Wednesday, October 29, 2008


this past sunday night i was extremely anxious about an assignment. (something i usually steer away from admiting.) all for this final picture. and a whopping five minutes of individual critique.

for gd 1, bernard asked for stories to relate to words in our expressive type project. (a project that began with another maddening 30 words x 30 sketches type thing.) and, seemingly, the more bs in the story the better. out of five final ideas/stories/words, i decided to go with "panic" and do something with lists. it was easy (at first) and i knew i could do it well (where the comfort zone comes in.) it wasn't until this last phase of development that i realized i was stuck with something stagnant.

i asked tara for help on this one. i had emailed bernard last week an orderly picture of a to do list with panic written on my hand. i saw nothing to be concerned about with it. it was a good piece of design. his response? make the list longer. write sloppier. mispell things. take away the student context. get rid of the check boxes. which was exactly tara's reaction. i am so used to keeping it all together, that even when i should be allowed to panic, i put up this front of calm and order. and have been, for this most part, unaware that this is how i work.

an hour or so later, and after tara helped me devise a stress simulation for stephanie to write out a list of things to do, i went back in my room and set up the lighting and re-drew the word on my hand and started taking pictures. until tara came in and stopped me again. i still had way too much control. (puts "let go" in a different light. but that's another tangent...) she started dumping my carefully color coded pen cups and throwing my books around. and there i had it.

it was a small art school milestone for me. first, i usually don't ask for outside help or opinions. i don't know quite how this idea developed, but i came here thinking that you should push yourself to discover the solution on your own. i didn't factor in the fact that you inevitably end up going in circles in your head and an outside opinion becomes desperately needed. but i'm getting better with that all. and i know that i am being pushed out of my comfort zone here. such arbitrary design is not my cup of tea. but i hope that eventually what i will develop is a way of designing that falls somewhere between simple and straightforward (and usually cliche) and totally random. i'm thinking a lot about hashing out the details of what makes my approach to design unique. (i started a word document a few days ago for a personal design manifesto.)

here's something related/unrelated that i jotted down a few days ago. just some more thinking out loud. (kind of the point of the blog to begin with...)

you learn a lot about who you are as an artist by analyzing other artists you like. for me, i struggle with feeling guilty for making art void of intention, and i put this pressure on myself to make art with a purpose. so much so that the process is forced and the purpose becomes fake. (like using "we are the world" as a rallying cry. i don't ever want the stuff i do to come off like that.) but when i think of music i like to listen to (sufjan stevens, kanye west) it's stuff that has subtle undertones of scratching at something bigger. because music/art gives you the venue to do that in a creative investigative state (ambiguity over the limits of analyzation.) and i realize that i would like my body of work to be seen in the same light. as overall moving towards something more meaningful that pure art, but without loosing perspective. or forgetting that i should be having fun with it. ultimately you want to enjoy what you do, and any impact it prompts will be an added bonus. (and coming from a more genuine place.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

great halloween lantern parade

a picture from the great halloween lantern parade this weekend. a pretty cool spectacle of community and costumes and lights in patterson park. (oh, and stilt walkers.) nana projects has been holding workshops for the past month or so (which have pretty much taken over tara's life as a cap intern...) and anyone can come construct a lantern out of tissue paper and bamboo to carry in the parade. i guess i don't really know how baltimore does halloween, but it was cool to see something focused more on creativity and less on getting candy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the book thing

this morning the roomies "quested for the best" bookstore in baltimore. (courtesy of chris and student activities.) it was my first time going to the book thing, daedalus, and the ivy book store. (listed in order of price...) the book thing was by far the best. (free!) i felt guilty for grabbing so much. until a volunteer assured me that they encourage greediness. great. we filled a box (and all our purses) with some great titles for our growing little library. "the book of lists", "signers of the declaration", "towards a better world", "baltimore city code" circa 1950, "on learning to plan - and planning to learn", "jackpot!", "the riot report", "nos amis", "political development and changing societies", and "principles and practice of urban planning." (to name a few.) the first thing kallie and i did when we got home was put them into a color spectrum.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

social studies

some notes from the social studies conference
(i apologize for the hierachy, or lack thereof, in this one.)

-the biggest danger is not teaching the craft. creativity will come as the challenge arises. we don't have to worry about that. the biggest danger is lack of vision.
-be open to what you didn't necessarily train for. go outside the field.
-this is where knowing how to kern means nothing. this is all about being a creative thinker.
-walk to participate in daily life. to disengage from constant productivity. walk for fresh air.
-face to face sometimes makes for more distance.
-what's the difference between a forager and a looter? a patriot and a shooter? it's all in the marking, my friends. it's all in the marketing.
-it's not about building rome, but building the bricks for someone else to build rome.

because this was a conference for design educators, there were different teaching goals that kept popping up. there was a presentation on "designing the next paradigm" that did a good job summarizing what skills in particular design educators should be fostering in students today:
-relinquishing control (what's the point in a beautiful rag when someone can just ctrl+ or ctnl-)
-handling complexity
-designing for participants not users
-thinking critically (filtering through information overload into something clear & useful)
(and then how exactly they should go about promoting the above...)
-dump the simple to complex method
-remove the idea of ownership
-allow students to lead sometimes
-instill social responsibility
foster a broader education

it's nice to see the flip side of the coin, and know what i should be demanding from my classes. and don't quote me on this (ever) but it did make me (kinda) want to be a teacher. just because i started thinking in my head what my design philosophies are, and how cool it would be to be able to pass them on in a classroom. a lot of what the presenters got at reminded me of an article, "what your students want, even if they don't know it yet," that i stumbled upon through the project m lab website. (it's labeled "future history", the link is under "articles.") and a lot of the strategies the article suggest actually reminded me of finding baltimore.

and, finally, some scott stowell genius:
-i don't want to make something that i don't want to exist, or help people i don't want to help (on choosing projects)
-i want to make videos for people that hate jazz. you already have the jazz fans. what about the people that have been dragged here by their spouse? we want to get you more fans. (on target audience for the jazz at lincoln center videos)
-try to work on something more than you are allowed to. (on working with clients)
-hire people that are better than you. (on building a team.)

(personal notes: this conference made me want to stop using trade gothic. and made me appreciate bernard's demand to "tell me a story." because without that presentations suck.)

design (re)affirmation

after sitting through a day (plus some) of the social studies design conference ("educating designers in a connected world") being put on by the mica graphic design mfa guys this fall break, i am reassured more than ever that design can move mountains. even if it is by simply going back to the basics and designing a poster with a purpose. a message. i've been taking so many notes, but for now i just want to share a link, beautiful angle, that was suggested to me by someone during the conference. it's two artists in tacoma, washington who are using letterpress to design a discourse in their city. i can't think of a better connection between all of the design educator's discussions at the conference and my own focus right now on community arts/social design/urbanism by way of "studio baltimore." (scott stowell aside. obviously.) some really good stuff and thoughtful words.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

beautiful losers

i just saw a movie that made me smile. really smile.

it was part of the fall film series here at mica. every tuesday at 7 pm they show something different. usually no one goes. people are busy. other things (like projects and papers and paintings) are more important. i didn't go to any last year (not counting helvetica...) and i regret it. laurie, my book arts teacher, has brought up many times how these things (visiting artist lectures, film screenings, symposiums, etc.) are the gravy of going here. they're pretty much thrown in your lap. (never again will it be this easy to just show up at something and be creatively nourished.) she reassured us that when we look back at our education, those will be the things we remember. you never know when something might strike a chord with you and push you in another direction or give you a boost. and it shouldn't be that hard to carve an hour and a half out of your week night.

tonight falvey was packed. the film was called "beautiful losers."

BEAUTIFUL LOSERS celebrates the spirit behind one of the most influential cultural moments of a generation. In the early 1990's a loose-knit group of likeminded outsiders found common ground at a little NYC storefront gallery. Rooted in the DIY (do-it-yourself) subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip hop & graffiti, they made art that reflected the lifestyles they led. Developing their craft with almost no influence from the "establishment" art world, this group, and the subcultures they sprang from, have now become a movement that has been transforming pop culture. Starring a selection of artists (barry mcgee, ed templeton, margaret kilgallen...) who are considered leaders within this culture, Beautiful Losers focuses on the telling of personal stories. It speaks to themes of what happens when the outside becomes "in" as it explores the creative ethos connecting these artists and today's youth.

it made me fall in love with color even more. and made me want to just grab a huge white wall and go to town with some house paint. above all, listening to the brilliant artists reminded me not to take myself so seriously. "it's just all such nothing." and at the end of the day if you want to see something made, you just gotta make it yourself.

go rent it. it's worth it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

practice voting for something a little less heavy

check out the designs that have been nominated for the people's design awards at the cooper-hewitt and cast a vote or two. it's part of their national design week, which i guess actually starts today!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

visionary thinking

today i took a group to the american visionary art museum (part of my little "museum a month" series as a program manager.) they had just opened their new exhibition, "the marriage of art, science, and philosophy." and after being blown away by the last one ("all faiths beautiful") i was a little disappointed. the things that were so engaging before, like the wall text in particular, seemed to only be re-canned (the fonts were exactly the same), just with different content. i was able to get some awesome quotes. but, unfortunately the experience felt like nothing new. (i hold my praise for innovative exhibitions that flawlessly combine the two.)

spending less time at that exhibition did, however, give me the chance to venture over to a building of the museum i had never looked in before. upstairs was a small installation about jim rouse, a maryland urban planner. seeing this social visionary among the artistic visionaries shown in the rest of the museum (outsider art, obsessive compulsive creations, prison art) was a suprise. and much more up my alley. a social visionary, as defined by avam, champions and furthers what is best about being human. that simple. that huge. i sat infront of this wall text and copied it word for word. i love when i find a "manifesto" like this that says so much in such a straightforward way.

1. expand the definition of a worthwhile human life.
we must hold fast to the realization that our cities are for people and unless they work well for people they are not working well at all. as the peopl of the world learn what is possible, they will demand that their cities be geared to the humane and the beautiful.

2. engender respect for and delight in the gifts of others.
surely the most civilized city would be one in which the dignity of the individual human being would be so elevated that the bringing forth of his gifts and talents for his own fullfillment in the service of man would be the ultimate objective.

3. increase awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life for all - particularly students.
approach the world out there confidently, optimistically, with brilliant expectations. it is a world full of exciting opportunities beyond anything that you can imagine. i envy you your futures. pay no heed to the no-sayers, the preachers-of-gloom, and the heavy hearted who see the world dismally.

4. encourage each individual to build upon his or her special knowledge and inner strengths.
thus, the most important single fact is that we have in our hands the opportunity to make our city - in our generation - the most livable, the most beautiful, and the most effective city in america.

5. promote the use of innate intelligence, intuition, self-exploration, and creative self-reliance.
the best way to attack any problem is to ask what things would be like if they worked.

6. confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.
the way to find new opportunities is to discover needs or yearnings of people that are not being satisfactorily met. the way to prosper is to do that well.

7. empower the individual to choose to do that something really, really well.
for many years i have worked with the conviction that what ought to be, can be, with the will to make it so. may we rise up in this country in an army of thinking that this job aught to be done, can be done, will be done.

-the seven educational goals of the american visionary art museum, with wisdom from jim rouse.

i finally met with mike patterson on friday to share my leadershape project/vision. i mentioned it briefly before, but never really explained what the thought was. here it goes (this is from my leadershape "breakthrough blueprint"):

i want to create a future where mica students and baltimore communities are connected. where students are challenged to break the mica bubble and bridge the gap between art for arts sake and art that makes things happen. i plan to implement a program (using the "finding baltimore" foundation elective as inspiration) that gives the entire student body the opportunity to explore a batimore neighborhood in three stages. 1. visiting the neighborhood/debriefing the experience. 2. developing a plan of action. 3. returning to the community and implementing something that initiates change.

that's my project. distilled to its simplest elements. there is a lot more that i won't get into right now. before i could let myself start to really pin it down and putting it on paper, i was kept getting hung up on branding. what the heck do i call this? how do i sum it all up? the first idea out of mike's mouth? "studio baltimore." and that's it. perfect. i feel like things are ready to come together. especially after stumbling across the above words at avam. and getting an email from donaghy with this link to ideo's design for social impact guide. and finally sitting down to watch the wire last night. i'm excited to start fleshing it all out.

good timing for a fall break...

ps. here's a little glimpse into my crazy color mind. why orange? it's the color of my dorm walls in the gateway. the color of the post titles on this blog. the color of the couch in the wire. it's the color of the crab in the new baltimore logo. it's part of the extended palette of the new mica logo. and it was my class color in high school.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

new york times boot camp

today in type we did a little something ellen likes to call "the new york times bootcamp." the idea is that we come into class, and she gets a call at 10 am from some one at the new york times who tells us the topic of tomorrow's op-ed article. and then we design a black and white image to accompany the piece. by 2 pm. things were a little less stressfull this time around, ellen actually found out last night that we would be illustrating for letters readers sent in responding to an editorial about genetically altered animals. ("Coming to a Plate Near You.") it was really quite fun to work on something with other people around, and with a real world deadline. check out the class flickr to see what everyone else came up with. ellen should know tonight what design has been selected for print!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

mica t-shirt design contest

graphic design could use more puffy paint. i can't think of a better technique to keep the ocd from taking over. (not to mention it's available in neon and glitter. no rgb combo can give you that look.)