Sunday, October 20, 2013

“Time well spent”—an I-29 barn-storming tour and a well-crafted workshop with Rick Valicenti: “Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career”

Vermillion, South Dakota—9 October 2013: A group portrait taken of Dordt College and University of South Dakota workshop students with Rick Valicenti (center), Professor Young Ae Kim is on the far right (with hands on knees) and Dordt graphic design professor David Versluis is standing on the far left.

Rick is listening to a question from a student while others in the background are putting up their posters on the wall. Just behind Rick stands Young Ae Kim who’s the graphic design professor at USD.

Dordt senior students are recreating their posters from memory using traditional cut and paste collage methods. A USD graduate student is in the background working on his collage.

From October 8–10 Rick Valicenti, founder and design director of Thirst, was at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa for a barn storming tour of the area. The evening of the October 8, Rick gave a presentation titled “Time Well Spent” to the AIGA South Dakota Chapter at the University Center in Sioux Falls. Rick spent the night in Sioux Center, Iowa at Dordt College. On Wednesday the 9th we drove Dordt students to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion for a day long workshop with USD graphic design students. Then it was back to Dordt College for an evening encore (with slight changes) presentation of “Time Well Spent”. On Thursday the 10th Rick sent most of the morning touring Dordt’s campus and shared his insights with art and design students during the student Senior Seminar class.

The day-long workshop at USD was titled Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career. Thirty-five design students participated with Rick for a productive, thoughtful, and reflective time together.

Here’s Rick’s entire syllabus for the workshop (published below with permission), however, as the workshop unfolded it became apparent that students needed more time to (re)make their posters and adjustments were made and the original syllabus became more improvisational. The questions were asked by Young Ae Kim:

“Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career” a design workshop

What is the workshop structure?
At a high level it is a glimpse into the essential fact that being a designer is about being comfortable with NOT knowing where the next opportunity or idea comes from and how to embrace one’s own ability to nurture both opportunities and ideas throughout a lifetime. We will come to terms with the fact that others before us have navigated these waters and made wonderful work along the way.

On the practical level we will engage in the listening, responding, and then making process. This is the way of design.

  • What will we hear?—our inner voice and each other 
  • How will we respond?—intelligently 
  • What will we (re)make?—something meaningful, beautiful, soulful, and of course wonderful 
I am thinking we should listen to the past—the designers who have come before us. We will talk about their work, and in the end we will better understand what sensibilities we respond to and perhaps why we are moved by what they have brought into the world.

We will each re-make a poster design we have identified in as much exacting detail as possible using glue sticks to collage the color of pre-printed magazine pages or another printed matter. We can add colored tape, and anything else that seems relevant. Let it be know that we will be scribes bringing something from the past into the future. Our ability to get it exact will be our responsibility. We will be as precise as we can be given the tools at our disposal acting as if we are court stenographers or monks recording sermons. It should be good illuminating crafted fun.

It should be noted that we will not be able to look at the original once the process of replication begins. It will only reside in our minds eye during the making process. There will be no headphones AS OUR COLLECTIVE VOICES, SIGHS, BREATHING WILL BE THE ONLY SOUND that fills the room. Only serious play and focus will fill our two-hour making time. Each person will in essence be a human filter as they channel those who made this design before them.

The replication of something held close will be an act of creative respect, homage, and adoration. In doing so, we will serve as a human filter of the past welcoming it into the future all the while absorbing the vision, aptitude, and sensibilities of someone who came before us. In doing so WE WILL BE ONE WITH OUR SUBJECT.

This approach is different than the ubiquitous design school assignment of creating a poster ‘about’ a master designer or ‘in the style’ of that designer. This assignment is actually all about ‘being one’ with our subject matter which will be the thread that runs through my public lecture.

We will look, talk, see how close we came to the originals we replicated. We will make a few personal notes as to how it felt to channel someone else’s sensibilities and vision. We will assess our own personal creative stretch and growth. We will recognize our place in the continuum of designers. We will photograph our work and juxtapose it to the right of the original we will post this jpeg along with a closeup detail or two on a Facebook group page we make for the session. we will credit ourselves and we will acknowledge the original designer. we will send the Facebook post to our entire friend list. We will say goodbye to each other thanking them for sharing what will have been a most special day.

How do we prepare for this workshop? 
Think deeply about all of the poster designs they have seen and experienced throughout their life, in books, on the web, in the cineplex, wherever. Concentrate as to which of all these posters is THE poster design that moves them most. Collect thoughts as to why they are moved by this design.
  • Is it the composition? 
  • Is it the brilliant idea? 
  • Is it the color? 
  • Is it the typography? 
  • What is it that moves you? 
  • Research who did it, what year, what country, what firm, why, for what client, etc. 
  • Be prepared to discuss their discovery with the class. consider it a personal treasure on show and tell day. 
  • Before we meet capture an image of the poster. enlarge it in color at the highest resolution you can find. Bring a vertical 11" x 17" reproduction so we may hang it along with everyone else’s on the wall. Have a jpeg ready (see below) 
Trace the image understand everything you can about it know it as if you created it yourself by doing this you will get closer to being one with the subject.

What supplies are needed? 
Supplies will include: glue stick(s); x-acto blades 2-3 pieces of 15" x 20" (or larger) white illustration board; tape colored and/or clear gouache; brush magazines and printed stuff (START COLLECTING THEM NOW); no press type, no computer, no camera, no laser printer, no image making tools except their hands, eyes and mind however, each student will be encouraged to photograph their making process with a phone camera. Vine compilations of the making in time lapse are welcomed.

We will need a projector attached to a computer. a pdf of each poster from each student should be compiled into one multi-page pdf. each student sequence will be as follows:
  1. Slide 1: a black slide with their name in white set in any type face that best expresses who they are at any size and position on the frame. 
  2. Slide 2: a selfie 
  3. Slide 3: their favorite poster image 
  4. Slide 4: their second and third choices as one side by side slide repeat the sequence for the next participant 
Each student should be prepared to talk about their findings and listen to what the others have to say about theirs.

I always enjoy this time with students… let’s make it easy, fun, theatrical.

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