…mostly on a course. You know, like the Old Days when people went on training courses.
One day, not so long ago, I had to design a workshop for a group of people in which I needed them to think creatively so they could come up with exciting ways to completely re-think public services. All I could think of was to get them to write some things on post-it notes and stick them up on the wall. BORING. I bored myself just thinking about it.
So I decided I need to wake up my Right Brain. It’s clearly not pulling its weight, leaving my Left Brain to run rampant around the playground of my mind with its metaphorical health and safety checks and age restrictions and conditions of use.
Idly browsing this amazing thing called the internet I chanced upon some interesting sounding short courses at Central St Martins and signed up. In particular, a course called ’100 Design Projects in a Week’ caught my eye. What fun!
Despite my early morning nerves on the first day, it’s super cool. I’m thinking I’ll try and post what I’ve done each day by way of sort of archiving as well as sharing with both my readers (thanks Mum and Lizzie!)
So as soon as we arrived
the teacher Rod got us to copy some typography (that’s design speak for letters) out on a big sheet of paper. He gave us example letters all in different fonts and we had to choose a different font for each letter and think hard about where we were putting the letters on the page. Here’s what I did:
Apparently there’s implicit tension in what I’ve done here as I’ve left a lot of blank space on the left hand side. Either that or I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to leave space for other things… It’s smudgy because we used charcoal, which I somehow managed to get all over my clean jumper. Some people really went for it with this exercise and took up the whole page with huge letters, or made little logos out of arranging the letters. The eagle eyed among you will notice that the letters spell ‘chaos’ but in a funny order. See what he did there?
That was really a warm-up and the next task was to use words to map out our morning so far. You weren’t allowed any pictures, only words. I cheated a bit:
The kiss was a bit of a diversion
Next thing was to make up a masthead for a fictional magazine called ‘Typography Monthly’. I was a bit indecisive on this one and ended up thinking that short of being able to recreate comic sans just to irritate them there was nothing that would impress a typographer so I left it blank for them to draw their own header:
Quickly on from that we had to invent our own typography using only two shapes (you could choose between square, triangle, rectangle, diamond, and circle). Mine ended up feeling like a sort of secret code towards the end and you couldn’t really tell it was a type face but that sort of made it more fun:
Continuing on the alphabetical theme we then had to make up our own characters as additions to the alphabet. They were supposed to represent sounds (e.g. ‘ch’ or ‘sh’). I went for ‘hmm’ and ‘ugh’, which summed up my relationship with the medium of pencil:
Following the ‘chaos’ theme from earlier, we designed a cover for a fictional CD which would contain ‘the sound of chaos’. My mind was instantly drawn to JLS pre-cursors Ultimate Kaos, but I decided against an obscure 90s pop reference and went for this:
I had fun scribbling on the back.
After lunch the theme changed and was supposed to be about ‘value in a capitalist society’. There are a few lefties in the class so this made me groan inwardly but it was pretty good in the end. The first task was to ‘subvert’ a photocopy of a £10 note. Most people drew a moustache on Her Maj and that was really my first thought to but I decided that would be a little obvious and I was a bit bored of drawing so I painted it green and made it into a bow tie, of course.
Continuing the theme, we were asked to design a credit card. I got a bit carried away with this one because as we nerds know, credit cards are on their way to the bin that also contains mini-discs and fax machines. So I wireframed a contactless payment app.
I know, I know! Of course I got so involved in that I sort of didn’t start the next project until I only had a few seconds left so it’s not my favourite thing. We had to design our own bank note. Not sure if the picture is clear enough, but it’s got lots of sayings on it like ‘one for me, one for you’:
At this point I realise I’ve moved back to using pencil because it’s the medium I’m most familiar with, but really I’ve decided that I actually don’t like pencil. It’s not very decisive and it’s too easy to keep correcting yourself, which is fine if you’ve got ages but not really if you’re being pelted with design briefs* every five minutes. It wouldn’t hurt me to be more decisive in this or in life generally. Nonetheless I pressed on with the next job of re-designing the sign for Las Vegas. N.B. the result is a slightly more ‘HBO’ design if you know what I mean.
There’s a story behind this, which is that when I went travelling around the USA with my other half after university we stayed in a hostel in down town Las Vegas, which is the bit no one actually goes to. Even taxi drivers refused to take us there. Sure enough, we were woken one night by four gunshots and screaming. A guy was shot literally outside the hostel and as our room overlooked the street we could see the whole thing. As you can imagine, Vegas has never really held any charm for us and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. *Shudder*
A feature of downtown Vegas was homelessness and so the next brief wasn’t really a surprise – we were asked to design a sign that a homeless person might hold that might actually convince people to give them money, rather than the usual wonky cardboard signs you see. I was inspired by a homeless person who accosted me on the street recently and told me a series of silly yet hilarious jokes before asking for some money. I gave him some cash gladly because he made me properly LOL (Q: Why couldn’t the drummer get through the door? A: Because of his hi-hat!)
At the same time there’s nothing funny about homelessness and the ‘knock knock’ thing makes me slightly uncomfortable as well.
The last brief of the day was a bit random but gave us a chance to work with something other than paper and pen. We were told to design AND MAKE some jewelry for Fidel Castro. I made him a crown/tiara which has sort of barbed wirey bits on it. I thought a) he needs to get in touch with his feminine side; b) he’s got this sort of messianic thing going on about him and c) he’s into military stuff like barbed wire.
One girl did this amazing thing of making a ring with another ring rigidly attached. One ring was for his finger and the other was for his cigar to go through. There really are some amazingly talented people on the course.
Phew. And that was day one. I was tired but happy at the end – I learned a bit about my style and have tried to be a bit more decisive. There are also some really cool things in there that I will totally ask people to do in workshops as a way of freeing their mind a bit more, so watch out for jewelry-making for dictators at a workshop near you!