Thursday, April 30, 2009

Giles Timms: animator par excellence

Movie Link
A few years ago as I was developing the digital design curriculum for Dordt I spent some time during the summer collaborating with Giles Timms, an artist / designer at pullUin in Vermillion, South Dakota. Later that year he actually came to a Dordt graphic design class as a guest for a critique session and viewed student designed websites. He sent me the following message a short time later, saying, “I was so inspired by your student's work (I think you would be a great teacher to have with your print background) that I redesigned my website with more of a print flavour. I tried to design it like I would a print page layout and did the whole thing in Illustrator like you had shown your students to do. I had a lot of fun and I think it was really good for me to do. I feel as though I made some breakthrough's in my work and working methods after using Illustrator to design my new site (thanks to you and your students)!” 

Just after that he left pullUin, moved to Los Angeles, and for the last few years he has been pursuing a MFA degree in animation at UCLA.

Giles is a native of Wales and is proud of his Welsh heritage.

Anyway, yesterday, he sent me a message about the release of his second animated movie, a music video with Ceri Frost’s music, titled ‘Manifestations.’ He gave me permission to post his work on our blog and specifically asked me,  “If any of your students can vote on youtube for my video I would be forever grateful.”

I’d recommend visiting his blog / website to see his amazing work:

Giles added that, ‘Manifestations’ was featured on Cartoon Brew yesterday:

'Manifestations,' is also featured on BoingBoing along with a brief interview:

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's official!

The Dordt College AIGA student group is now officially a member. Use the link to check out the listing on the AIGA website.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What font are you?

Just for fun, check out the following link: "What font are you?" and take the quiz — it's fairly painless. The site is affiliated with Independent Lens produced by PBS.

The quiz of ten questions is longer than some of the similar quizzes I've seen. In addition, the website has general things to say about typography. 

Please comment about what your font is … I happen to be Times New Roman, however, I anticipated Helvetica.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adrian Shaughnessy’s ‘Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes’

Recently, I read this post in Design Observer by Adrian Shaughnessy entitled ‘Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes.’ He has some good ideas and I enjoyed reading some of the responses to his short essay as well.

According to Shaughnessy’s biography in the ‘Design Observer,’ where he serves as a contributor, he is a self-taught graphic designer, consultant, and writer based in London. He currently runs ShaughnessyWorks, a studio combining design and editorial direction.

Shaughnessy has written and art directed numerous books on design and is perhaps best known as the author of ‘How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul.’ 

In his essay he uses declaratives to build a paradoxical pattern. Each statement is followed by an explanation that’s contrary to common perceptions. My favorite is paradox number 10 because it defies accepted wisdom and is fertile soil for some Reformational thinking!

Mr. Shaughnessy has graciously given me permission to reproduce his text. However, I encourage you to see the original post. Being succinct, Shaughnessy’s opinions are presented in their entirety as follows:

01: There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers. We love to blame our clients for poor work. When projects go sour, it’s always the clients — never us — who are at fault. Sure, there are bad clients. But designers treating them badly have usually turned them into bad clients. As designers, we end up with the clients we deserve.

02: The best way to learn how to become a better graphic designer is to become a client. On the few occasions that I’ve been a paying commissioner of graphic design, I’ve learned more about being a designer than by anything else I’ve done. It’s only by commissioning graphic designers that we discover that most of us are not very good at articulating what we do and how we work. For many clients, designers seem to operate on the principle expressed by the architect hero of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.” As part of their training, all designers should be obliged to spend a sum of their own money on graphic design.

03: If we want to educate our clients about design, we must first educate ourselves about our clients. When I hear designers say that “we must educate our clients”, I want to break out in hives. Instead of educating our clients, we must educate ourselves in the ways of our clients. Then — and only then — will clients take us seriously.

04: If we want to make money as a graphic designer, we must concentrate on the work — not the money. Whenever I’ve taken on design projects “just for the money,” disaster has invariably ensued. When we put money first and work second, we end up with bad work and an even worse balance sheet. This is not to say that designers shouldn’t be properly paid for their work, or that designers shouldn't be financially savvy (clients usually are). But the designer’s primary motive has to be the quality of the design and not the size of the fee. When the focus is on the money, the work is usually poor.

05: For designers, verbal skills are as important as visual skills. Since graphic design should be self-explanatory, designers might be forgiven for thinking that the need to provide a verbal rationale for their work is unimportant. Surely the work should succeed on its own merits without requiring a designer’s advocacy? True. Except there never was a client who didn’t want an explanation for every aspect of every piece of creative work they commissioned. If we can’t talk about our work in a clear, rational and objective way — free from all jargon — then we can’t be surprised when we meet with rejection.

06: Ideas usually fail not because they're bad ideas, but because they're badly presented. The ability to present an idea is as important as the idea itself. The single most important thing we need to remember when presenting work to clients is that they are terrified at the prospect of what we are going to show them. For clients, commissioning design is like going into a furniture showroom to buy a sofa and being told by the salesperson, “Sure, I can sell you a sofa. But I can’t show it to you.” Who ever spent money on something they couldn’t see? Yet this is precisely what we ask our clients to do when they commission us.

07: “I’m a professional: I know best.” The only designers who use this argument are unprofessional designers. Designers often say, “No one tells a doctor what to do, so why is it OK to tell me what to do?” But the myth of professional omnipotence has been debunked. We no longer accept that doctors, lawyers and plumbers have a monopoly on knowledge. Speak to any doctor and they will tell you that people come into their consulting rooms armed with information downloaded from the Internet. We have long since learned to question and challenge expert opinion. Why should designers be exempt? Anyone who uses the “I’m a professional therefore you must accept what I say” argument has lost the argument.

08: “All the good jobs go to other designers.” Not true: in fact, nearly all jobs start off as neither good nor bad. We are deluded if we think only other people get good jobs and we only get the rubble. Truth is, nearly all jobs start off the same, and our responses as designers determine the success or failure of each job. There are no good or bad projects in design, only good or bad responses. Good projects are made not found. I’ve often interviewed designers who told me they wanted to move jobs because they only got “lousy projects to work on”. Yet when they showed me what they’d been working on, they usually seemed like great jobs.

09: The best way to run a studio is to be domineering and forceful. In fact, the opposite is true. Designers who run studios or lead teams often think they have to lead from the front. They think they have to dominate. They think they have to take credit for everything. In fact, the opposite is true. Good leaders of design teams lead from behind. They put themselves last and allow others to shine. When designers are allowed to shine, they shine more brightly.

10: If we believe in nothing, we shouldn’t wonder why no one believes in us. In a world with no principles, people respect those who have principles. Impersonating a doormat is a poor way to be an effective graphic designer. In fact, standing up for what we believe in — ethics, morality, professional standards, even aesthetic preferences — is the only way to produce meaningful work. Of course we won’t win every time, but we will win more often than the designer who doesn't believe in anything. There are countless ways in which we can demonstrate professional integrity — the only mistake we can make is not to demonstrate any.

Footnote: Just like the amp in Spinal Tap that goes up to 11, my list of 10 paradoxes actually contains 11 items. Here is the eleventh paradox of graphic design.

11. When a client says the words — “you have complete creative freedom,” they never mean complete creative freedom. 

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In my younger and more vulnerable years...

A really great discussion on the life and use of Comic Sans. Not the comments, I mean the video. I feel this conversation is interesting to note, alongside Professor Versluis' earlier post on designers NOT aiming to "educate" their clients. What to do, then, if the client asks for Comic Sans or Papyrus? And, really, how does one keep from scoffing?

I first became aware Comic Sans when I was eleven. I think. I selected it in bright blue and used it when chatting with my friends. That was almost ten years ago. Is it (just) a cute, whimsical, easy-going font and can it be used on the occasional sign, if the sign is for a WACKY EXTRAVAGANZA... for kids? I keep staring at the lettering, really noticing the inconsistent kerning, and it seems like a very toned-down Marker Felt situation... oh no. Is that bad? Is that bad? Should this be banned from Dordt's campus? Should elementary ed. majors still be allowed to use it?

"It makes it look silly."

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Binary Designers?

At Dordt College students interested in graphic design are art majors with a graphic design emphasis. That means, that in addition to taking four dedicated graphic design courses, students also take some required studio fine art courses, a business marketing course, as well as other studio art and art history electives along with a rigorous liberal arts core curriculum. Often times, a graphic design student will say, “I like graphic design, but what I really like is studio art (painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, or sculpture)—fine art allows me to be self-expressive.” When students become juniors and seniors I offer them an individual study in order to develop their portfolios. Together, we begin the process of systematic exploration and review their body of work from all of their studio classes and determine where their work is strong and what areas need improvement. Some students seem to apologize and ask me “Can I include fine art with graphic design in my portfolio?” “Are clients interested?” “Yes,” I respond and further add that although art and design are different they are very much related. The choice between the two is actually a false dilemma because there is so much common ground.

Why do students seem to have the attitude of the two art sub-cultures? Why this tension? The perception of fine art as more noble than design (graphic design), is a Romantic notion going back to the Renaissance, a notion that has found it’s way to today’s North American college campuses—Christian colleges included. Does this attitude come from the academic liberal arts tradition? Where do the lines of art and design cross?

Calvin Seerveld starts to provide an answer with his working definition of art: “a well-crafted artifact or act distinguished by an imaginative quality whose nature is to allude to more meaning than what is visible/audible/written/sensed….”

How does Seerveld’s art definition work in design? Actually, graphic design, web design, interactive design can be considered artifacts or acts of communication distinguished by an imaginative quality that is visible/audible/written/sensed.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


Welcome to the Dordt College AIGA student group blog.

You may post your thoughts and ideas about design and culture either serious or amusing or both. Obviously, the success of ‘the blog’ depends on your active ongoing contributions. This was an idea that was suggested as a way to socially network as a group.

My goal is to include all members of the Dordt community who are students, teachers, and practioners of design and interested in discussing the multifaceted discipline of art, design and culture. This includes not only students and faculty but alumni as well. I’m particularly interested in discussing design and culture from a Christian faith perspective.

Thanks to Paul for producing this blogsite for us.

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