April 29, 2006 Comments Off on Drawing and Design
Drawing is the point of contact in which idea begins to approximate form.
There is a kind of transcendent energy in the sketchbook, or the tissue,
or even the napkin upon which the simplest of doodles begins its long,
twisted road to realization. It’s all grist for the mill, and the studio
is its incubation chamber: not the studio with the white board and the IT
guy and the phones ringing and the incessant emails, but the studio in
which the ideas seek, and ultimately start to find, their burgeoning,
fledgling form. Cezanne once wrote that the painter must enclose himself
within his work, and it is true that such investment — physical,
spiritual, and deeply intentional — is, in fact, what making work is all
about. But as the public’s media appetite moves further away from the
dreamy landscape of imagination (think Reality TV and confessional
memoirs) the danger for design, I think, is imminent. Sure, design serves
a pragmatic need, but that doesn’t mean its point of departure needs to
position itself so firmly in the realm of logic, does it? Drawing, as the
primary gesture of making, reopens the doors of the imagination and
recasts the process as something completely different. Scary, because you
don’t always know where you’re going. But somehow, you know when you get
There’s time, later for logic, for editing, for justifying all that type,
for putting up those responsible roadblocks that we all must, on some
level, choose to embrace. The studio, at least a little piece of it, is
not the place for such duty-bound thinking. Somewhere, somehow, it must be
the place for thinking through making.
But don’t take my word for it: the only way you’ll know for sure is if you
turn off your phone, pick up a pencil and try it yourself.
Design Observer: The Art of Thinking Through Making Jessica Helfand
April 24, 2006 Comments Off on Learn WordPress 2
April 23, 2006 Comments Off on Explaining Art
I am asked to talk about my art sometimes. I sense that hunger for
understanding within the audience. I used to feel pressurised to come up
with answers to satisfy that hunger. I have learned that it can lead to me
coming up with hurried and spurious interpretations of my own work.
Such is the status that meaning can have over feeling that I bow to the
pressure and engage what Steven Pinker calls the “Baloney Generator.”
This is our rational self that is so uncomfortable with the potential
ambiguity of an emotional motivation that it will try to pin things down
with desperately formulated rationales. The cleverer we are the better we
are at making up more convincing meanings and reasons.
Nowadays I employ a more open strategy and talk about the things I was
looking at and thinking about when I was making a particular piece and
leave it up to the audience to make their own direct connections. This
feels more satisfying and true than any nailed-down explanation.
Trust your own reactions, don’t seek enlightenment
April 17, 2006 Comments Off on Recent design education and process discussions
Still, nothing changes the fact that the computer ≠ design.
Even that early on, I knew that design was about more than getting funky
glasses and flipping through type magazines–It had everything to do with
the idea. How could you effectively explore or begin to develop an idea
without first scratching down some thumbnails and messing about?
Creativity on the computer has become a philosophical question for me. I
have a background in fine art and I’ve been around long enough to know the
difference between drawing with a conte crayon and finessing a bezier
curve with a mouse. There is something lost between the artist working
late into the night with paintbrush and furious passion, to the ‘group
mind’ connect the computer provides. It all becomes just a little
homogenized when individual passion is watered down in the endless ocean
of surfing. More than enough phish in the sea.
I remember when art was actually a required part of public school
curriculum. Not that it was great in all cases, but it was there. Now
teaching technique supersedes teaching critical thinking in American
education. I teach symbolism as visual literacy for designers, which you
might think would be of interest to many aspiring designers, but my
classes are small compared to the newest software bells-and-buzzer
offerings enough of the time to know the priorities have shifted. Even
with consistently high student evaluations for what they learned in my
class over many consecutive years, enrollment is not what it should be and
schools promote computer training well over design philosophy instruction.
And my own training? Finding available classes or workshops in esoteric
studies such as semiotics or sacred geometry are virtually non-existent in
this country. Do a search on Google, you’ll see what I mean. So I read and
conjecture a lot. And I use, God forbid, intuition and my own experience
as teaching tools.
April 12, 2006 Comments Off on Blog Birthday