Process and Structure

What helps you move forward and generate options? How are you changing habits that improve your process? What sort of limitations or structure do you impose so you can be efficient and productive in your exploration?

posted by Tony Brock on January 25, 2007 | comments: 7 | post a comment

I move forward from pretty much anywhere, however, the trouble would seem to be finding what to take from that 'anywhere.' Some times I have to make some anywhere to take from, like you mentioned on Friday, reflecting.

Last semester we had a project where we manipulated 48 different 2inx2in cardboard squares and were told not use the same manipulation again. The first few were a breeze, however, the last few took hours to finish. We ended up running out of ideas that were off the top of our minds and had to think, work, sketch, dig, and cry to get some really creative squares out.

It's strange how putting limits on some one forces them to expand in one area or another while when people are given too much freedom they tend to gravitate towards the fairly narrow: what they want.

My point is that I don't believe in a brick wall or running out of options, maybe not seeing the options right in front of me, but never them not being there. I suppose my answer to your question about what generates my options is: everything.

I'm changing towards more media, more sketches, more everything. I honestly will never think of any creative process the same way again after these few days. Sunglasses are sunglasses, but if you were to beat the hell out of em in every media, every angle, every relationship, every color, every line, every gesture, you still haven’t seen those sunglasses in every way. I can apply that to anything, whether it be web design to building a guitar. The cool thing is if I don't see the options in front of me, then maybe I can look at my past work and create from that. Change the perspective in my work, framing and cropping out.

The only problem I see with picking any idea is the fear of it possibly turning out to be a bad one. I suppose my path as a designer is plagued with a few failures here and there, but those assumed bad ideas might quite possibly turn out to be one of the best.

One problem I was told I had in the past was that I tend to put too much in one work. I began to crop elements, angles, and perspectives out of a single piece to make other pieces. It's just freakin cool how many options a single person has at their disposal.

However, I do believe that limitations are important. Putting things into categories, structure, and organization rather than just throwing it out on paper and calling it design. My biggest weakness right now is putting a structure into my sketches. I usually just throw it into a sketchbook and later tweak it into a final piece on whatever medium. Maybe computers have spoiled me with their freedom; it's just so easy to rid of an idea that doesn’t seem to work as much as another when that thrown out idea quite possibly might have winded down the path to solid gold.

Posted by K.C.F. on January 27, 2007 01:08 PM

Sorry this is so longgggg

This project, or as I prefer to say, exploration, required making multiple translations of an object covering a “full range” while under a short amount of time. Obviously I had moments when I just did not know in which direction to go – would I translate my nail clippers realistically, abstractly, geometrically, etc? And what medium would I use to do so? The problem was not so much that I didn't know what to do; it was simply that there were so many options. When I found myself in this situation, I thought about Scott McCloud’s triangle (seriously) and then looked at what I had already created. I made myself work in a gradient at times (other times things just happened randomly), moving from realistic to abstract, from form to counter form, from drawing to photo, etc, etc. If I noticed I had not covered any of those areas I went back and made sure to have it represented in my process.

Because I have been working so quickly and making a rather large load of object translations/interpretations, I have told myself to stay away from detail as much as possible. The detail can come later, after all ideas are explored and discovered. For me, it is crucial that the idea or concept is explored/declared first. Otherwise, the idea/thought/concept will disappear if not confronted and directly slapped onto the page, and I really don’t want that to happen. Perhaps that is why when looking through the pages of my book the sketches are not always related to the one it’s next to. Sometimes, however, I force the sketches to be related (this goes along with working in a gradient with McCloud’s triangle model in mind) – I like to organize my pages so I can easily see where my ideas are going, the grid-like set ups put the sketches into the context of my process. You can easily observe my idea/concept changing from one sketch to the next.

I feel as though I hit a wall, or a black page (as you see in the book), when we started to explore typography and text with our object, and I’m not really sure why I had such a problem. I was unsure, so I started to think too hard; I wanted to “make meaning” too fast, so I began to actually slow down in my process. Not a very good thing, because I noticed that what I was coming up to fit into the range also went downhill. The exploration began to suffer once I shut the doors and slowed my pace. I really contradicted myself since the initial sketches/translations began because I was focusing on the detail and doing exactly what I had tried my hardest to avoid before. I recognized that I needed to learn how to push myself to not focus on the detail when exploring a more uncomfortable, new area. So I went back to what we did at the very beginning of the class and experimented with the xerox machine.

I am not sick of this project, as I thought I might be, because I want to explore more. I want to keep going, but where do I end? I don’t know at all; it never ends. Now, I want to go back and do some more photography (once I get a more reliable camera); play with the light as we did in class, put my work into environments and see how people interact, etc. All in all, I realize that this is what I want to do. This is what I want my process to be when I encounter any situation, not just in graphic design. I want to be open and know, maybe not completely understand, the possibilities of the full range in any context.

Posted by Steph on February 4, 2007 02:10 PM

Process is exploring possibility. In graphic arts it might be through visual language, mark making, color, photography, or something more complex; a narrative or even a forced relationship between multiple concepts. I feel very strongly that mark making is the best way to visually express my ideas and spawn a full range of alternatives. However, the use of automated devices such as cameras, laser printers, Photoshop, plotters, Xerox machines, etc. can help you explore in ways that hand and utensil could never achieve. I really had a good time using the Xerox machine, although I tended to stick with hands on approach because I believe my mark making, rendering, and sense of color really highlight my creative ability. My photographic skills could definitely improve; I really like how Kaden, Liz, and Christin manipulated their images on the computer and would like to explore that direction further myself. I really enjoyed making “hybrids” and layering multiple transparencies then throwing them on the Xerox. I’m very glad we explored the Xerox the first few studios and I honestly do value the books we all made. The Xerox is just so fascinating! I have so much room for improvement.
-Enough of the rant for now-

Posted by spencer on February 5, 2007 12:19 AM

Whenever I am trying to solve a problem, I always like to just write ideas down. Sometimes those ideas are short phrases, or maybe a word or two. I really like the idea of mind-mapping because this allows you to write anything and everything that comes to mind and there is always room for small sketches. What also helps me is to look through books and magazines. I get a lot of inspiration by looking at other people's work and usually by doing this I can come up with an idea of my own. For me it is a wonderful way to come up with something if you feel stuck because it is more of a basis to begin your work.
These are some of my old ways that I have worked. I am now learning new ways of solving a problem. Whether that be trying new media, going to the xerox machine, making a mark, creating a wire structure, or even just sitting and analyzing the work and ideas that I have already generated. I have learned these ways in just the past few weeks, which has really expanded my thinking of how I should and can work. Even just going out into the environment and taking pictures, I have learned is a great way to begin thinking about things.
Usually after I have come up with a lot of ideas I like to go back through and pick those main ideas that stick out to me. Then I like to go in depth with those ideas and if those aren't working for me, then I go back to my ideas list and begin the in depth study again.

Posted by LW on February 5, 2007 04:53 AM

process is often seen as the area between a problem and a solution. that process is only valuable for what it produces. but process itsself is just as valuable. it is nice to have an objective and a deadline, but it is just as valuable to experience process without a direction in mind and see where you go; often i will end up with a purpose very quickly, and then pursue that.

getting stuck happens, but can be easily escaped because there is an unlimited amount of solutions to any problem. even trying to draw exactly the same solution over again can provide a glimpse at something new you didnt notice the first time and then, as a designer, off you go

Posted by anon on February 5, 2007 12:56 PM

The only evidence I really have for how I work & move forward has been this project.

The one process-book I made showed how my process evolved based on my understanding. At first I took the assignment at face value, trying to see how many renderings of a safety pin I could do, making them unique, and giving the page style that fits the radical statement my object is out there for. Then, more and more, I started putting other ideas into the mix, until at the very end of the book you get something completely different that was supposed to have meaning jumping in your face. Without that meaning, even the nastiest looking ink-brushed safety pin I could do with jarring composition doesn't even have a punch. Something simple and elegant with the right words on the top hit harder than some 7-layer xerography montage. I was inspired to keep chipping away at page after page by the goal of representing an idea, making the safety pin my manifesto logo.

It was a little overwhelming since this assignment was like a cross-section of a total project. Last semester I got used to the idea of over-developing things and faking it to make them look complete, and at first I couldn't break that. There are plenty of pages I've generated that seem like complete dead-ends, and would serve a better (karma) purpose in the recycling bin. My understanding took a while to catch up with the assignment. Once it was there, I was still clueless, until the last few days of the project when the path I was making towards color-commentary on culture was getting obvious. Without it even being the assignment, I had gone from brainstorming, and moved forward to something else.

From all of that, I guess trying to get in a pattern of progression helped me with this assignment. Absolute failure in one area (uh, ink-brush) let me focus on something else (micron pins & light tables). Hybrid forms had me captivated for a while, making iconic representations blend with anything I could get my hands on, and giving it a label. There were an infinite number of ways that my first few awkward pages could be re-used with all the xeroxes and copies as a montage, so much that you could really lose yourself in the process.

I want to take what I started farther, but first I need to find out how too apply the tidal wave of information, discoveries and whatever.

Posted by matt on February 5, 2007 10:40 PM

This is gonna kinda be like a stream of consiousness deal, so bear with me, and I hope this makes sense to some degree.
I really enjoyed this past project. I especially had fun putting it together for this morning. I still had times when I had no idea what to do with the stuff I had.
It made me frustrated.
Sometimes it definitely worked to just walk away from it and come back when I was in a better mood.
This also came from parameters that I imposed on myself and it took me a little bit to realize that I can step out of this box and create/generate whatever I want.
This project also gave me an opportunity to see what kind of stuff I can come up with, which turned out to be more than I had really expected.
Some of the stuff I really like came from the times when I was sick and tired of drawing, cutting stuff out, doing whatever.
What this project made me realize though, is that I have to break away from the idea that the only thing to work for is the final product.
Just scribbling stuff out helps you realize that theres more ways to solve a problem, give something a touch of something else to make it look the way you want it to.
I am definitely going to work toward doing more of this, and I don't feel as if I did enough for this project.
Theres so much more to something when you scribble out any and every idea that you can come up with. Somethin biger, badder, and better could come of this, and then you can sit back and be all like "Whoa. Check this out. I'm done. I need a cigarette. Food too. Pizza maybe. Maybe Chinese. But I'm biased when it comes to Mexican food. How bout a nice burrito. Yes. Sounds like a plan. GO BRAVO TEAM!!"

Posted by Alex on February 5, 2007 10:54 PM