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Belly of the Beast

Finding individuality and authenticity in design


Belly of the Beast

Finding individuality and authenticity in design


Introduction

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Belly of the Beast


Introduction

Belly of the Beast

The creative learning journey must engage the head, heart and hands in today’s world of mass production. It is the mark of the individual hand that speaks to us honestly, without the lazy conventions to which we revert when hiding behind a screen. Working with the hands embodies both mind and heart. We are not a big learning factory, placing you on an assembly line of scores and grades. So we ask, what has happened to the time honored notion of craftsmanship and the personal touch? The time has come to take things personally. We are a place of learning that values your individuality and wants you to use your boldness to create change. We want you to discover your strengths and measure your individual progress with shared discussion and critique. We reject the corporate education system and we are not a shopping mall of mass education. You will find your own visual voice in a personalised and real learning environment that is not profit driven. In this publication, we talk about the people, ideas and artwork of the design world as seen by its newest design school: Old School New School. 5


Credits

Belly of the Beast

Art Direction Veronica Grow

Special Thanks To all our friends and allies

Editor Veronica Grow Rosetta Lake Mills

Contact Old School, 10 Grey Court, Coburg, VIC, 3058 03 9350 6441 info@newschoolfordesignandtypography.com www.newschoolfordesignandtypography.com

Design Patrick Carroll Rosetta Lake Mills Contributors Megan Deal Cat Macinnes Luke Robertson Magdalena Ksiezak Eve Dullaar Brooke Thorn Text Corrections Sophie Fuenfgeld Publisher Old School Press 2013 Typeset Aperçu Paper Stock Knight Printing Impact Digital Printers Cover Veronica Grow

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Copyright © Old School for Design and Typography and the authors, 2012. This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the copyright act 1968, no part may be reproduced without written permission from Old School and the designated author. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be expressed to Veronica Grow. Congratulations on owning this select copy from our first limited print run of 100. You are helping designers figure out how to make a difference.


Introduction

Belly of the Beast

Belly of the Beast

Contents

Who, why, where, what and how? 10 The teacher 14 Occupied Mono 16 Your role as a designer to do good 18 Conditional Design 22 Beautiful noise 27 The journey of handmade type 29 Breaking out of the digital domain 30 On falling in love and personal projects 34 Perfecting the craft of publication design 36 The importance of appropriately using style and aesthetic within design 38 Design spaces 42 Your neighbour says 44 Dear design blog 46 Placemaking 48 A digital letter 52 The essentials 54

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Head


Head

Belly of the Beast

A friend of mine recently likened the process of idea generation to catching the feather of aimlessness. I thought about that line a lot during the production of this book because, at least in the beginning, we were bound by the endless possibilities generated by such an open brief. Trying to pigeonhole our target too quickly would have forfeited our opportunity to bask in the brilliance of misdirection and aimlessness. For it is from this that the greatest and most naturally original ideas tend to spring. Somewhere in our befuddled brainstorming, we took the chance to glance around us. In the dappled light of leafy Coburg with hot cups of tea, and surrounded by encouraging smiles, we had no impulsion to fret. For the first time in my design career I took a deep breath, sat back in my chair and knew it would come. Having recently finished the bulk of my formal design education I realised that what sets Old School apart was precisely what it had just led me to do: set aside my creative worry, angst and insecurities and allow my mind to wander a little further than it’s used to. Why simply showcase another bunch of finished student works when the focus of Old School education is idea and process not simply product? To get right to the belly of the beast— Old School is about people. We realised that the most honest and transparent way to represent this was to start up a dialogue with the individuals who have been touched by the School and attempt to showcase both the product of these exercises and their personal growth over the period of their involvement. Alongside our focus on the students of the school, we also thought it important to communicate with the School’s friends and local community to get their insights on how the school’s presence and it’s projects have inspired and influenced and them so far. Rosetta Lake Mills 11


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Veronica Grow—The creative spirit of Old School New School

Belly of the Beast

How long have you been interested in design? Well I guess that depends on your definition of design. Subconsciously, all my life, but more so since I started studying and even more so when I started teaching. And I think, over the years, it’s developed. I first studied between 1996 and 1998 and I’d say this curiousity never stops growing. I see design as more of a holistic practice and lifestyle, as something that we all do whether we like it or not. We’re all designers. We all design when we decide what to wear in the morning, when we go on holiday, the friends we choose and the houses we want to live in. We’re all designing our own lives and it’s a very interesting process, a very psychological process. And my interest has grown because I see it as a very people-led process and I am people centred. Deciding whether to study psychology or design was a tough choice, but now I understand that the two are almost the same. What do you think has influenced your design over the years? Teaching has been very influential through the broader knowledge I’ve gained through sharing ideas. Teaching is a very research-led process that makes your practice as a designer develop as you continually understand how involved it really is. Over the years your knowledge about design elements such as typography, cultural context, and attention to detail improves. This takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. How do you think the design education at Old School differs from traditional design education around Australia? Traditional design education is very assessment lead. It’s all about marks and it’s all about categ— orising students into fail, pass, credit, distinction and high distinction which makes students focus on their marks or lack of them, instead of what they are actually achieving. I think students need to have personal feedback and they need to be a big part of that process. It needs to be a collaborative process in which the student is heavily involved and they need to be very cogniscent and aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It needs to be more of a discussion between the student, the peers and the teacher, who is a facilitator that opens the student out to new ways of seeing the world and new ways of understanding.

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So this difference is massive. Old School differs in that it is not a shop or worse, a Supermarket. Mainstream educational institutions have become shops. They let anyone in, as long as they can pay; it’s a user-pay system that treats its most valuable asset (its teachers) appallingly. And it just shouldn’t be like that. Not everyone can be a designer, not everyone can be a brain surgeon and not everyone should be encouraged to learn design if they don’t have the capabilities. You shouldn’t be learning because you’ve got a lot of money, it should be because you’re prepared to work hard, you’re curious and you really want to be a part of your own education. You’ve got to have initiative, drive and passion. Design is a really rigourous, intellectual process, and I think design schools need to take more responsibility and not just let everyone in because they can pay. It’s very misleading and can be unfair on the part of the student. So many public and private institutions I’ve taught at let anyone in and this is very disruptive. On the other hand, so many students go through major life issues during their education and need individual reassurance to help them work through their issues so they can continue. Mainstream design institutions are too big, and many students fall through the cracks unnecessarily. They could be great designers, but they don’t get that little bit of nurturing and love to get them through. Then they live a life regretting what they could have been, which is really sad. A learning environment needs to be risk-free, where students can feel free to go for it and not feel like they’re being judged. It needs to be a playful and fun environment and just that little bit on the crazy side. 15

What are your aims for the future for your own design practice and also for Old School? I think it’s very important that teachers are not just teaching. Especially in design, teachers need to be practising by making and doing stuff. I exhibited in the Human Rights Art and Film Festival last year, and I need to keep making. I’ve got a little project that I’ve been working on this year. It’s called Music of Stones and it’s all about the Merri Creek. It’s called Music of Stones because the Wurrunji people once inhabited the Merri Creek, and “Merri Merri” is Wurrunji for “stoney stoney”. So I’m working on a little publication based around that. I’m also working on a publication which moves on from my masters. We’re calling it “Cantina” and it’s all about celebrating the Italian way of life, of community, and connectedness through food. It started off its life in my masters as a visual essay for Social Ethnnography. I made a photo essay of my friend Gabriella’s parents in their home and their practices of farming their own rabbits, making their own food and wine. I just want to keep working on projects like that. If a teacher is a maker, it inspires the students who have a lot more respect for those who work on their own projects. The theoretical viewpoint is equally valuable, and something I continually strive to keep up to date with. Portland State Universtiy, Design Academy Eindhoven, Ellen Lupton, Cooper Union, Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts New York are all schools I refer to as models. My vision is that Old School becomes an centre for design research that incorporates Design Residency Projects to inform teaching and future workshops. I envisage that Old School’s contingent will be about twenty students per year. Interesting and inspiring teachers will share their ideas and experience to become part of the story. Every year Old School will support emerging designers as they realise creative projects such as The Belly of the Beast. This practice-led model will inform the direction of the school, which is a huge part of our philosophy. Maintaining relevant teaching content that provokes curiousity, and maintaining our social media profile will enable us to model new design education methodologies for those who also wish to revolutionise design education.


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Occupied Mono. Luke Robertson.

Belly of the Beast

Occupied Mono is a monospaced, all caps, sans-serif typeface designed as a response to a final year typographic brief at the Queensland College of Art in 2011. The project was a collaboration between Luke Robertson and Aaron Gillett. The project began with research into the supporting visual language that was developing alongside the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was clear there was a great lack of cohesion and quality in the messages being communicated. A display typeface was developed as an offering towards a visual common ground for the occupiers to use.

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As a typeface designed with a message in Selected type specimens were overprinted mind, its practical applications underpin the on copies of the News Corp. owned paper, The idea behind its conception: use the rules and Australian. The newspaper effectively became traditions of typography to question pre-existing ‘occupied’ with the existing design, adopting a notions. Monospaced type grew out of purely whole new meaning. The movement’s diversity practical considerations: old technology such as is of course one of its central strengths and typewriters would utilise these letters because characteristics, so the typeface is not intended that was a limitation of the technology. In a as a kind of brand homogenisation. Rather, the contemporary context, monospaced type is design is a visual equivalent of the unifying verbal commonly found in digital coding environments devices used by the occupiers, such as their very to aid readability. Monospaced letterforms nomenclature (i.e. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy were never meant be seen in display settings, Brisbane) and slogans like “we are the 99%”. so creating a thin monospaced font is counterIn any case we, hoped the result would intuitive, but that is exactly the point. Thin type carry with it a certain graphic tension without becomes increasingly illegible the smaller it’s succoming to tired and expected clichés set, so this worked as an inbuilt failsafe—the prevalent in activist graphics. These clichés can font would have to be set big. This is the parallel often work counter to their intended message, that we drew to the motives of the occupiers. polarising an audience before information is Also their voices that were seldom heard were even comprehended. suddenly shouting and questioning an unjust social and economic hierarchy.

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The Queensland College of Art recently redesigned their Bachelor of Design program which launched in 2013, now called the Bachelor of Design Futures, Occupied Mono was chosen as the display typeface for their new identity.

Brisbane graphic design studio Inkahoots created the visual identity for the new four-year program. The identity system embraces the output of its students, showcasing visually archived student works on promotional materials. Occupied Mono, being a student project, was adapted into this system.

“Taught by an international faculty of researchers and practitioners, the program acknowledges that designers are moving beyond the role of service providers. Students are instead educated to become change agents, critics, entrepreneurs, theorists, researchers, and strategists. This program is for people who are interested in non-compliant methods of design practice, disruptive technologies, and transgressing the traditional borders of professional and academic disciplines.”

Seeing Occupied Mono in use was a good opportunity to assess its success in relation to its original objectives. Inkahoots used the letterforms to great effect and added another layer of tension by centre-aligning the display type. This is another traditionally counter-intuitive move, as the modularly spaced letters no longer line up to their original grid. Typography doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it only gathers meaning through usage—through the words and sentences it creates and inherently condones. Seeing this project through to it’s eventual use in a real world scenario was vastly rewarding, and made possible by the encouragement and guidance of tutors and fellow students. The Design Futures program is something we proudly advocate.


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Your role as a designer to do good. Veronica Grow

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Belly of the Beast

Have you ever considered your “We tell stories. We have the ability responsibility as a cultural producerto affect people’s perceptions to help make a positive change to and broaden their mindset. We the world we inhabit? It is easier to facilitate community involvement. achieve this collaboratively than We ask questions and start public alone, and doing this will probably conversations. We promote create a sense of satisfaction that participation of audiences through you won’t achieve creating design thoughtful design. We work on for cars, coke, and clothes. the human level. We make the city mean more to it’s inhabitants than Have you thought about what just bricks and mortar. We develop it looks like when designers apply tools to help people influence their their creative and critical skills surroundings. We help communities to a community context rather solve hard problems. We empower than a commercial one? Have people with new information. you questioned how a cultural We show how alternative producer, armed with visual tricks systems might work better. We and creative thinking skills, can help improve the understanding of make people’s lives better? How can complex challenges faced by our you facilitate social engagement, communities. We create the tools build stronger communities and a for community collaboration. We kinder more caring world? help people engage with spaces We are the “cultural producers”. and alter their perceptions of Through our art, we create stories their own interactions. We develop that can move the masses, affect curricula and teaching materials. behaviours of individuals, families, We conduct workshops. We teach groups, even societies as a whole. courses in design, history and social intervention. We work with We do this by producing artistic community organisations and local design. Artistic design is more than government. We understand that simply pretty and slick. Artistic small things can lead to big things. design is design that touches We are the creators of experience, people’s hearts because it is poetic the initiators of memory and the and heartfelt. Artistic design is familiarisers of a sense of place. “ challenging to create because it requires research and problemsolving. It also requires an instinct that we have as designers —being aware of the current visual zeitgeist. This ensures our designed message is current, and engages audiences rather than being dismissed.


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Introducing Conditional Design Eve Dullaart

Conditional Design is the result of what began in 2008 with impromptu meetings on Tuesday nights between Edo Paulus, Jonathan Puckey, Roel Wouters and Luna Maurer, around the latter’s kitchen table. The Amsterdam based artists and designers were looking for ways to avoid being defined by the media they worked with. It is a common, yet restricting way of describing design and artistic projects and practices. Instead, they decided to search for a new term and definition that sufficiently described their way of working. The collective formulated a Manifesto, the Conditional Design Manifesto, in which they stated their shared views about design and art. Rather than operating under the terms Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Media Art or Sound Design, they introduced the term Conditional Design: foregrounding the approach, instead of the medium of choice. Conditional Design is an approach that reflects the tendencies of our contemporary society ­— under the influence of the media and rapid technological developments, our world, our lives and the way we interact with each other are increasingly characterised by speed and are in a state of constant flux. In order to reflect the here and now, the members of Conditional Design adapt their methods to coincide with these developments focussing on processes rather than products, allowing their work to adapt to their respective environments, emphasize change and display differences. Key notions within the manifesto are “The input is our Material”, “Logic is our Tool” & “The Process is the Product”. For Conditional Design, presenting the manifesto, which can be found online, was only the first step. The other was actually ‘practising what they preached’. Maurer, Paulus, Puckey and Wouters organised weekly mini workshops that lasted between 1 and 3 hours during which they would set to work together with just a sheet of paper, a couple of pens 23

or other materials and a few simple rules that one of them had formulated beforehand to guide them. During their workshops, they have explored The Perfect Circle, 4 Long Lines, as well as The Beach for instance, each drawing following it’s own specific set of rules. These workshops were filmed from above and shared online via the Conditional Design website (where you can still find them today). The high speed video’s compress what took place over the course of an evening into a few minutes, displaying the successive choices each of them made, as well the patterns that emerged thanks to their collaboration in combination with the rules. To their great pleasure, the members of Conditional Design learned that their workshops were embraced quickly by artists, students, designers and other interested people from around the world, who began organising their own workshops. Enthused by the online success of their workshops Maurer, Paulus, Puckey and Wouters turned to a more analogue medium — the book. Soon to be published, the book, appropriately titled Conditional Design contains the manifesto as well as several articles providing a more theoretical background. Most importantly however, it acts as a workbook, containing the rules, results and images of the workshops by the members of Conditional Design. The aim is not just to inspire you to read about Conditional Design, but to DIY, to gather round the table with friends or family, grab the book, a pen and a piece of paper and start drawing together! They hope you enjoy and celebrate the creative process even more than the results of your endeavour. Please visit www.conditionaldesign.org for more information about Conditional Design, the Manifesto as well as the workshops. The book Conditional Design is available for purchase, and is published by Valiz.


Hands


Hands

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Hands

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We all have a unique voice when it comes to drawing. No matter what the content of the image may be, it is a necessity that the individ­ uality of the artist is expressed through their work. This can be a challenge as there is so much beautiful noise out in the world. In order to narrow down all that exists and find what an individual responds to, they need to discover “what they know”. What someone loves often crosses over into what they are good at making images of. If the artist is unsure what they love, reproduction of an uninspired style or aesthetic is innevitable. Taking the time to research a chosen subject will allow for the discovery of a deeper meaning. Getting to know something, reading about it, interacting with it, spending time with it and the all important reflection period are integral to producing work that has a personal meaning. The more we see, the more there is to discover and when we learn how to see the world from our own perspective, dis­ covery becomes a compulsion. Word of caution: it is important to follow the heart and create what is loved. Be true to individuality and avoid trends because they come and go. You can be assured that this will pay off in the end. 27


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The journey of handmade typography. Rosetta Lake Mills.

The combination of word and form can be an incredibly power­ ful means of self expression. Typography is an art form that can “The letters don’t get breathe a higher meaning into the their true delight written word and understanding when done in haste the power of this as a creative and discomfort, nor tool is of the upmost importance merely with diligence to the designer. At Old School, and pain, but first we acknowledge the importance when they are created of minute typography and with love and passion.” understanding the details that Giambattista Bodoni create a truly readable typeface. However, we also realise the power of expressive typography as a means of experimentation and self realisation. In expressive hand drawn typography, the student is set with a single boundary: maintaining a recognisable letterform. This gives a student the freedom to push themselves into different and sometimes uncomfortable mediums and styles, creating letters that are truly unique and original. To quote Robert Bringhurst; “By all means break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately, and well. That is one of the ends for which they exist”. We incite our students to push boundaries, to question graphic convention and to divulge their own sense of self into their practice. However, we ensure that in doing this they fully understand why these rules and conventions have come to be and what they mean to the reader—are they simply superfluous customs left over from when typography was lead-to-paper, or do they have a practical purpose? One of 28

the reasons why the hand is an important factor in the creation of an expressive piece of typography is because the hand is not limited by a preconceived structure that many forms of computerised design tend to enforce. Hand-to-paper work is restricted only by dimension, medium and skill. To relinquish perfection in the initial stages of creation provides a freedom to experiment, and through trial and the inevitable error, produce new and unprecedented forms Typographers of the twentyfirst century are lucky to be free of the bounds determined by historic expectation. The curtains of typographic postulation have been lifted and the most important role for typography to play is that of the comprehensible stylistic representation of a text. Here at Old School, we urge designers to understand calligraphic letterform composition, but to shy away from being bound by it. The wealth of hundreds of years of knowledge rests at our fingertips. It is our role to expand on this and ensure the next hundred years will be as influential and groundbreaking as the last.


Hands

Belly of the Beast

I create to challenge myself and to bring a vision or feeling to life. Breaking out from the digital domain means going back to basics. I use paper and plastic as a medium because they are tangible. There are no shortcuts, there is no save button, there are a different set of rules. The process requires foresight, attention to detail and a complete trust in your vision & hands. Magdalena Ksiezak 30


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Accessible Inclusive Empathy Sustainable Culture Community Philosophical Inspire Intersections

Design

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Curiosity Local Economies Characters Events Morale Mentoring Dialogue Multilogue

Needs

Design values, principles, steps, pledges, guides, lists, instructions, advice, procedures, actions, exercises and developments are constantly revisited and revised. Don’t allow others to project what being a designer means onto you. Develop your own process and philosophy about what you do. These design needs promote individuality and authenticity, something that the design industry should celebrate and embrace.

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On Falling in Love and Personal Projects. Veronica Grow

It is a well known fact that we incessantly excel Our job is to take the drawing of the cat in doing what we love—this is where the personal and respond to it by making a drawing of an project can come into play. Unlike working for object. The object becomes a cat. And so it a client, the great part about creating personal goes. We have now been doing this for ten projects is that you are making stuff that is months, and it has provided me the opportunity dear to your heart and that you connect to on a to be influenced by her style. It has forced me personal level. However, the true power of the to analyse her image making process and also personal project comes through sharing it with my own. Her perceptions and feedback of my others by means of conversations, exhibitions image making has been illuminating as she has and blog stories. People always love to hear what seen things in my work that I never knew existed. you have been doing. The great thing is that this There have been times that I know that my can lead to other opportunities like working on response to Cat’s gorgeous line work have really projects that you initiate, instead of creating given her a much needed pick me up amidst all generic ads for roller doors, toothpaste and of her client work and the feeling translates in tacky children’s merchandising. both directions. I have had a great time this year working on a call and response project with my friend, Illustrator Cat Macinnes. We both love drawing cats and the project commenced when each of us drew one cat and one object. On the 25th of each month, we post these drawings to one another. The excitement of receiving something hand made in the mail is so good that I cannot really describe how I feel when her package arrives. I can’t wait to open it.

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Using my hands, too, is such a welcome relief from talking, and having my head stuck in a computer screen all day. The next step now is to decide what next? Should we create a series of merchandise with the drawings? Or another story, or exhibition? These are just a few initial ideas. During the peace and quiet of the Christmas season we will decide where to next?


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Illustrations by Cat Macinnes

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Perfecting the craft of publication design. Rosetta Lake Mills

In order to understand how a publication works, we can liken it to a complex ecosystem, where each element affects the other. Design, image, type and colour affect printing choices, paper stock affect binding method, as habitat affects insects, affecting fish, birds and all other forms of wildlife. The designer's task is to anticipate this series of repercussions and manipulate the outcomes in order to convey the right message to an audience. Taking this into consideration, it seems natural for a design institution to instil equal importance on the comprehension of each element, to understand how they relate to one another. Unfortunately, many schools are moving away from promoting an import­ ance of a complete design, favouring a reliance on computer programs, digital printing and professional bookbinders. This leaves the student with a basic understanding of what forms a publication on screen, but no grasp on how that transforms into a physical object. As designers, we must not forget the power of tactility and how the many combinations of ink, stock and binding can influence our message.

Quote opposite by John Gall 37

What makes a 32 page staple-bound book different to a 32 page perfect bound book? We need to question the notion of ‘substantiality’ to crafting our publications—not just asking how big does it need to be, but how big does it need to look? The best way to learn these perceptive tricks is to understand the process of bookbinding. Saddle stitch, perfect binding, japanese binding and sewing through the fold are among the methods that are able to be accomplished without the need for heavy machinery. Each of these methods can be done with a little patience and practice in the home or studio and all provide many opportunities for experimentation. With a grasp on these skills, new possibilities are uncovered, such as multiformating, deckled edges and fore-edge painting. It is sad that such an important and relatively easy aspect of book design has been disregarded by many institutions of design learning, however, great design practitioners shall never be slowed on their quest for a grasp on what makes a great and relevant design.


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The importance of appropriately using style and aesthetic within design. Patrick Carroll

Belly of the Beast

As a young designer, it can be a challenge to ignore the desire to produce something that follows the latest graphic trends “The graphic designer works without set limits and without rejecting any possible technique. His experiments in the visual lead him to try out all possible combinations and methods in order to arrive at the precise image he needs for the job in hand, and no other.” Design as Art ­— Bruno Munari When meeting someone for the first time and inevitably telling them that I am a graphic designer, I am occasionally met with the naive but well intended, “So you must be good at drawing then”. I like to think it’s more than that: I come up with creative ideas and solve problems, not just create pretty images. Despite this, so much of what we do is judged simply on the visual output. Audiences both within and outside of the design industry seem more likely to respond to something that is decorative and fashionable. The design culture seems to have a certain aesthetic that appeals directly to them as an audience, often appealing to our sense of space, image and typography in an unconventional way. Even with a unique and engaging concept, it can be hard to find the correct style and medium to visually articulate a project, often leading to a default aesthetic that appeals to one’s personal preference. A design needs to communicate the concept to the audience foremost and a definitive style is not going to succeed at this. Throughout design education, the importance of a strong concept and strong design principles is understandably put first. We are taught that good design is rooted in the fundamentals of typography, space and grid and then brought to life through the development of a problemsolving idea. We are taught that design must meet the necessities of the client, target audience and, if you are lucky, inspires a positive change for society. Then when it comes time to execute these fundamentals and communicate the idea we are left to stand on our own. But if there are endless ways to physically present an idea, how do we know what will fit the concept best?

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Style and aesthetic are topics that seem to be avoided more and more by design teachers. It seems like the consensus is that students are best left to their own devices, learning through doing. The student is both artistic director and finished artist. This limits the student to what they can create, strongly leaning towards utilising digital software. When designing, often you will lean towards what is comfortable and accessible. The student is also limited by what they know in terms of references and inspiration. So where does a young designer turn when they need to find a visual style? The internet, of course. Design blogs are a blessing to the designer, a tool to instantaneously expose our minds to a variety of visual delight, both design and otherwise. It is entirely possible to lose an afternoon clicking link, after link, after link. So in being presented with this fast moving gallery of images, we pick and choose images that appear relevant and begin to replicate aspects of these designs in our own work. But is this creative and clever? Not really. There are several issues with this form of generating visual research. Firstly, there is no design context, you can only see something for what it is aesthetically. Without knowing why something was created, you do not know if it fulfilled the brief, if it solved the problem. More importantly though is that many of the images are the product of a design trend. In following the aesthetics of these design trends, a designer is making a decision about style based on popularity rather than appropriateness. It is inspiration that is democratic, and dictated by the number of likes or reposts. Sites such as designspiration, dribbble 39

and ffffound are curated based on who gets the most amount of clicks. The gratification that comes from peers for creating a beautiful image can reinforce the desire to avoid the big picture of a design problem and rather design to satisfy one’s own vanity. So is this really good design? The reality is graphic designers prefer a certain aesthetic. One quick glance at trendlist. org plainly and clearly lists many of the popular current design trends. By becoming aware of how easy it is to fall into the trap of following trends, it is easier to avoid resorting to this default style and pushing for something better than eye candy. Inspiration should be sought through an open mind with context as the motivator. There are many simple processes for idea and style generation that avoid simply browsing online. Art, music, travel, discussion, reading and research all provide insights that are not affected by traditional communication design. Many of these online developments are simply responding to the superficial nature of our industry and this is exacerbated by the recycling of exactly the same narrow visual content by the same blogs. It would be naive to believe that designers are not expected to work with a clean and professional aesthetic and use time efficiently. Yet strong concepts are what makes great design ultimately stand out and be memorable. The rest is too soon forgotten. Having an awareness that these issues exist is all that is needed to begin to work around them. Next time you are trawling through some blogs, take your time to go a little deeper and find out the context behind the design. Ask about the judging criteria for awards that you follow, and question what really makes good design. You might find the process to be the most inspirational part.


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Heart

Belly of the Beast

A sense of place is very important. Showy architecture is cold and pretentious. The embrace of this creative space is healthy to the heart and soul. Lush and gentle, nature soothes and delights the senses with scent, colour and

texture. Having a happy heart and soul definitely boosts creative energy, and the studio dog and cat are a welcome distraction from keyboards, and anyone with delusions of granduer.

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“The main difference is what I see when I look out my window. I see interesting people walk by where I didn't see anybody before. It just seems to have brought life into the court, particularly because Communication Design Students at Old School New School recently initiated an intervention there was that beautiful as part of their curriculum. An open brief gave them only three hours to alter the way the New "Your neighbour says…" School’s neighbours value, perceive or interact with the common domestic street space we project which involved all share. Improvisation was key, and students had to work creatively and quickly. The next morning of us, which was great fun the sleepy residents were pleasantly shocked from their usual routine by huge yellow stickers for everyone” on their mail boxes and a landmark installation and banner hung over the court entrance. The  — Erica Vella sticker instructed them to visit the installation to find out what “their neighbour says”. Here hung a series of cards saying the likes of: Your Neighbour says you have great hair Your Neighbour says you have a beautiful garden Your Neighbour says your kids are delightful Your Neighbour says you have a wonderful day Your Neighbour says you tell wonderful stories Our neighbours were all a flutter, when a community multilogue was triggered and they were asked what they would like to say in return. To feel included as part of this spontaneous process was exciting and they quickly responded by writing further positive return comments. We understand and impart on our students the power artistic heartfelt design has to evoke an emotional response, and in turn, to help build a sense of community.

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Dear Design Blog. Brooke Thorn

Dear Design Blog, I am a cross-disciplinary designer from Melbourne. I’ve been a long time reader of your daily blog. There are things about your blog which I admire and I think you do very well, such as your eye for emerging design talent, your positive writing style and your supportive promotion of Australian designers and artists. But over the last few years I have become increasingly disheartened by the overall superficial nature of your Design Blog content, and I wanted to ask you this question – where is the discussion and promotion of social design initiatives? Your blog, with the wide audience it reaches, has the potential to promote some deeper values in regards to design and the role it can play in improving our culture and our society. But the only clear message that I get from reading through your blog is: CONSUME!!! From the majority of the content you write about, it would seem that the way to improve our Australian lifestyle, culture and society is to collect and consume pretty things from local designers and local importers of overseas products. But really, the most important thing is to buy and keep buying, and really it doesn’t seem to matter where it comes from. The flashing adds on the side of your daily blog promote a combination of wonderful local designer/makers and importers of quality designed and made furniture from overseas — e.g. Jardan, Tait, Jam Factory, Great Dane Furniture — side by side with dubious bulk furniture retailers who import their “replica” furniture from the manufacturing hubs of developing countries — e.g Matt Blatt, Black Rice Interiors, WANT IT NOW — with their tag line of “the fastest way to gratify your online shopping needs”. From a reader’s perspective, your choice of advertisers doesn’t seem to match the ethos of your ‘support Australian made’ blog content. It is a confusing message. But beyond the issue of your advertisers, I have a large underlying concern. I understand the importance of supporting local businesses and local designers (I’m one of those!). In your ‘About’ page, you claim to “cover Australian design in all its forms”.

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I personally have a profound belief that there is more to our design culture than just getting people to buy stuff. Australian design can also engage individuals and communities to work together to improve the world around us. And by this I don’t mean just promoting and buying ‘sustainable products’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) — I mean intelligent, grass roots, participatory design projects that have the potential to really make a difference to people’s lives and the way in which we interact with our environment. This is also a valid and exciting form of design, and it doesn’t seem to make an appearance on your blog. So I propose a solution. You could start a ‘social design’ section on your blog and invite guest bloggers to talk about their inspiring social design work around Australia in the fields of Architecture, Interior Design, Product, Fashion and Communication Design. There is so much inspiring work being done, and for you to write about it in your positive and supportive manner would enlighten your readers to the intelligent and generous aspects of social design projects. It will hopefully even encourage them to participate, engage and support the clever and exciting initiatives which are happening all around Australia. Here are a few organisations which would be amazing to hear from through your daily blog: The Social Studio — Melbourne Inkahoots — Brisbane Old School New School — Melbourne Architects for Peace — Melbourne Sustainable Living Foundation — Melbourne CoHousing Australia — Melbourne Design education and practice is fast evolving to incorporate ideas of cross-collaboration and social design. It would be forward thinking and inspiring of you to introduce a section on your blog which would cover some of these exciting initiatives and would broadcast them to Australia and the world. I sincerely hope you take this letter into consideration because I personally would have a renewed enthusiasm for your blog if it began to promote innovative design initiatives with multi-layered social values — these can be beautiful too! Best, Brooke Thorn 47


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A Sense of Place at 32 Bayliss Street. Veronica Grow

For the last thirty years, in this somewhat ordinary suburban home, delicious vegetables, herbs, fruit, chicken, eggs and rabbits have all been farmed on a small suburban block in Preston. Here, cultivation is manifested in two ways: cultivating a self-sufficient lifestyle and cultivating an emotionally healthy and rewarding sense of community. In 1972, Tony and Lucia Racioppi built a four bedroom house on the vacant block of land at 32 Bayliss Street. Immediately, Tony planted vines covering the driveway, sheltering the dwelling from the hot western sun and providing grapes to make wine. He went on to plant vines at the rear of the house, creating comfortable shade to sit under and share food and wine with friends and family. He built a chicken hutch for chickens who provide eggs, a shed to store tools and equipment, and planted olive and fruit trees. They buy a pig every year and kill it to make their own cured meats. Lucia cooks delicious food from the home grown produce and Tony makes wine every Easter, giving countless bottles away. When the house was built, its construction included a huge canteena underneath the house to store provisions such as wine, olive oil, and preserves. As well as being a model of sustainable food practice, the site is also one where generosity, love, tradition, life, and food have been celebrated at the table for 30 years. Tony, Lucia and their three daughters, Tina, Joanna, and Gabriella, share experiences that money and fame play no part in: fond memories, community and love. Every Easter, as the sun shines softly through the leaves of the vines, grapes are crushed. The fresh juice is shared with friends and helpers with a brindisi (cheers) to the harvest and all that the site offers. 49


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The site is used on a daily basis by Tony and Lucia Racioppi, their friends and their family. As well as being a location where sustainable living practices are modelled, it is also a place where social capital is created. The daughters of Tony and Lucia, their families and their friends often visit to share food, conversation, problems and support one another in reciprocal kindness. Tony and Lucia benefit from being with their grand— children, whilst Tina, Joanne and their husbands appreciate their help and support. While their daughters and relatives often experience difficulties in their lives, the support they receive when they visit the site helps them weather many a storm. They come to the site to discuss their issues, eat good food, and to develop a lighter sense of perspective that helps them tackle any issue that may arise. A living model, the site demonstrates how self-sufficiency can work within the urban context. Through the platforms and configurations of food production, storage, preparation and consumption, the site demonstrates how to optimise food flows.This is what we should be doing if we are serious about sustainable living. Anything reusable finds itself a purpose and rarely is anything thrown away. The understanding of how to live a rich and sustainable life is precious. Learned over the centuries, this has been passed on from the practices of many generations back in Italy. Recently, it has become fashionable both globally, and in Australia. However while so many of us aspire to live like this, how many of us truly know how to enjoy the emotional intimacy of the Italian way of life, of sharing and talking? It is unfortunate that when we get bogged down in our perceptions of a busy life, we forget the importance of food as a glue that can bind a community together. Sadly, the potential knowledge this site offers is invisible and silent when so few of us take the time to talk and learn from the older generation of migrants. Many older Italians I have spoken with feel sad that their children and the general population will never inherit the knowledge they have worked so hard to accumulate. This ancient wisdom passed down from generations will sadly die with them, along with their beautiful gardens.

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Can you see the connection? As designers, we are not only responsible for our personal goals, the brief and the client, but for the community affected by our work. Through storytelling, we have the power to bring people together and to expose new ideas, choices and lifestyles. One of the key ingredients to a healthy mind is a healthy diet and environment. We really think that food is very important. Because food and design have the power to bring people together to share ideas, laughter and inspiration. We must not forget the environment we inhabit and the individuals we influence and who influence us, not only in our designs, but through our daily interactions. We are all connected.


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A Digital Letter Megan Deal

Friends, Allies, Readers: Summer is fading, leaves are changing and so let us reflect. I started this blog nearly ten months ago as a way to document and comment upon a shift I saw happening in design. That is, a shift towards a more socially responsible practice, a more community-centric practice and a design that contributes to the betterment of society. I became interested in these ideas (or ideals) having spent the beginning half of my post-undergraduate years entrenched in projects and processes that, for a long time, I felt where situated somewhere near the front lines of this shift. I moved to Detroit to examine these notions as they were unfolding in a postindustrial city, and I began teaching to explore my assumptions that change in the design profession would/could/should begin in the classroom. What I’ve come to understand, as I continue to traverse this arching, twisting road, is that I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. Aside from aesthetically successful artifact, the profession of design is not showing me anything new. Likewise, my classroom exper­ ience is not provoking me to consider design as anything more then a process to some end, where the end still remains posters, website, experiential installation, data visualizations, etc. While I still very much appreciate the beauty in these results, my overall disposition towards the work remains fairly unmoved. I am dealing with an utter loss of inspiration. What does seem to continually stir me, however, are projects that contribute to the betterment of place, that is making places more engaging, more accessible, more usable, more fun, etc. These projects can vary from onenight events, to month-long pop-ups, to bigger picture infrastructure/systems redevelopment. While these efforts may seem different from the onset, they are similar in that each is endeavoring to improve the human experience by enhancing aspects of our everyday 52

surroundings. I do believe this factors in heavily as I consider why I’ve chosen to continue living in Detroit; projects like these continue to develop on a daily basis. I would like to let it be known that my typical incessant need to question, analyze and scrutinize has been waning lately. Presently, there are three things that matter to me in relation to my professional work. They are: (1) the investment in individuals (teaching plays a large part in this, though as stated, the current context within which I’m teaching isn’t yet fulfilling this aim); (2) helping others do their work better (specifically, inventing processes and methods that others can use to implement change across their spectrum of work); and (3) contributing to efforts in Detroit to make this a more livable city. I have two goals to achieve before Thanks­ giving. They are: (1) take a woodworking or gardening class; and (2) begin working on a publication aimed at citizen, civic education. It is mid October and I must make some decisions. Will I teach next term? I’ve been offered two classes, one, a typography course, the other, a graphic design history course. Yet, how can I effectively teach something I’ve become so apathetic towards? Does my desire to be in an educational environment outweigh my indifference towards the subject matter? Should it? Are there other opportunities I could create to teach outside the classroom? I am corunning a problem-solving laboratory that also presently doubles as my house. Who do I seek to serve? The man in the boardroom or the man who lives under the viaduct? Per usual, I have more questions than answers. While I have no idea who (if anyone) reads this blog, I will continue to post here as it’s proven to be a useful forum for me to sift through my own thoughts and ideas. It is also very valuable to me to keep this platform as a record of this time in my life. The onset of autumn tends to breed many more musings. So, onward. There is much to do, more to learn and plenty to be grateful for. Very best, Megan Deal.


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“We are the creators of experience, the initiators of memory and the familiarisers of a sense of place. We are the makers of meaning, the creators of experience, the initiators of memory and the familiarisers of a sense of place. We are the Cultural Producers.” Author unknown We are a down to earth school. We are not driven by a business plan but by curiosity and the pure joy of learning. We won’t try to fit you into a one size fits all qualification.We exist for those who believe that it is individuality that opens doors.

Old School, 10 Grey Court, Coburg, VIC, 3058 info@newschoolfordesignandtypography.com www.newschoolfordesignandtypography.com +61 3 9350 6441


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