My Final Manifesto Images

Having been asked to create a 16 page manifesto, let me show you what I did, a few pages at a time.

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First page: my motivations, desires and hopes as an illustrator. The redactions are superfluous. No text lies beneath

A manifesto is a document by which others will understand your position within whatever it is you are aiming to contribute to. The most common use of the word ‘manifesto’ you will see will have ‘party’ written or said before it. Any serious political party has a manifesto, which outlines how they intend to govern better than their peers and, of course, if you know anything about politics, you’ll know that the promises contained in these manifestos are regularly broken. Irregardless, a manifesto shows potential supporters your aims and your idealised vision of the future. Mine is functionally a list of things to do that will make me better at what I do.

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Second page: Anthony Burrill style poster 1
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Third page. Burrill style poster 2
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Fourth page: a quote I try to live by. Final text based digital page

As I’ve said previously, the delivery of a powerful message is more important to me than it’s presentation per se, so I wanted to have a crack at big bold type placement with very little embellishment. The problem with this kind of work is that I can’t separate the time spent making it from it’s inherent value. These were made digitally, at no cost, with no risk of wasting materials or anything like that. Each one took less than an hour and any 8-year-old with an iPad could replicate them. So can I justify them? They say what needed to be said and actually, as I state in my opening page, quantity of output is more important to me. I don’t want to be that guy with two really good pieces, I want to be the guy where they’re like, ‘Wait, he did that as well? Where does he find all the time?

The quote from Ella Wheeler Wilcox seems out of place, but when you consider I originally took it to heart after hearing it in the Korean version of the film Oldboy, which is a subject of other pages, you’ll see why I included it in my personal manifesto.

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Page five. Oldboy series 1
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Page six. Oldboy series 2
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Page seven. Oldboy series 3
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Page eight. Oldboy series 4

Oldboy is one of my favourite films (again I must stress I’m talking about the Korean version) and a few years ago, I made what I call a reverse storyboard of the film. I basically illustrated a still image from the film every half minute or whenever I deemed it appropriate simply as an exercise in, well it’s not quite life drawing; let’s call it observational drawing, then. I consider it a coffee-table piece to enjoy having seen the film, a fun experiment to try and make sense of any of it, having not seen the film, and a subtle encouragement to go see the film. This project was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life and let me say this: if I could find a way to make myself reliably produce this kind of output, everything else would take care of itself. So I include it because this is an example of my ideals:’ Do it now (there’s work), do it again (there’s more work), do more (there’s even more work), be prolific (there’s even more work).’ and because it’s an example of me living by them.’Do it now (I did it then), do it again (I did it again), do more (I did more!), be prolific ( I did even more!).

I feel confident showing these pages because I know how much effort I put into the original artwork and no one can take that away from me even if these actual pages took the same amount of time to make as the text based ones prior.

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Page nine. Is that… Clownvis?!?

My work on this university course is brief led. Essentially, they tell us what to do and we do it. They encourage us to go around the brief, to find any excuse to shift it towards our own strengths and preferences and develop in a way of our choosing, so that it can’t be used as an excuse to make bad work. However, there is still a brief, which will revolve around a product; an end goal a ‘what‘ in the parlance of Simon Sinek, who gave a TED talk I mentioned in a previous post. The message of this poster is more like my personal why. I wish to amuse, entertain and inform (in that order). I will do this through storytelling, jokes and other entertaining discourse. I just happen to be using illustration and graphics as my medium.

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Page ten. Deconstruction in seven steps. A bull, then Picasso, and finally understanding of numbers

The above image was a stand alone piece that simply stemmed from what I thought was I good idea. I was doing something else when the phrase ‘deconstructed in seven steps’ came up. So, y’know Picasso = abstraction and Picasso = bull, so I abstract-ified an image of a bull in seven steps, then Picasso and then the comprehension of numbers. The final one might take a bit of explaining. Taken from the point of view of a westerner who doesn’t know Japanese, the first image is the kanji for one, two, three, four and five. The next is romanisation of those kanji, which I personally understand, knowing the spoken Japanese for one to five, then you have the english words for the numbers, which as an English speaker, you still understand, but they are still an abstraction and of course you only understand them if you know English. Then you have the numerical representations, which regularly transcend language barriers, followed by Roman numerals which, with the first three at least, you could potentially understand without being told. Then you have the counting of rocks, which even a caveman could do, (provided he had some way of internalising the process) and finally, counting, using your hands. Everyone has done this at some point, so I offer it as the simplest form of counting from one to five available. Still with me? No? Well, just read the paragraph again and it will totally make sense this time.

As it says, this was led by process, not a preconceived final outcome. I just did it and accepted the results without prejudice. This is something we students are always being encouraged to experiment more with. All too often, we will have an idea and do it instead of basically making a mess until something cool reveals itself. It can be very fun, but isn’t conducive to meeting deadlines… Still, I don’t wan’t to forget one of the few times I just ran with something and had a good time, so there it is.

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Page eleven. illustration 1
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Page twelve. Illustration 2
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Page thirteen. Illustration 3

Here, we have the flip side of the earlier stuff: full-on illustration. I frequently lament that my personal disposition towards silly nonsense isn’t present enough in my university work. I never had any intention of being a contemporary artist and challenging the status quo by crapping into an empty can of beans or whatever (by the way, someone did something very similar in the sixties or seventies, so that wouldn’t even be innovative). My goals were always about providing content that would allow for escapism more than advertisement, per se. As such, cartoon dogs are more my raison d’être than Bauhaus design (and my bank account will never forgive me for this). The problem with illustrations like the ones I like to do is that you don’t have the benefit of easy editing and significant altering. Of course, I mean comparatively speaking, to a text based digital work. I illustrate using photoshop, so while I can switch colour pallets and resize things and move things around, if something needs to be redrawn, I have to redraw it. None of the three pages shown are the original three pages I produced and while I’m not that good anyway, the ever-tightening noose of the deadline did mean I’ve ended up with work that, well, needs more work. Look at the Dog on the right in the last image above. He’s the dog on the right from the two pages above. It’s just a close-up. So where did that crowd above him come from? It’s from a previous version of the illustration I made, and with the rush to print for studio presentation, the wrong layers were visible, wires were crossed and mistakes were made. Still, this sort of no-second-chance illustration feels far more worthy of a time investment to me than the text based stuff. I know effort put in rarely equals perceived quality, when the observer doesn’t know exactly how you did it, but I know how I did it and whenever I judge anyone else’s work, a great deal of my appreciation will be distributed based on how difficult it would be for me or anyone else to replicate said work.

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Page fourteen. Cutout text 1
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Page fifteen. Cutout text 2
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Page sixteen. Cutout text 3

These are my final three pages (Yay!). As I’ve already said, I have reservations about the worth of (my) digital text creations, so I took some text, printed it out, went outside and stuck it onto the real world. So now we have higher costs, the element of risk finding the locations and how people passing by are going to react, the risk of damaging the cutouts and having to start again, the risk of doing a bad job placing the text and also the risk of taking bad photographs, since all I can actually show is the photographs of the work ‘cos I’m pretty sure someone would get upset if I took the walls away with me. Now this sounds a bit more like art to me.

And then I realise what a can of worms I’m opening up. The reason I’ve just said what I said is this notion that the work is only of value if it sets you apart from everyone else, and it isn’t so easy to reproduce. So is the value of art that not everyone can do it? But in 2016, with all the easily accessible knowledge and tools out there, anyone can make art. Good art too. Whatever that means. Y’know what? we’ll come back to that later.

The first image above is on a random wall, the second is on my front door and the third is in Brick Lane, East London, in a graffiti-filled alleyway. The first two didn’t really need explanation, but I feel I was unable to get the significance of the third one across. These are the only images I feel have been hurt by being in black and white. Probably the simplest solution is to use the colour photos and perhaps colour the dog illustrations so it becomes another variable in my work to make it a bit more diverse. Naturally, the point of these three pages is for me as a designer to become more involved with the text in the hope that it creates a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience for both me and the viewer and to offer a counter-balance to the digital text work at the start.

I think you’ve humoured me long enough. I hope my words have helped you grasp my thoughts and if you take nothing else away from this, take this: I like making jokes and being modestly entertaining. It is my goal to create entertaining work, in whatever medium I can manage and to incorporate my wit and (limited) wisdom into whatever I do. While my work will never be the best, I do hope you will enjoy what I make and come back for more. And when you do come back for more, that I will have more waiting for you.

Thank you. And go watch Oldboy (the Korean version) it’s the best film about #SPOILER ALERT# you’ll ever see!

 

Peter Kennard Exhibition at The IWM

We were asked to visit the Imperial War Museum’s retrospective on Peter Kennard, presumably to see the work of an artist who clearly has a point he wishes to get across in his work. I should rephrase that, since every graphic designer should have a point they clearly want to get across in each and every piece of work they do. Kennard’s body of work is clearly political in nature and reflects his personal opinions on the world we live in.

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Take a good look at her face. She may have seen herself this way, but the divisiveness her politics have caused during and since the eighties, rules out anything short of some sort of Cromwell-esk rebellion if this had ever happened

In his early work, his tools of choice were photo-montage and manipulation. A good couple of decades before photoshop gave ten-year olds the power to equal the output of professionals, Kennard was making it look easy, and more importantly, was becoming the voice for those who wished to let their feelings be known when it came to war, nuclear (dis)armament and the like.

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His imagery is almost crude in it’s directness. This is no doubt why it has such appeal

Kennard’s work is not difficult to grasp. When a missile erupts  from the planet like a bullet shot through an apple, the meaning is clear. Again with an armed soldier kicking the planet like a football, you don’t need a master’s in art history to figure out where he’s going with that.

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Welcome to the G8 indeed

Having gone to the Font exhibition previously, and having found it to be difficult to decipher without assistance and a great deal of desire to do so, I found Kennard’s work to be more agreeable. Now, I don’t want everything in the world to be instantly understandable, just as I don’t want everything to be contrived and confusing; it’s always better to have options. That said, if you asked me which exhibition I’d go back to, it would be Kennard’s hands down and that’s not just because his exhibition had more stuff there.

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Unfortunately, the message of these pieces feels poignant even now

Kennard’s work is a clear representation of his political views and is an excellent example of an artist defining himself through their work. This shows one way that we students, as we create our own manifestos, can show who we are through the work we make. 

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As Jeremy Corbyn takes flak from saying Britain doesn’t need Nuclear missiles in 2016, we really haven’t come very far, have we?

As time went on, Kennard moved away from photo-manipulation as the technology to make it easier came along. He then made some work of a decidedly subtler nature.

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Some of Kennard’s later work

The Reading Room section shows financial times broadsheets covered with the smudged, blurry faces of people one may choose to describe as disillusioned, which would be leading, but there you go. These broadsheets are placed on lecterns reminiscent of the ones Kennard remembers from libraries, growing up, that gave the papers a sort of gravitas. The room is a recreation of the original exhibition that took place at the Gimpel Fils gallery in 1997.

It juxtaposes the individual with the ever present international financial markets and the faceless statistics that we’re so used to today.

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One of the lecterns from Reading Room.

I do tend to gravitate towards black and white graphic illustration like this. Is it because any work that predominantly uses black reminds me of the comic books I like,  like Brian Bolland’s run on Judge Dredd, or Shogun Executioner by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima or because the simplicity is it’s strength, or because I think ‘Hey, I could do that, and not break the bank’? Who knows?

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One more for the road…

Irregardless, at the Peter Kennard exhibition I found some of the best use of photo montage I’ve ever seen (and am quite prepared to rethink my position that collage is for five-year-olds) and some great inspiration for how to go about defining myself through my work.

Now, there’s plenty of stuff that was there that I haven’t talked about, but guess what? Good news! The exhibition is still on (as I write. Don’t blame me if it isn’t when you read this. Just wait some more until someone invents a time machine and then come back and see it). You have until 30th of May 2016 to go see it. And it is free entry, so Check out all the details here then go get some Kennard son!

Workshops with Paul Jenkins

To help the students develop a better understanding of our personal positions as design practitioners, graphic designer and all-round cool dude Paul Jenkins led two workshops with us. There are quite a few guys called Paul Jenkins. I’m talking about this one. The first workshop was about establishing a customer facing description of our studio as a whole. The idea was not to push what we do, but why we do it. He showed us a clip from Simon Sinek’s TED talk on ‘why’. Just watch it next time you fell like watching an epic fail montage on you tube or something. You may not agree with what he says, but his argument is compelling.

So, as a result we were tasked with determining why Press Pass does what it does, how it does what it does and then finally, what it does.

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We all gave our versions and then took a composite from them

Paul had an uphill battle with this, as functionally, our studio was simply a collection of individuals who happened to pick the same studio from a list of four at the start of the year. Press Pass was neither our idea or our raison d’être, so that was something of a hard sell. At this point I was going to tell you what we all came up with, but it might prove far more telling to explain to you why I won’t. Firstly, I don’t actually remember, and yes, that makes it pretty obvious that whatever lessons learned won’t be influencing future work.  Secondly, It’s difficult to check the studio space, as the all the work on the wall is no longer on the wall.

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Students adding a second layer of work on top of the first

After we did the brainstorming in the morning, we all picked a key word from our studio description and illustrated it somehow. The Idea was to stick this work directly on top of the stuff already there. Paul referred to this as a sort of ‘wire-framing’ technique, borrowing the term from website building, I believe. Thusly, once we left for the day, the work started to fall off the walls and no amount of re-taping seemed to prevent gravity from having it’s way in the end. And so the ideology of the Press Pass studio ended up relegated and forgotten on a dusty shelf in the corner. To date, no attempt has been made to give this another go, as quite frankly, getting fifteen people to agree on anything that is deeply personal to them is going to take way more than a couple of hours.

Now, there may be other reasons why this didn’t stick (oh dear, was that an unintentional pun?). I’ll show you the work I did in the second part of the workshop.

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How to illustrate ‘solutions’ in 5 minutes? Not an easy task
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Second attempt with what I had at hand
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A paper cutout intended to be placed on top of the previous versions so you can see them through the holes

One day workshops have a habit of producing underwhelming work. I’m pretty sure we all know it takes more than ten minutes to make a masterpiece, but that doesn’t stop students feeling self-conscious about what they produce and even, occasionally, the workshop leaders being obviously underwhelmed with the results. Paul wasn’t a jerk or anything about it, like I say before, he’s a cool dude, but he couldn’t help but gravitate towards the prettier looking stuff. It’s human nature, what are you going to do? But my point is that most students don’t make a habit of showing off their workshop work to people who aren’t being paid to look at it, so instead of developing our studio’s core focus and the workshop stuff, when it all started falling off, people may have taken it as an excuse to cut and run. That’s conjecture on my part and probably too considered. It probably boils down to inactivity in the studio space in general. And without everyone there to work through it all, it would just end up being the opinions of those who bothered. And there are much better places to voice your own opinions, like on , I dunno, a blog or something. Hey, I’m just sayin’.

We did have another workshop with Paul, where we tried to conceptualise some sort of web content for self promotion. This was another hard sell. Paul wanted us to think deep, and work fast, two things I personally gravitate towards anyway, but a fair amount of the students in our studio don’t feel particularly comfortable doing either of those things. Like i said, you can’t make a masterpiece in ten minutes. I mean, I certainly didn’t.

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‘Touch my face’ artist portfolio app. Well, the theory, anyway

My idea was conceived as an app where you touch various parts of an illustrated version of my face to get a grasp of who I am, so you touch my forehead to see my inspirations, my ears for stuff I like to listen to or my nose to see what I smelling. And what am I smelling? The image that would load would be of a bull taking a dump, so, y’know, do the math.

Again, brainstorming like this in a short amount of time is very difficult and when you don’t really have any notion of the practicalities you are going to have to deal with when realising your idea, it’s mostly a crapshoot. I’m undecided whether this kind of thinking gets easier the more you do it or if it’s just something some people are much better at than others. It’s probably both.

All in all, Paul Jenkins sessions were very taxing, and that alone means they were worthwhile. He gave us plenty to think about and encouraged us to keep refining the studio’s raison d’être. I have grave reservations about how likely that is to happen or even future studio initiatives, considering how we can’t agree with much conviction on why we do what we do among other things. Let’s see what happens, shall we?

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.