Week 2: Lecture Notes & Reflection

WEEK 2 – INDUSTRY TODAY

Whilst I found this week a lot of content to squeeze into one week, I enjoyed writing about Plymouth and the resource archive we have here. As I discussed in my piece, Plymouth is a thriving creative city that is attempting to create more creative spaces in the city for those who would not ordinarily have access to such things, such as pottery studios and woodwork shops, let alone the print studios that I discussed – this idea of location and what we have available to us was also present on the ideas wall; “Really interesting learning about all the opportunities right on my doorstep this week.”

I really echo this sentiment from a course mate, especially the last sentence about seeing everyone discuss their location and their industry with pride.

“I started this week’s challenge thinking I wouldn’t find much that unique or overly inspiring. My opinion soon changed in such a positive way and it’s been such a value exercise to see what’s out there. I’ve really enjoyed seeing everybody else’s response also to their locations and reflecting back on the industry today.” I try to be an active member of the creative community in Plymouth and enjoy doing so. Part of the reason for doing the MA is to be part of that creative community on a larger scale, and also take what I’m learning and pool it back into my practice and share this with other creatives.

I liked this idea of working as discussed in “Drip Dry Shirts” (Roberts, 2005), the idea that the designer and a highly skilled engraver would work together to create visual communications, and advertisements. Design has always been for a purpose – to communicate something – even in its infancy this has been the idea of experimenting with what methods we had available to us and then spinning them on their head, like in the 1960’s combining photography and illustration with type and copy to create impact.

This is something that Plymouth does and something I am proud to take part in. Susanna discussed this idea of a craft based practice in this week’s lecture which really spoke to me about the beauty and balance of graphic design in modern practice and industry today:

“I became really interested in craft in the 90s when a lot of universities were getting rid of craft-based media and investing in new technology. I became really interested in trying to understand the ancestry or the journey that designers had been on, and the tools that they used, and trying to understand how that could complement or work within my approach to design at that point in time. I became really aware of the fact that a knowledge base that was historically learned over a really long period of time, to gain a really specialist knowledge about type and typography and printing, you would have done an apprenticeship, and actually, the apprenticeship would have involved a technician, a typesetter, working with the designer and the designer doing the designing and somebody else producing the work. I think this sort of blurring, I really felt that I was studying at a time where these boundaries were becoming blurred”.

I feel that this “blurring” of the boundaries of another field is something really interesting – there are basic photography and illustration skills taught on most undergraduate graphic design courses. Does this take away from those who are also doing their degrees in photography or illustration, if modern industry practice is that the role of a graphic designer can do it all?

I am comforted to know that whilst there are the large commercial design studios that look to churn out commercial design without much love for the craft, in my own city there are many craftsmen who are lovingly taking up their trade and sharing it with those around them to create a more creative community, where typographers, illustrators, textile artists and graphic designers can learn from each other and work together to create city wide projects. A good example of this would be the illuminate festival we have in Plymouth every year, which brings the creative community together in beautiful ways for the public to enjoy and be enriched by.

(IMAG9158, llluminate Festival, 2018)

Something that I also found quite compelling within the lecture with Susanna and Maziar was the discussion around how the modern designer still needs to have a key understanding of the context and recognising key historical moments and figures who revolutionised the field.  As Maziar said “History is fundamental to our understanding of our practice […] where the availability of imagery is always there but not the context, not the history, not the deep knowledge of this generation and the situation in which it was produced.”

Whilst I was familiar with the work of many of the designers mentioned in the podcast (Margaret Calver being a hero in the industry and a hero of mine) I had not heard of Bea Feitler and enjoyed learning more about the Brazilian born designer and her career as a tangent.

A selection of magazine covers with art direction by Bea Feitler. From left: Harper’s Bazaar, MS., Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. (Clarke, 2019)

I think that the “punk rock” attitude of creativity is very much alive and well in my city and I am always proud to be a part of it – I agree with both Susanna and Maziar that this “zine” like community is coming back in full swing as a push back to the over commercialisation of design.

What I have drawn from all sources this week is reinforcement that whilst design is used for communication, it should not solely be used to sell commerce. It is an expression of all communication, and that is why the punk and DIY ethos will never be extinguished from practice – it is how it all started and is how it will continue to evolve, playing with history, context and the surroundings the designer finds themselves in. I find myself in Plymouth, with a love for the craft and a keen desire to play with what I know and to utilise the communities I have around me.

REFERENCES

Clarke, A (2019) Inspired Design Decisions With Bea Feitler: An Unstoppable Creative Force — Smashing Magazine. [online] Smashing Magazine. Available at: <https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2019/10/inspired-design-decisions-bea-feitler/> [Accessed 4 March 2021].

2018 Gallery | Illuminate. IMAG9158 [online] Available at: <https://illuminate-festival.co.uk/2018-gallery/> [Accessed 4 March 2021].

Roberts, L., (2005) Drip Dry Shirts: The Evolution of the Graphic Designer (Links to an external site.). London: AVA Publishing