Craig Oldham is a great speaker and I really enjoyed his lecture this week. His definitions on his own work were interesting and helped me understand what designer as author can mean. I’m not sure wether I agree or disagree with the fact that what he does is not graphic design (Craig Oldham, 2021). When I think about a graphic designer, I think of someone who curates a variety of content, but also someone who produces content (e.g. a logo, a piece of copy, patterns etc.). Thus, a graphic designer could also be someone who writes a book. However, I also think Oldham’s question on wether he is an author who designs or a designer who writes (Craig Oldham, 2021), defines the difference between traditional graphic design (working for a client) and design entrepreneurship.
The fact that authorship is not about the design, but the content – what you write/photograph/illustrate (Craig Oldham, 2021), also helped me understand the term. When working on a self initiated project you are automatically saying something, and this differs from working for a client where it’s the client who speaks. This is perhaps also what’s difficult about authorship – you need to have something to say and dare to say it, which is not the case when working for clients.
Oldham’s case study also made me realise that you could potentially make a project based on anything. By researching the topic/object you could not only express a personal opinion, but link it to politics or paradigms. Take the banana, which Harriet used as an example in the webinar last week. By researching it as a symbol you might begin to comment on it’s usage in cartoons and it’s slippery effect. This might lead to you researching the origins of the banana as a humorous symbol and perhaps the world of comedy in general. However, you could also research shipping systems and how the shipping of tropical fruits to Europe effects the environment.
Anthony Burrill : Make It Now
Something I find very interesting about Burrill’s work is that it’s as if the process means as much as the actual outcome. The print created using a steam roller wouldn’t be the same work had it just been printed by a random printing house for example. I also think his documentation of the process is great to watch, and that the films themselves adds to the prints. The making of the prints are almost displayed as meditations, which is definitely not the case with traditional client based graphic design.
Burrill’s advice on using your hand coordination to do typography (Anthony Burrill, 2017) reminded me of my own explorations when creating my collaborative tool. This made me wonder wether I could explore tactility and materials in typography further for my brief 3 outcome. This could turn into a series of prints or perhaps a social media page that includes an online community.
In terms of design authorship I think Burrill’s slightly blunt approach to not wanting a job was insightful (Anthony Burrill, 2017). I absolutely with Burrill that it’s annoying being told what to do, and so I think design authorship is tempting in the sense that it might eventually offer a way out of the traditional working model.
The designer as author
Although slightly complicated at times, The designer as author offered a range of interesting questions on authorship. I particularly enjoyed reading about the auteur theory from film theory (Michael Rock, 1996). However, the point on consistency is a difficult one, since I think the perk of being a designer is that you get to work across multiple aesthetics and topics. If your work as a designer is self initiated, but varied, does that mean you’re not an author?
I can see that definitions for your practice is important in order to set goals and aspirations (Craig Oldham, 2021), but I also truly agree with the conclusion of The designer as author – that it’s not always about who made it, but rather what it does and how it does it (Michael Rock, 1996).
The FACE-O-MAT is a really fun project by illustrator, Tobias Gutmann who’s work I explored last week. Gutmann travels the world with the FACE-O-MAT which he uses to paint abstract portraits of people with, resulting in interpretations of the details of a face. I love that the project is based on a light hearted and genuine idea.
I started this week’s challenge by looking for designers who demonstrate authorial work as part of their practice. I was interested in finding a woman (following my investigations last week), but also someone from my town in order to analyse local opportunities. This led me to look at Jessica Walsh and Aslak Gurholt.
Aslak Gurholt is an interesting designer when discussing authorship as he has a very varied practice. Some of his projects are definitely authorial (like his book on Corona where he explores Corona as a symbol throughout history) as he writes and designs books and curates exhibitions. What I find most interesting about Gurholt’s works are his continuous designs for the record label Hubro and the publisher Flamme Forlag. Gurholt designs all covers for both clients, which has given the label and the publisher unique and cohesive aesthetics.
If we were to restrict authorial works to self initiated projects, Gurholt’s work for Hubro and Flamme Forlag wouldn’t be authorial. However, if we refer to the consistency in style and topics, mentioned in The designer as author, these works might be seen as authorial.
Either way, I think Gurholt’s ambiguous work, that is often seen in his self initiated projects, can be found in his client work as well, and thus I assume they are passion projects that feeds into his professional practice. He might use the self initiated work as inspiration for his client work, but the self initiated work might also help bring in clients.
Last week I used Walsh’s guide on self initiated projects as a source and I therefore thought she would be a good example for this week’s challenge. Judging by her guide, her personal projects emerge from her “shit list” where she writes down problems in her lives which she then tries to solve or comment on through design projects (&Walsh, 2019).
Although I wouldn’t have wanted to use myself like that, I admire Walsh’s project 40 days of dating. The project attracted 5 million unique visitors (&Walsh, 2015), which shows the potential of a self initiated project based on a good idea.
In order to come up with my 10 ideas for an authorial project, I decided to follow Walsh’s guide on creating self initiated project (explored last week). Walsh suggests to create a shit list with personal issues and annoyances in order to come up with solutions (&Walsh, 2019). I decided to start by doing this, in addition to noting down general interests. Afterwards I began to note down solutions and ideas from the established points. This led to a range of very different ideas, which resulted in me feeling slightly overwhelmed.
When my list wasn’t moving forward anymore I decided to do some research into my favourite points/ideas, in hope of refining the ideas further. The points/ideas I wanted to explore further was:
- Female graphic designers (why don’t I know any Norwegian female designers and should we do something about it?)
- Oslo’s archives (are there any historic collections to explore?)
- Web shops targeted towards creatives (selling prints, typefaces etc.)
- Zines (I thought about making a zine about typography, perhaps where I invite others to learn with me)
- Other “learn type” initiatives (for example 36 days of type and OHNO Type Co.’s type school)
- Personal projects that mix photography and graphic design (as I previously studied photography)
- Photo journalism stories (I would have liked to create a photo book that explores other people’s “friendship stories”)
- Graphic design without power (I’ve been reading Bill Gate’s book on global warming and how today’s world are deeply dependant on a continuous stream of power)
- From craft to type (following my collaborative tool the previous last brief, it could have been interesting to make a self initiated project where I create digital letters from crafted letters, for example on an Instagram or Tiktok account)
Webshops, zines and online spheres
I like the idea of setting up an online sphere that sells prints, typefaces, zines and so on. However, I’m not sure about what this sphere would be. I therefore decided to look at some examples.
I have looked at Pseudonym Publishing in a previous module, but wanted to do a revisit as they are very relevant for self initiated online sphere projects. The publishing house is a self initiated project by Oslo designers Halvor Nordrum and William Stormdal. They create and design zines, books, clothing and typefaces. As a person who finds it hard to commit to one thing, I love the idea of an online universe who creates a variety of outputs. They have a very coherent aesthetic which feels minimal, but also a bit ironic. The zines and books contains content on being a designer or creative (for example their magazine/zine, Pseudo, contains conversations between anonymous writers and photographers). The products are clearly targeted towards creatives, which is why I love that they’re selling typefaces.
In ways, Pseudonym almost becomes a collective or studio, where two designers explore a range of self initiated projects within one brand. The practice also feels very anonymous as they don’t have any photos of the creators or much mentioning about them at all. Perhaps they want to communicate a mysterious or exclusive vibe, or perhaps the creators just don’t feel comfortable with focus on themselves as people. Either way, their work is in focus, even on Stormdal and Nordrum’s personal IG accounts.
I discussed Printed Goods last week, and so I won’t go into too much detail. However, I wanted to revisit them as they play a huge contrast to Pseudonym. They have a warm colour profile and are very illustration oriented (Pseudonym is much more type oriented in their work, which makes sense as the duo seem to love type design). Printed Goods often share behind the scenes images of themselves on Instagram and their overall vibe seems more welcoming and inclusive, rather than mysterious.
Printed Goods seems to be targeted towards the typical millennial who’s got an interest for the spiritual.
Bonus: I love their Printed Goods Sounds series where they get a guest to create a Spotify playlist each month (accompanied by beautifully designed covers). This adds to the Printed Goods sphere, which is what I find really interesting about these projects – they are not just web shops, they are a unique world for people to dive into.
Sara Edstrom is a Swedish graphic designer who also runs a personal Instagram and blog. She sometimes sell prints and screen printed scarfs, as an addition to her commercial projects. I love how unregular it is, because this way of working seems to work well with doing full time work. However, I guess her ability to get customers depends on her successful gain of a digital community.
What could I do?
I like the idea of setting up my own webshop, but I’m also slightly unsure if that’s the place to start. As these spheres are in fact a collection of self initiated projects it might be a better idea to start off with one project, like a zine, a t-shirt series, a print series or similar. I also like the idea of creating an online sphere as a personal branding concept (similar to Sara).
Learning and discovering typography
One of my detected issues was that I find it hard to discover new typefaces, but also to learn about creating my own letterforms. This led to the idea of making a project which could help other designers who are having the same issues, whilst also learning and discovering myself. Below are some of my inspirations on this point.
36 days of type
36 days of type is great because it lets individual designers learn through making, at the same time as inspiring others by sharing results from participants online.
Perhaps I could do a similar challenge, but with crafts. Each day throughout a month, participants could use a craft (stated in the challenge) to make a letter.
OHNO Type Co. Type school
The typography foundry, OHNO Type Co., has previously done an amazing type school on Instagram, which has also been made into a book. I have used the principles a lot when trying to learn about letterforms, and I love the tone of voice in the work as well as how much info the school provides.
What could I do?
As I’m not that good at typography I think I would have to create a “learn with me” project if I was to “teach” others about typography. I’ve previously had the idea of making a zine series that explores typeface categories. This would mean me learning a lot about type categories as I would have to write the zines. I’m not sure wether this project would be too ambitious with my current skillset, as well as the timeframe for this project. However, I also think it could be interesting to do a more low key version, perhaps through posting on Instagram, where I take one type principle, create a letter using the principle and share what I learned through a final outcome (+ process imagery).
Although it wasn’t a specific idea, I wanted to look at archives to see if I could find any interesting stories or artefacts (inspired by Paul’s presentation in last week’s webinar). I used Norways “Digital museum”, which is a collection of digital archives from various museums across the country. In order to find projects I browsed random collections, but I also searched for packaging as I wanted to find some graphics.
I found so many beautiful packaging examples, and I think it could have been a great idea to do a project on “Norwegian packaging”. This could have been a book or perhaps an exhibition for graphic designers.
The archive also had a huge range of Norwegian banners (I’m not entirely sure if this is the right word in Engligh, in Norway we call them “Fane”). These are used in our national day parades, but I also discovered ones that were more political, which I assume were used in protests back in the day. The motifs and typography are very unique and I think looking at Norwegian banners could lead to a beautiful book that could speak about Norwegian history (perhaps focusing on the working class and our journey towards today’s political system).
In a collection of old technology objects I found this “Thinking box” which was used in a trivia TV show where participants had to sit inside the box answering questions. I think the thinking box is a super strange concept, which could be used in an experiment. Perhaps I could build a portable thinking box (in a similar way to Gutmann’s FACE-O-MAT) which I invited people from the public to go inside. The box could contain pen and paper and the people inside could be invited to write down an idea (about anything that would come to mind). The result could be interpreted by me through drawing or prototype and be exhibited through social media, a book or an exhibition.
Through a random folder in the digital archive I also discovered how beautiful some of Norway’s old power plants are. The image above is from Tinfos, a power plant based on the border between Russia and Norway, that was built during the cold war (Kraftmuseet, 2020). This history is interesting in itself, and the colours in the interior are amazing. I also discovered that there’s a beautiful power plant in the small island where by grandfather is from, which could have been interesting to explore in terms of family history.
Power plants are also an interesting phenomena to look at in terms of global warming. I have been reading Bill Gates’ book about global warming lately, and this has got me interested in the ways our world gets electricity and how it’s such an important thing to look at in order to get to zero. The beauty of the power plants above become interesting when looking at how our need for electricity is in fact a huge issue when discussing the future of humanity, which becomes a contrast to the sweetness of the above interior aesthetics.
Since I used to study photography I think it could have been fun to do an interdisciplinary project where I combine photography and design. This could be as simple as combining them on posters and other purely visual outcomes, but the skills could also be used for a photo journalism project.
On his instagram, Jack Forrest creates posters and billboards using typography and photography. Since I like to photograph, I think it could be really valuable for me to create hypothetical design outcomes using my own photographs. This could force me to play with layout, and I could also use the material as self promotion on social media. The instagram account, prettycoolstrangers does a similar thing.
I also think simply layering graphic elements and photography could be a nice way of making myself experiment with shapes and letterforms.
After doing the research and reflections above, I went on to summarise the material into my final 10 ideas.
1. A webshop / online sphere
A personal webshop where I can produce and sell prints, prints on vintage tees, typefaces and other artefacts. This idea needs further work on tones of voice and messaging and should reflect myself as a designer and human.
2. Learn typography
In order to become better at custom typography I would explore one typography principle through a visual outcome every week. If I was to make a public project I would also include process imagery and any lessons learned.
3. From craft to form challenge
A typography challenge, using a similar method to my collaborative tool. The challenge would be similar to 36days of type, but rather than making one letterform each day, participants would create letterforms or shapes inspired by a specific craft or material.
4. Norwegian packaging history
An archive project where I would curate historic Norwegian packaging with a focus on graphic design. This could be an online project, but also a book or an exhibition.
5. Norwegian banners (Faner)
An archive project exploring the visual language of Norwegian banners, but also the Norwegian political history and the banner as a symbol and it’s meanings.
6. Thinking box
I would build a portable box which people would enter. Inside the box they would find pen and paper, and they would be asked to take note of an idea. I would interpret a selection of ideas through prototypes and sketches which could be presented online, in a book, or in an exhibition.
7. Norwegian power plants
Through visual documentation and political reflections I would comment on the contrast between the beauty of Norwegian power plants and the issues related to power and global warming that we will face in the future.
8. Interdisciplinary exploration
I would create one outcome every week where I combine my analogue photography with graphic shapes and forms. The outcomes could be posters, record sleeves, websites, banners etc., depending on the photograph. This would be a project where the aim first and foremost would be to practice and become a better designer, rather than a thematic project.
9. Friendship stories
A photo journalism project where I would photograph and interview friends in all ages, in order to explore how friendships emerge.
10. From nature to object
A zine or book series that explores how objects are made, from nature to final artefact. The project would attempt to remind people of the connection between the objects we own and nature’s resources. Objects to explore could be jeans, computers, chairs, bread, scissors etc.
This week has taught me that starting with a blank page can be slightly difficult. There are so many subjects to explore and I have found myself feeling overwhelmed and scared about choosing one topic. However (as I keep forgetting in the moment), it’s always a good idea to leave the work and come back to it at another time when having this feeling. After approaching my brainstorm ideas through research, I was able to come up with a range of ideas that I’m currently feeling quite excited about.
I absolutely loved browsing the archives of Digitalt Museum. Not only was I able to come up with several ideas from investigating it, I also collected a range of visual inspirations for the future. Next time I’m feeling lost or in need of an idea I will try to remember to revisit this website (or other archives).
If I had more time this week I would have liked to visit physical vintage shops and libraries, in order to collect more research and ideas. It also could have been interesting to interview someone about some of the topics. Further, I would have liked to perform experiments on some of ideas, for example by combining my photography with typography, looking into how objects are made, learning about type principles and testing them etc.
Moving forward I will have to decide on an idea to focus on, and at the moment I’m not quite sure which to go for. Either way, I’m excited to see what’s to come from the projects and I look forward to tackle a design task again after the previous, slightly more theoretical briefs.
Anthony Burrill (2017) Anthony Burrill : Make It Now. (Creative Mornings). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuaHeuzqKvE&ab_channel=CreativeMorningsHQ (Accessed: 2 August 2021).
Craig Oldham (2021) ‘Personal work and authorship in graphic design’. Canvas Falmouth Flexible [online], 30 July.
Kraftmuseet (2020) ‘Skogfoss kraftverk’, Digitalt Museum. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021098860782/skogfoss-kraftverk (Accessed: 5 August 2021).
Michael Rock (1996) ‘The designer as author’, Eye Magazine. Available at: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/the-designer-as-author (Accessed: 2 August 2021).
&Walsh (2015) ‘40 Days of Dating’, &Walsh. Available at: https://andwalsh.com/work/all/40-days-of-dating-/ (Accessed: 2 August 2021).
&Walsh (2019) ‘Creating Self Initiated Projects’, &Walsh, 15 July. Available at: andwalsh.com/articles/all/creating-self-initiated-projects/ (Accessed: 28 July 2021).
LIST OF FIGURES:
Figure 1. Craig OLDHAM. 2018. They Live: A Visual and Cultural Awakening. Rough Trade Books [online]. Available at: https://roughtradebooks.com/products/they-live-a-visual-and-cultural-awakening-various-authors-foreword-by-john-carpenter-edited-by-craig-oldham
Figure 2. Anthony BURRILL. 2017. Make it Now. Anthony Burrill [online]. Available at: https://anthonyburrill.com/showcase/make-it-now/
Figure 3. Tobias GUTMANN. 2012. FACE-O-MAT. FACE-O-MAT [online]. Available at: http://face-o-mat.com/
Figure 4. Aslak GURHOLT. 2014. Air Mail. Aftenposten [online]. Available at: https://www.aftenposten.no/kultur/i/Vvyp/dette-er-aarets-vakreste-boeker
Figure 5. SAGMEISTER & WALSH. 2015. 40 Daysof Dating. &Walsh [online]. Available at: https://andwalsh.com/work/all/40-days-of-dating-/
Figure 6. PSEUDONYM. 2020. Hamburger Tee. Pseudonym [online]. Available at: https://pseudonym.no/
Figure 7. PRINTED GOODS. 2021. METRONOMY. Printed Goods [online]. Available at: https://printedgoods.net/printed-goods-sounds-ep-4-metronomy/
Figure 8. Sara EDSTROM. 2021. Alfabetsvykort. Sara Edstrom [online]. Available at: https://sar.as/shop/alfabetsvykort/
Figure 9. Unknown maker. 2021. #36daysoftype08. [digital illustration]. 36days of type [online]. Available at: https://www.36daysoftype.com/ [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 10. OH NO TYPE CO.. 2020. Oh No Type School: S. Instagram [online]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/CB6A6Uqh9yQ/
Figure 11. Unknown maker. ca. 1950-1980. Light bulb. [light bulb in packaging]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021027973933/lyspaere [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 12. Unknown maker. ca. 1958-1990. Brattval skoles fane. [silk, wood, brass]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/011024065005/fane/media?slide=0 [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 13. Unknown maker. ca. 1950-1990. No title. [cotton]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021028549213/fane/media?slide=0 [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 14. Unknown maker. ca. 1961. Tenkeboks. [Oak, wood, plywood (oak and pine), textiles (different varieties)]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021027902331/boks [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 15. Unknown maker. 1964. Generator 2 i Skogfoss kraftverk. [power generator]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021018790255/generator-2-i-skogfoss-kraftverk-generatoren-er-mala-i-raud-og-gron-som [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 16. Unknown maker. 1912. The engine room in Tinfos II power station. [aggregate]. Digitalt Museum [online]. Available at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/021018557951/maskinsalen-i-tinfos-ii-kraftstasjon-dei-tre-eldste-aggregata-fra-1912 [accessed 5 August 2021].
Figure 17. Jack FORREST. 2021. Focus. Instagram [online]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/CMRweWHBP76/