Contemporary Practice – Week 8: Skills & Making

Week 8 Lecture & Resources

My Week 8 lecture notes.

Side Projects

Visuals from lecture of Julian House’s video and music side projects.

It was really interesting to hear the design practitioners talk about their views on side projects in this week’s lecture. I think allowing your creativity to explore different media and (potentially non-commercial) self-initiated projects can be extremely valuable. Giving yourself the freedom to create and making space for ideas to germinate can also be a lot of fun.

A business card I designed for my WildCat Designs label.

Aside from my work as a Creative Designer at a small marketing agency, which is mostly based around graphic and digital design, I enjoy making textiles. Having a background in textile design, in 2005 I started WildCat Designs, my own range of handmade knitwear accessories. I have found that the physical, hands-on aspect of making textiles nicely compliments the more computer-based graphic design work that I do. There have been times when the two areas of my work overlap or feed into each other too – for example, when designing business cards or working on social media graphics, marketing materials and web designs for WildCat Designs.

Ms. Pac-Man in knitted form.

My love of digital art has crossed over into the physical realm too – on discovering that 8-bit retro video games translated well into knitting patterns, I designed some Space Invaders and Pac-Man inspired pieces, which proved very popular, and in 2009 were included in a UK DIY exhibition at the Turnpike Gallery in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

Two of my “8-bit knits” on display at the Turnpike Gallery.
When pixels met wool.

On the Power of Vulnerability

I did some research around the subject of vulnerability after watching the School of Life video on its importance – and found a companion article on the School of Life website about the charm of being vulnerable, and how being honest about our personal quirks can give others permission to be themselves too.

I also found a podcast where Oprah interviewed Dr. Brené Brown on the subject of The Power of Vulnerability, who has studied and researched human connection, and talks about “daring greatly” – and in her Ted Talk on the same topic, she describes how being authentic, having the courage to be imperfect and embracing our vulnerability actually enables us to connect with other humans.

On the Ideas Wall, during the webinar and group crit session this week, it was refreshing to hear people open up about their abilities, perceived gaps and skills they wish to develop. It was reassuring too, to hear talk of learning from making mistakes and being ok with letting go of the idea of “perfection,” especially when learning something new.

I have definitely felt since beginning the course that I am often being creatively, philosophically and conceptually pushed outside of my comfort zone – which has certainly been challenging at times, but I perceive it as a positive thing overall, where I am trying new ways of working, developing my existing skills and absorbing new ideas.


Workshop Challenge

My Skills

The lists above are a summary of the skills I currently have and those I would like to have or wish to develop further. (Click the list to view larger)

My Design Process

I created this animation to show a slightly simplified version of the stages in my current process when approaching a creative task:

  1. Ask questions and gather information
  2. Brainstorm initial ideas
  3. Start playing with concepts (shapes, colours, type, layout, etc.) to see what works
  4. Refine ideas/concepts
  5. Create the final/polished piece

I ended up with two versions, one with captions and one without. My aim was to represent each stage visually and to develop my animation skills at the same time.

Below is a snapshot of my working process, where I used a layered Adobe Photoshop file to draw the elements using a “marker pen” style Photoshop brush with my Wacom tablet to get a fluid, hand-drawn style appearance.

Initial test animation.

I created my animation frame by frame in a timeline (as you can see at the bottom of the image), which was then exported as an animated GIF.

Visual Research

Still from Aurelia Lange’s animation. (via Vimeo)

My inspiration for the design approach came from Aurelia Lange‘s colourful, lively animation created to accompany Cédric Villani’s RSA talk on creativity (the full video is embedded in my Week 5 blog post) – it seemed to fit the subject perfectly and I particularly liked the fact it looked as though it had been drawn using felt-tip pens. The animation short has a wonderfully playful quality which I wanted to reflect in my own work, bringing in a sense of light-heartedness which can sometimes be absent – it can be all too easy to take things (and ourselves!) far too seriously.


Reflection on the week

This week I knew early on that I wanted to create an animation, something I have some experience of since I studied Flash and the basics of timeline-based 2D animation around 10 years ago during my HND in Interactive Media. It was enjoyable to revisit (albeit using a slightly different progamme) and I definitely would like to continue developing my skills in this area.

On reflection, I feel that my creative process is not necessarily as linear as I have portrayed it in the animation, as there are certain stages when, based on intermediate feedback, I might (have to) start again or adapt. It’s also worth mentioning that I more often than not would have an evaluation stage after a project is completed.

With regards to my overall skill set, I have always had a general sense of wanting to build on what I know, as well as keeping my sense of curiosity “fed,” whilst continually learning, improving and developing my skills. I feel there will forever be room for growth in that arena! I also recognise that I can learn a great deal from other designers and creative people, be it from reflecting on their approaches, mindset, practice or creative output.

Contemplating the subject of vulnerability, I think it’s important that I learn to embrace the process and try not to get too concerned with what I think the outcome of a particular piece of work should be, staying receptive to possibilities and keeping an open mind.


References

Brown, Brené. 2020. Interviewed by Opraph Winfrey on Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations [podcast]. Spotify, August 2020. Available at: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0EAq3OPec0Ln05zcv3Xv2S [accessed 10 November 2020]

Brown, Brené. 2010. The Power of Vulnerability. Ted Talk [online]. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability/ [accessed 15 November 2020]

The School of Life. 2017. The Importance of Vulnerability [Film]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJsJ96yyVk8 [accessed 15 November 2020]

The School of Life. 2020. The Charm of Vulnerability. Available at: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-charm-of-vulnerability/ [accessed 17 November 2020]

Villani, Cédric. 2016. Cédric Villani on the 7 Ingredients of Creativity [Film]. RSA Short. Available at: https://vimeo.com/156395652 [accessed 19 October 2020]

The School of Life. 2015. Keep Going [Film]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1H92b_uLdU [accessed 15 November 2020]

Eno, Brian. 2017. How to Beat Creative Block. BBC Click. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tURRSJ-q4bg [accessed 15 November 2020]

Eno, Brian. 2017. Brian Eno on Creative Potential. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13FHJH19_e4 [accessed 15 November 2020]

Eno, Brian. 2018. Oblique Strategies (last ed, 2018). Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies [accessed 15 November 2020]