lines in order to play a scarf juggling game, but it was a lot more nerve racking than I expected it to be! If you interact with children the way you interact with adults it just doesn't work; they simply aren't interested. You have to be exciting. You have to be engaging. You have to be commanding. Trying to get the right balance between engaging with them as a friend figure and maintaining authority and control is definitely a skill to be mastered.

Also at the minute I'm still reluctant to come down harshly on them because I'm 'the new girl', but I need to shake that off. I need to establish a dynamic quickly for them to take me seriously, I just need to get it into my head that children relate to the world through authority- they're not going to hold a grudge if I am firm with them.

I'm not entirely convinced that this post makes sense but it definitely does in my head.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Brown Day

I've been having a think about things I could do for the Viscom village fete on Brown Day. I can't really bake, I don't want to make cards to sell or anything like that and I don't think I have the imagination to come up with a genius stall idea.

So my plan is to create a giant ipod out of card (big enough for someone to sit in with a laptop!) and create a sort of fete jukebox! I'm going to need another body so I've roped in Paul as he reckons he lacks creativity - hmmmm yeah ok then - so one person takes money and song requests and the other sits in the ipod and sorts the music out.

That's all I've got. I'll make it really shiny so people are distracted away from just how primitive the idea is, it'll be fine.

D&AD - Competition Brief

The first brief I've decided to tackle is the D&AD Illustration one:

Create an illustration that captures the theme of resistance.

They want it to be innovative, unobvious and to 'question the politics of existence'. All in all, it's pretentious and vague as hell. Safe to say I didn't know where to start.

I went and pestered some help out of Christian. His advice was to come up with the 3 most obvious approaches, and then the 3 most radical.

There are a million obvious ways to tackle resistance:
  • revolution
  • military
  • physics
  • inequality - race, gender etc.
  • non-conformity
And the list goes on. When faced with the question 'what is the most extreme way of approaching this?' the only thing I could think of was simple - resist the brief itself. Resist the avant-garde regime that we as young designers are being forced to recognise as the only right path. Resist the 'fact' that non-traditional holds more importance than traditional. Resist the brief.

Christian told me to look at this as more of a critical studies brief than an illustration brief and try and get my head round the concept of resistance fully. Only when I have a solid understanding will I be able to rip the brief apart and critically analyse every single aspect. Once I've figured out why the brief doesn't work, I'll be able to rewrite it and hopefully create a solution to a problem that genuinely exists.

Send and Receive Workshop #3

This session left me slightly concerned. The main focus was around briefs and design related projects that stem from send and receive modules and ermmm well I'm working at the circus..

From my understanding, the whole point of send and receive is to get yourself working with a community group - not necessarily designing, but getting to grips with all of the concerns that come with group work so that you are aware of how to assess future situations. I'm more than happy with my choice of voluntary work at the children's circus, but now it just seems like everybody else has chosen design orientated placements and I feel as though I can't possibly compete with that.

I went to see Christian so that he could sort my life out, again.

He reassured me that send and receive can be anything you want it to be, and by no means should I feel as though I have to alter my experience to incorporate a design project if I don't think it's relevant.

This made me realise that for me, the main purpose of this module is to develop experience and a working relationship with children to help me with my chances of getting onto the Camp America program. Send and receive is not teaching me design based skills, but skills that are more inter-personal - how do you act around children? How do you maintain order? How do you present something to them? Body language/tone/vocabulary?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A Premature Evaluation

In the tutorial this week it was determine that in order to successfully understand where to go next with this project it may prove helpful to go back to the initial questions on the brief and analyse whether or not I think I've covered everything. So here goes!

As a visual communicator, what is your relationship to technology?

With regards to the printmaking work that I've explored, I've found that my relationship has been extremely hands-on and intense. As opposed to a lot of contemporary digital design work which can often be quite distant, the fact that I've physically had to carve out the lino pieces or painstakingly etch an image into perspex using a stanley knife has caused me to constantly scrutinize my work as I'm going along. You get attached to it because it's a physical representation of your work - not something you cary round on a memory stick.

I don't think I'm really answering this question, this just sounds like waffle.

My relationship to technology. I use it. More importantly, I now understand it. If I ever need a leaflet printed professionally I can design it more efficiently because I understand the printing process now. I'm not passively designing; I'm making active choices. If that makes sense? With traditional print, I understand it's history and it's progression. I know the benefits of woodcut printing because I look at what it was used for initially and because I've tried these things out I can make an informed decision as to the techniques I use in the future.

Think about what technology, media, equipment and software you are likely to use as a practitioner. How do you go about learning it?

I wanted to learn printmaking. I attended print drop in both at Blenheim Walk and Vernon St and tried my hand at everything I could. I had conversations with the print technicians, formed working relationships with them, asked questions and generally absorbed their knowledge, by doing this I've learnt more efficiently than going it alone and I've made it much easier for myself to get help with print work in the future.

I learned how to make my own handmade paper to print on. I organised a small workshop for a group of us that were interested with the ceramics technician who was more than happy to show us.

I attended preparation for print software workshop and in turn learnt how to print colour separations off really easily. I was also introduced to spot and Pantone colours which in turn led me to visit Duffield Printers. Although my project was not primarily concerned with digital printmaking I learnt so much from that visit that I'll be able to apply at some point in my career as I will inevitably need something printed!

I attended group tutorials with Nick and Sophie/Christian and the other students interested in printmaking where we shared experiences and offered advice and criticism. Bouncing ideas around in a group genuinely helps you to develop a better understanding of where you're going and can help you refocus when you may feel lost.

More broadly I've been able to define the techniques that I enjoy and those that I don't. I know the effects generated by each print technique. I know what's involved with the preparation of each method - e.g. timescales and health and safety; something which is very important to consider. For instance preparing a screen in Blenheim takes much longer than Vernon St, and because of the heavy use of chemicals there is allotted times each day to strip screens and also to expose them. I know how much things cost now, I've been constantly forking out, whether it be for screen prep, flocking paper, fabrics, inks, perspex - everything costs money! These things are all relatively cheap but because this project is based on experimentation I've just been having to pay for one thing after another after another and it all adds up!

So that's what I've learnt. Which begs the question what do I now need to learn?

I think I've pretty much exhausted printmaking for now. So I need to focus on ways in which I can apply my new skills. I want to become competent on Illustrator (something which still scares me at present) so that I can develop artwork to be printed and also be able to scan prints in and incorporate them into more contemporary pieces. Right about now I really wish I had attended the Illustrator workshop at the beginning of the term. Having said that though, I personally find it difficult to absorb information in that kind of teaching environment. I benefit better sometimes from trying to teach myself through online tutorials, that way I can instantly orientate my learning around myself and my own work, then if I have any problems I can get additional help from the technicians.

I need to find out how to print images larger than A3. If I ever need to screen print an image A2 or above I'll have to have the positives printed out before I can prepare the screen. How much does it cost to print large sizes? What are the drop in times for the digital print room? What formatting do I need? etc.

I want to learn how to win a competition. Sounds pretty obvious, but so far on this course a lot of the work has been really conceptual and not a lot of good old fashion designing has gone on. I want to enter competitions this year and I want to know how to respond to the briefs in a way that will get me noticed. Obviously I know it relies mainly on individual talent, but the systematical thinking behind it can be taught. Christian mentioned a workshop for anyone interested in competition briefs and I would definitely benefit from it.

What creative opportunities and limitations do these technologies hold?

With regards to limitations, each individual printing method has its own set of advantages/disadvantages over the others depending on the outcome you require. For instance, size and time are two of the main factors for most of them - it would be extremely time consuming and laborious to produce a drypoint any bigger than say A4/A3 depending on the detail in the image; inking it up and buffing it would be a nightmare and you need to take into consideration the fact that you need to print on paper the next size up - would an A2 sheet of paper fit through the rolling press? And with monoprint for example you are limited by the fact that no two prints will ever be the same - so if you produce a print you love, how do you reproduce that image?

Foiling and flocking proved to be the most expensive techniques, so I'm limited by money as to how I apply those skills in the future. There's also different time limitations in both of the print rooms, i.e. drop-in times.

The creative opportunities presented by printmaking are endless - the same with any creative practice - the technology is there for printmakers to do whatever they choose with their artwork, whether it be exhibiting, manipulating, or even further development through print. Artists can collaborate on print projects; use print as a focus for community groups; apply it to greetings cards, wallpaper, posters, websites, anything they put their mind to. The only limitation these days is the imagination of the individual.

How do broader developments in technology affect your future as a visual communicator, as a citizen and for society as a whole?

I have learned that broader developments in technology is a hard topic to relate to traditional printing. It's called traditional for a reason - it is, technologically speaking, an old practice! As I've said in previous posts, most of the techniques I've been trying have developed in such a way that they have reached their most efficient system of production. You can't make them more efficient without removing some of the human interaction aspects of it, which begs the question - when you start to substitute machinery for manual labour, can you still call it traditional print? For instance, lino prints that have been carved by a laser cutter? The print will be pristine but is it still a handcrafted print?

As a visual communicator I don't think my relation to traditional print is likely to change much. Progression in digital printing is inevitable and will undoubtedly become faster and more eficient in the future but I seriously doubt that the same will happen to traditional print. The real changes will be in how we apply ourselves to it. As has happened with so many things in the past, traditional print will see a surge of popularity in the form of a sort of designers rebellion against the crisp, clean lines of all this technology we're being bombarded with - but design is essentially a cycle of ideas, it has seasons just as fashion does and it is these phases of revisiting old techniques that keep traditional methods alive.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Art of Looking Sideways

'The Art of Looking Sideways' - Alan Fletcher

After reading a review on Amazon for this book I immediately took it out of the library (not expecting it to be so thick!?! It's pretty much a cube). I cannot emphasis this enough - IT IS AMAZING.

This is the overview as written on Amazon:-

Alan Fletcher's The Art of Looking Sideways is an absolutely extraordinary and inexhaustible "guide to visual awareness," a virtually indescribable concoction of anecdotes, quotes, images, and bizarre facts that offers a wonderfully twisted vision of the chaos of modern life. Fletcher is a renowned designer and art director, and the joy of The Art of Looking Sideways lies in its beautiful design. Loosely arranged in 72 chapters with titles like "Colour," "Noise," "Chance," "Camouflage," and "Handedness," Fletcher's book, which he describes as "a journey without a destination," is "a collection of shards" that captures the sensory overload of a world that simply contains too much information. In one typical section, entitled "Civilization," the reader encounters six Polish flags designed to represent the world, a photograph of an anthropomorphic handbag, Buzz Aldrin's boot print on the moon, drawings of Stone Age pebbles, a painting of "Ireland--as seen from Wales," and a dizzying array of quotations and snippets of information, including the wise words of Marcus Aurelius, Stephen Jay, and Gandhi's comment, "Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea." Fletcher's mastery of design mixes type, space, fonts, alphabets, color, and layout combined with a "jackdaw" eye for the strange and profound to produce a stunning book that cannot be read, but only experienced. --Jerry Brotton,

As a visual communicator it is a prime example of how we should be looking at the world. Through fresh eyes. Through questioning eyes. No doubt about it, I am buying this book! Until then - here are a few snippets from the mere fraction of the book that I have managed to work my way through.

A double page spread illustrating the silohuettes of every breed of dog as detemined by CRUFTS.

A full alphabet of typography taken from natural markings in pebbles found on a beach. This would have been REALLY relevant last year when we were doing the type module with Graham and Sophie, damnit.

A quote from Queen Victoria.

Wallpaper Samples

So my wallpaper samples finally came... like 2 weeks too late! It's OK though, even though I couldn't use them to print on it's the sort of thing that I like to hoard and I'll use them for some sneaky little craft somewhere down the line.

With regards to printing on them I don't know how successful it would be. Obviously the combinations of the repetitive patterns with traditional print methods would produce some exciting results but the paper itself is quite strange. The weight is some sort of sturdy yet thin cartridge paper/card/sugar paper hybrid, and it has so many layers of ink and lacquer on the surface that I doubt very much that it would be absorbent enough for half the techniques I tried - considering some of my lino prints STIlL aren't dry and they were done on cartridge paper!

I never did receive the samples of professional printing paper I ordered from various paper houses - I think because I'm not from an established business they probably won't take me seriously.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


For fear of appearing inconsistent - BLOGGER WILL NOT LET ME ALLIGN THESE PARAGRAPHS CORRECTLY despite my persistent efforts!

Over reading week I spent a day in the print room trying out flocking and foiling as part of my experimentation. It was such a refreshing change to the monoprinting I'd been doing the day before, complete contrast. No mess. No manual labour. Quick and efficient.

Of all the print processes I've tried out I think these are the most useful to me as the practitioner I am at present. People know me as the book person. Valid point really, I have made a lot of books. For my major project last year I think I could have benefited so much from these skills, the flocking especially - it would have been a completely different outcome!

In terms of bookmaking though, simply flocking or foiling the buckram used for the covers can give an instantly professional looking piece. It's little details like this that stand out in shops and galleries etc - a professional looking product impresses clients, builds reputation and in turn generates more money, boom.

I've scanned them in but obviously the full effect cannot be achieved via screen - that's the beauty of these techniques: they add a personal touch that cannot be cloned on a computer!

Foil on blue card

Foil on top of mono print

Flock on handmade paper

Flock on top of foil

Flock of proposed cover title for my research journal

Portfolio Interviews with 3rd Years.

Sorry.. WHAT??

After the hideous realisation from comm tech that I DO NOT HAVE A GOOD PORTFOLIO OF WORK, they decide that this is what we need? Wow, that's helpful. I've never been less enthused about anything.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Time Management

Such a useful exercise, it was a seriously dragged out workshop, but I'm not going to deny it was useful! Just seeing your days mapped out on a page is horrifying, half of the time I had massive wedges of the pie charts where I really couldn't remember what I'd done, it's worrying. I think, same as everyone really, that it was a definite reality check. Having a visual representation of the time you've wasted just makes you think "wow, I could have done this, this and this in that time and still had time to watch Diagnosis Murder..."

Since then I've spent 5 days at home so work hasn't been my main priority, but in the past few days I've began planning out my time more. I know with everything like this it's a fool proof plan for a few weeks and then you start to get lazy again, so every time I feel myself slipping into a routine procrastination I'll try the pie charts again - or at least thats the plan.

One thing I have committed to is a to do list. By carrying a notebook round with me permanently I have a constant reminder of what needs to be done. So far this has been extremely helpful, being able to cross something off the list is almost a sense of accomplishment - even if it is something as trivial as 'make contact lense appointment', if the little things are in order it's easier to keep the bigger things in order. Makes sense.

Data Protection and Confidentiality

Because I work in a highly established banking call centre we're made to data protection and confidentiality training every few months, which consists of reading a 70 page word document and then taking a test. So, for me, our talk with Natasha Mort from VAL was a very informal walk in the park. As she said it's extremely important stuff, but it is just common sense.

The interesting part for me was to compare the contexts of its application. At work, it refers mainly to personal account specific details and the focus is on the importance of taking each and every customer through security and knowing what we can and can't divulge to an individual. With regards to confidentiality it relates more high class business information - a much less personal issue than data protection and confidentiality's place in a volunteering environment.

As a volunteer, data protection revolves more around the well being of the client - only collecting details that are necessary and using them strictly for the purpose intended. And the importance of the presentation was to help us understand that a breech of confidentiality in any way could have a major impact on the lives of the individual in question. To make a direct comparison - a breech at work could result in inconvenience for the customer and a drawn out complaint as a result of which they would be compensated; a breech in a voluntary environment could result in the client being victimised within their society and even having to be uprooted from their home and relocated.

Competition Briefs

Whilst I'm tying together the loose ends of my print research I'm starting to have a look for some live briefs that enable me to apply the skills I've learnt. I need to emphasise that I do not aim to have completed any responses to briefs by the end of this project (as I still have to compile my print resource book and evaluate my learning process), simply by selecting a brief and recognising the potential of my print skills, maybe coming up with a starting point, I'd be comfortable that I had made progress.

Some of the briefs that I'm interested in at the minute are as follows:

GET CREATIVE AND RAISE MONSTER MUNCH'S PROFILE AMONGST STUDENTS - Pretty much sums it up; come up with imaginative ways to promote Monster Munch as the number one student snack.

CREATE ILLUSTRATIONS AROUND THE ICONIC O2 LANDMARK THAT RELATE TO 3 KEY THEMES - Again, as stated. An image of the o2 is provided and you have to create 3 separate illustrations to represent music, family entertainment and sport.

D&AD - ILLUSTRATION BRIEF - Create an illustration for Don't Panic based around the theme of resistance.

THE PENGUIN DESIGN AWARD - Design a whole new cover look for the classic children's book 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'

My Shiny New Book

For my birthday I made a reading list 'cause I'M THAT COOL. On it was possibly the most inspirational book ever made. 'The Illustrated Life' by Danny Gregory is a book compiled solely of pages from the personal sketchbooks of various artists, illustrators and designers. Each artist has a short article/interview published alongside 2/3 double page spreads of their book work - sometimes full page images, sometimes a series of thumbnails. I would fully recommend it to anyone seeking creative inspiration.

Tutorial - Last Week

I've been at home all weekend so I haven't had a chance to update my blog much. But I think it's worth giving the group tutorial last week a mention.

To say I was frustrated would be an ultimate understatement. I completely drew a blank. Hit a wall. Didn't know where I was or what was going on.

I just feel like I've been working and working but getting nowhere. Which I know isn't true but I'm driving myself into a rut with this project. Like I said in a previous post I needed reading week to remove myself from my work and look at it from a fresh perspective. Did that work? Hmm not really. Well. Kind of.

I don't want to rush myself by saying that I'll definitely have started attacking some competition briefs by the time deadline comes around, because I'll probably just crumble under that workload. I'll aim for having picked out one or two that I feel comfortable with - I think that's realistic.
As discussed in the tutorial:
  • I know that the work I've produced has provided me with fundamental skills that I can undoubtedly apply to the rest of my design career.
  • I'm feeling incredibly disconnected from this brief as I intended it to be simply for experimentation and, other than future reference, I'm not working towards anything.
  • I'm ready to start applying my skills to live briefs to build a portfolio of MY work.
  • BUT at the same time I want to see through my initial idea of compiling a resource book from my experimentation.
Plan of attack?

Tie up the loose ends of my print work and bind my samples in a book.

Scan the pages (back and front), and arrange them on Quark - print out rough version? Just to refresh skills and make a loose comparison.

Evaluate the place that print has in the future of design, and more importantly, my career.

In my research steer away from print practices and more towards how I can apply it - e.g. live briefs, self initiated briefs etc.