New Brief: Manifesto

Following on from our visit from designer Anthony Burrill, our studio was given a new major brief to tackle. The idea was to look at artist manifestos and to effectively create our own, with a minimum of 16 pages to be ultimately bound to the work of all the other students. The work was to end up A4 in size, with the duplicate versions being in black and white to save on printing costs.

The funny thing is: I’d meant to create a manifesto of sorts last year after looking at Lawrence Weiner’s Declaration of Intent. I think I have a clear understanding of the kind of work I what my name associated with. At the very least, I have clear preferences.

My desire for the manifesto was to devote one page to one ideal to strive for. Two major influences were the Make Good Art book of a speech Neil Gaiman gave and a book of posters by one Anthony Burrill. 

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One spread from Neil Gaiman’s book of his speech ‘Make Good Art’

Angharad Lewis, one of the studio leaders, brought this book in from her own collection to show the class. Whilst I’m sure Gaiman made all the words with his mouth, I remain unsure if he is responsible for the design and layout of the book. 

What I tell you next will give you a very large insight into how I perceive graphic design and it’s use. After Angharad showed everyone the book and left it in the studio, I immediately went and read it. I know Neil Gaiman from having read The Sandman, a comic book series he wrote in the eighties or nineties, which is still, to this day, of of the finest examples of comics to show some of the inherent potential of comic books as a medium, which are mostly being squandered in the endless repetition of superhero stories (and don’t get me wrong, I love Batman, the Hulk and all that madness, but they keep rebooting the franchises because they’re diametrically opposed to progress, growth and consequence in all their storytelling). I read Gaiman’s words, I absorbed their meaning, took his points to heart, and then observed they way they had been visualised on the page. This is the way I look at graphic design. To me the accurate dissemination of pertinent information is the core function of ‘graphic design’ in the traditional sense. Aesthetics are secondary.

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Another spread from Gaiman’s book. At least I know if design doesn’t work out for me, I’ll always have my prowess as a hand model to fall back on.

Consider the following works of Burrill below and how they get their point across.

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Anthony Burrill poster 1
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Burrill poster 2. Best. Caption. Ever.

To say there are no design elements in these examples of Burrill’s work would be incorrect, even comparatively speaking, in reference to the book above. However, there is clearly a much stronger focus on the message and it’s beauty. If the layouts in Make Good Art artfully speak, then Burrill’s work boldly shouts from atop a mountain. I lack the experience or, right now, the patience, to design in such a way as the above book, so I decided that my starting point for my manifesto would focus on a more Burrill-istic approach. In a rare situation for me, I actually remembered to show my process as I was doing it. It will become apparent that my skill with text is, shall we say, in it’s infancy, but so what? If Pianists were afraid of playing badly there would be no pianists at all!

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‘Do it now.’ The most direct way to push myself away from my habitual procrastination.
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I think this works, however I do find it much harder to have the confidence in layouts than I would have with illustration proper
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The behind message says ‘do it again’ and I’ve crassly superimposed ‘but better’ over it. The message is strong, the delivery, however…
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The amount of negative space you leave in an image is proportionate to your confidence in the design. So am I at mostly 50/50? Hmm…
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Because no trip to photoshop is complete without the obligatory Gradient effect and/or drop-shadow text. Don’t all groan at once or you’ll push the planet off it’s orbit
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Did you see what I did there?
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I find it very difficult to feel that any kind of layout work like this adds much value…

They say good design is about using the least amount of tools to get your point across unhindered, so putting ‘again’ there three times seems somewhat superfluous to me, but all art is subjective, so the law of averages dictates that all of those versions will find approval from someone.

The most important thing, though, is to have versions. Even if it merely proves you had your best idea first. Having such ground work gives you more confidence going forward and alternatives to consider later. While it’s still fresh in your mind, now’s a good time for you to google Gaiman’s Sandman and then read it. I read mine from my local library, but if you like your ‘free’ with more immediacy and the vague aftertaste of flouting piracy law, you will no doubt have no trouble finding the seminal work online. You’re welcome.

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