Friday, February 19, 2010

outsourcing. crowdsourcing. freesourcing.

Illustration courtesy of Wired.

Does this sound familiar?
1. Announce a design project as a contest for prize money (winner take all).
2. Wait for college graphic design teams to contribute proposals.
3. Select the best one.

To my knowledge, the graphic design curriculum at Dordt College has always allowed for doing actual client work in order to gain experience. Perhaps I rationalize that this is okay because most college graphic design programs do it, and besides, other than internships, what better way is there for students to both gain experience and build their portfolios? Almost all of the projects Dordt has developed have been for non-profit organizations. Such projects have resulted in genuine service and learning as well as gaining program notoriety. We currently have a waiting list of project requests. However, we also select only projects that fit certain pedagogical criteria.

When I was practicing full-time as a free-lance graphic designer I felt uneasy when clients used students for professional services. As an instructor, on the other hand, I understand when students tell me that they value the client based projects they have worked on. Whether paid or not, however, I’ve sensed that some students have had questions about the practice of fulfilling client commissions.

I think there can be a fine line between design contests, spec work, and pro bono projects. I’ve abided the AIGA stance on “spec” work and with the exception of a few pro bono projects I’ve never taken on these types of projects. I have done so in order to foster a professional standard in the industry.

In a recent piece titled AIGA’s Response to NEA’s Call for Logos David Airey, a brand identity designer, raises questions about design contests as spec work. The comments to Airey’s post are very interesting too. (Thanks to Jamin Ver Velde, a follower of this blog for alerting me to David

This is from the AIGA regarding “spec” work:
AIGA believes that a professional association should not be a monolithic authority releasing edicts for all to observe. Rather, the ethics of a profession should emerge from its members, reflecting the tacit agreement of a profession on behavior that is deemed appropriate, respectful and honorable. An association may articulate the implicit standards of integrity, but it does not set them. And as social, professional and business conditions change, it is important to restate positions so they are relevant to the context in which they will be applied — in this case, the AIGA’s position on spec work.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage

Last summer, when Professor Roy Behrens ambitious book was published I asked our library to purchase a first edition, author-signed copy for Dordt’s collection. However, as soon as the book came in, out it went on inter-library loan to Virginia Tech University. Because the book has been on the road, it wasn’t until now that I’ve had a chance to read it.

Promotional copy from the publisher, Bobolink Books, states: “There is nothing else quite like this: The conclusion of 35 years of research, it features biographical articles on hundreds of artists, architects, stage designers, and zoologists—even automobile stylists and golf course planners—who contributed to military and/or natural camouflage in the 20th century. Enriched throughout by 344 illustrations, including photograph portraits, military photographs and documents, patent drawings, artworks and other images. It includes a comprehensive Camouflage Timeline, a 38-page bibliography of camouflage research sources, and in index.”

In high school I spent a lot of time in the library and found a book that interestingly described how some renowned artists during World War I painted designs on aircraft and artillery. A year later with a low draft number, a 1A classification and a freshman in college… I waited to be called-up for induction and military basic training. I thought that with my artistic ability perhaps I could paint camouflage for the Army rather than combat. Fortunately, the draft ended in early 1973.

Admittedly, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to get completely on board with the subject of camouflage, mainly because it brings me back to a time when I played army as a kid and frankly I find the military connotation to be disconcerting as well as making me think of the so-called Patriots on weekend training camps in the Michigan woods. On the other hand, the way living creatures in nature utilize protective coloring mimicry and body under-shading and background picturing is absolutely fascinating. This compendium conveys Behrens’ interest in camouflage like a naturalist studying the created world. For Behrens the import of studying camouflage is a thesis for how art and design communicates. In other words, what is the psychological impact of patterns, color, values, emphasis, scale, and space as the basis for visual language?

As is the case with Behrens’ other books, the “side bars” are always interesting and entertaining reading. In addition, one my favorite items is the camouflage “styles” and concordance listings.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Thinking About “Things” — Tuesday, March 2, An Evening With Philosopher, Mark Tazelaar

Photograph by Paul Hanaoka

An open AIGA Dordt College Student Group Event:
In 1960, for his piece titled Pilgrim, artist Robert Rauschenberg literally combined a chair with a painting in a way that challenges our assumptions about art. Was Rauschenberg negating the traditional dichotomy between the design of ordinary objects and fine art? Does Rauschenberg’s piece compel us to think about the function and meaning of things in a different way?

To help us sort through these questions we’ve asked Dordt philosophy professor Mark Tazelaar to be our guest presenter/facilitator. The event will be on Tuesday evening, March 2 at 7 pm. in the art department studio CL1223. Professor Tazelaar will lead us in discussion of philosopher Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) views about the nature of objects and things.

According to Professor Tazelaar:

“Heidegger talks about ‘things’ in many essays and lectures, from his earliest lectures in the early 20s to his final seminars in the 60s. The things he interprets are familiar, everyday things like tables, hammers, shoes, bridges, and jugs (It may sound odd to hear ‘interpreting a hammer or table’ — or maybe not. Artists and designers will probably have a better sense for the appropriateness of that word than a natural or social scientist will. In any case, I’ll have to talk a bit about that too.). In short, there is a wealth of material to draw upon. I'll restrict myself for the most part to two essays by Heidegger: ‘The Thing’ and ‘Building Dwelling Thinking.’ In these essays he talks a lot about the nature of a thing, focusing on jugs and bridges. Whether or not you agree with Heidegger, I can almost guarantee that you will not think about bridges, tables, jugs and milk cartons in the same way as you did before.”

All art, graphic design, pre-architecture, engineering, and philosophy students are encouraged to attend this event.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

A day with Kent McCuddin — Thursday, February 25

Kent McCuddin considers himself to be problem solver.

As a guest speaker and presenter, he encourages others to use creative intelligence and divergent thinking to solve problems and find better ways to accomplish bigger and better things.

On Thursday, February 25, he’ll be sharing insights with students and guests at Dordt College, hosted by Dordt’s AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) student group.

“The Creative Process to Developing Ideas” will be presented by McCuddin at 9:25 a.m. on Thursday in the Science and Technology Center, classroom SB108. At 2 p.m. he’ll explain methods of tapping into creative intelligence with the topic, “Divergent Thinking,” in lecture hall SB101. The public is welcome to attend both of these lectures.

Kent McCuddin is marketing manager in the Consumer Communications division of Wells’ Dairy Inc., Blue Bunny, based in Le Mars. He has extensive management experience in retail marketing communications, with expertise in art direction and as director of creative services. He serves the company in branding, advertising, SBU (Strategic Business Unit) communications, customer marketing, social and interactive media.

McCuddin will also speak to graphic design and marketing management classes during his day as guest speaker at the college.

Itinerary for Thursday, February 25:

8:00 am.
Marketing Management Class (including e-marketing students) in room CA 319
Topic: Social Media and how it applies to business.

9:25 am.
AIGA student group open event in room SB 108
Topic: The creative process to developing ideas.

11:00 am.
Lunch with students

12:25 p.m.
Graphic Design II in room CL 1310
Topic: History of graphic design.

2:00 p.m.
AIGA student group open event in room SB 101
Topic: Divergent thinking (tapping into Creative Intelligence to make ideas bigger and better).

McCuddin writes the following:
The magic is in the field philosophy.

Creativity is a matter of preparation and experience over genetically produced ideas. Creativity falls in the same category that Thomas Edison talked about when he said, “Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” 90 percent of the creative process is done before you start to generate ideas. Many times the only part of the creative process anyone ever notices is the final product and they assume you just thought it up. Short and sweet, wham, you’re a genius. The reality is it takes hard work to be that creative genius.

If you were to draw a line on a piece of paper to visualize the creative process timeline, you would need to draw a long line not a short line. The first 90 percent is prep time and the last 10 percent is idea generation.

Gordon MacKenzie best illustrated this process with a story about dairy cows. “Imagine dairy cows in a field eating grass. It may not look like much, but that field is where the magic happens, turning grass into milk. Not until the cows get in the barn do you ever see the product, milk. You can’t continually milk the cows and expect to get the same quantity and quality of milk with each milking. That cow needs to spend 90 percent of their time in the field hanging around eating grass before they can deliver their milk.”

The creative person needs time in the field before they can make their magic happen. They must first fill their brains with information, have time to process that information then they can start generating creative ideas. This information gathering may come from years of experience or one meeting to review a creative brief. But it must happen.
So the next time you see a glass of milk, remember, the magic happened in the field not the barn.

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