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Week 8 - Skills & Making

Personal Reflection on Skills Development and New Process Model Outcome

Just as I was beginning to wonder what my work process is, what my work reflects, what materials I want to work with and which area of design I would like to work within, the question of my personal design process is asked of me.  This week I reflected on my skills and my areas of development as I see it at present.  My accompanying notes and initial thoughts are detailed below.  

Discovery Notes

Skills & Developments

The resources this week seemed a bit thin on the ground and I assume this is because we were being asked to be introspective and consider our design-selves as we stand in this moment.  This threw me a little as I had got used to absorbing a lot of content and carryout much investigation partially directed by the MA.  Now I was being asked to choose my own direction and I felt a little lost.

Discussions on the board seemed to revolve around work patterns and whether a 'side hustle' was a luxury, something that allows for wider exploration away from commercial constraints and whether these personal projects could lead to new work possibilities.  As I'm not yet a practicing designer, I was left wondering if it really was as hard as my peers purported it to be, to find the time to work on something of personally interest, in between doing the commercial work that pays the bills and other life commitments.

In an attempt to try and understand how some of the practicing designers feel when working on a brief, I chose to explore a D&AD brief for Penguin Books.  I'm sure I bit off more than I could chew, as the project in depth and all consuming (possibly not really achievable in the short space of time I had!)  Researching the company and their target customer group took a considerable amount of time. There were some elements to the brief that were 'free' for me to choose a direction.  Great as this was, the overwhelming desire to satisfy the client's requirements weighed heavy on my shoulders and seemed to restrict my ideation flow somewhat.  I didn't seem to need Brian Eno's strategies for creative blocks but I definitely needed to keep reminding myself to work "without hope or despair" (The School of Life 2015)  I had no shortage of ideas and followed what seemed to be a suitable answer to the brief, then the skills gap hit me in the face.  I had an idea for a UI Mobile App for teenagers and I had no idea how to design it.  I willingly sat at my computer screen and tried my best with Indesign but what was staring back at me I hated.  It was so uninspiring and the complexities of such a design beyond my ability.  I walked away from it for a day, the same question popping up repeatedly in my head, "What can I do to meet this brief using the skills I have?"

After a break I just decided to make.  I played with a visual idea and found a way to use it and satisfy the brief.  The end result I was not 100% satisfied with and I had a number of technical issues related to scaling my work,  but I needed to let it go and reflect on what I had learnt through this mock brief process.  It turned out to be enlightening.  I learnt that I don't enjoy designing on a digital screen and find it restrictive (this probably sounds ridiculous considering the infinite possibilities that the digital platform affords the designer).  I want to connect physically with tangible materials, using their inherent qualities and properties to develop ideas.  I need to use digital mediums minimally and intelligently in my work.  I need to use measuring devices and plan with architectural accuracy to ensure my final outcome fully meets my objective.  I want to spend my spare time playing with ideas, exploring materials and absorbing interesting developments in a range of social and cultural environments.  I do not want to waste time staring at a screen trying to work out how to do a small process in an application, especially if the same process can be achieved manually.  Taking advice from The School of Life, I also need to set myself a timetable and stick to it!  If my deadline had been Friday, I only managed to resolve an idea that I was not happy with and would have been embarrassed to deliver to a real client!

Having been asked to consider my skills this week this is what I posted to the ideas wall.

Defining My Skills

Reflecting on this now, at the end of this week, I think photography and typography are my priorities. 


Photography is essential to enable me to communicate my raw textural work in its best light.  I need to light and angle the camera correctly to really show the movement and depth of textile pieces as a digital image.

Typography is something I know little about and is vital to communicating messages.

I would also now add 'Layout' to my areas for development.  I need to learn to play with space, placement and proportion to communicate effectively. 

Development of Ideas

I used a D&AD suggested analysis technique to help me break down the intricate Penguin Books Brief which resulted in two key words to keep me focused on the aims.  The words were 'relatable & joy' in regard to Teenagers connection to books and reading. Research into Penguin Books existing offerings,  works by authors of colour, campaign groups that modern teens associate with and what their main concerns are, plus my own knowledge of reading with teens in a secondary school environment; all led me to consider a Mobile App that blended reading, writing and social interaction would be a good resolution for the brief.  Below is my attempt to visualise what the UI would look like on a teenagers mobile phone.

This is the point I walked away from Indesign and banged my head against the wall!  I decided that although the idea was strong, my communication of it was not.  I turned to a visual idea I had to use the Union Jack and incorporate elements of cultural motifs from some of the multicultural communities in UK society.  I pulled together a moodboard to help me, shown below.


I decided that I needed to play with the flag idea and see where it took me.  I produced a set of 4 thumbnail colour & pattern studies based on the mood board observations.  


This felt like it was going in a better direction for me but at this point I was not sure how this fitted in to my idea of the Penguin Reads Mobile App.

I selected my prefered flag and played with constructing using yarns and fabrics.  I also knew that I wanted to include beads in the fabrication to pick up the African jewellery worn on the Moodboard.

I documented the stages of the fabrication which I achieved with heat fusing and machine stitching.  This was the result...


Still unsure how the flag could be used to publicise the Mobile App idea, I noticed that one of the moodboard images had a flag on a long pole.  This had been taken from a UK Music Festival.  During my discovery & research something I had noted, , connected well with young British people.  It then occurred to me that the flag could represent a festival that would launch the new Penguin Reads Mobile App and give young people chance to connect with books and authors with the festival vibe backdrop.  A poster for this mock event is what I decided needed to be designed.  How to do this away from the screen that had suffocated me at the start was my next challenge. 


I turned to a new book I had acquired featuring the work of Super Graphic Designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.  The book had been published by independent seller Owl Cave Books in San Francisco, forming part of Solomon's more recent work.  Still working and now in her 80's, Solomon uses a traditional 'paste up' technique to layout the pages of text and images.  This gives the book a unique quirky, rough and raw aesthetic. 
































I am very taken with this approach and decided that the poster should have this kind of character.  The results were not as good as I had hoped mainly due to time constraints.  I realise now that I need to have a much clearer idea of where elements will be placed on the page and ensure that the images and text are suitably scaled.  The flag is too dominant and the text not bold enough with a bit of a jumbled placement, but here is the end result...

My Process Model

Spending time working through a a brief did not leave me much time to produce a model demonstrating my working process, however what it did do is allow me to analyse my pathway.

In my note books at the top of this page you will see 2 pages where I identify each stage of the process of working through the Penguin Brief.  I then decided to create the same sequence in simple motifs.  This was the sketch I created...


Looking at the sketch reminded me of dominoes and so the idea was born.  I felt this was particularly prevalent because dominoes can be moved, turned over, stood up and knocked down, and this described how I felt about the challenge I had set myself this week!

Despite feeling that ICT had been a bit of a block to me during the mock brief, I turned to digital to produce the visuals for this final piece and Indesign to layout in a domino style (image below).  But it was by far the sticking, layering and cutting that I enjoyed the most!  If I had time to develop this, I would definitely invest in a wood burning engraver and transfer to real wood pieces.  (I might still do this yet! an Easter holiday play!)

My Process Dominoes
Journal Reflections

This week has been a huge learning curve for me.  I have realised that you need to set yourself parameters to work within in order achieve in the time frame you have.  That you have to think about what it is that you personally bring to a brief or "to the table" as Andrew Howard said in the guest lecture at the start of this week.  Several resources I listened to this week, including Howard and Nadine Goepfert, textile designer in discussion on the Creative Voyage podcasts,  made me consider what my work is about, what makes it interesting and who is interested?  Goepfort said one should think about the relevancy of your work, who needs it and what is it good for?  I cannot purport to have answered all of these questions yet, but I hope that it will reveal itself as I progress through this MA.  

With Brian Eno stating that artists considered geniuses, lived and drew from a very active and flourishing cultural scene and Graphic Weaver Hannah Waldron stating that it is her surroundings that influence her work the most, with the memory of those surroundings being the impetus for many of her bold colourful woven scenes (Pic  ), I began to wonder whether my own environment is 'flourishing' enough.  How can a designer ensure that they fill their life with catalysts for great work?  Is it where you live, who you see, your hobbies or your learning that create that influential cultural scene?  I will fill myself up with experiences and see what this creates!

Fig 1.  Trinnale Weaving Series - Hannah Waldron 

I decided that it was important to understand how other creative individuals approach their work this week and I looked at an artist called Dustin Yellin who produces incredible pieces that he calls Pyscho-geographies. (Fig 2) The works are human life sized images embedded between layers of glass.  He says he has always been interested in boxes and his latest work explores an archive of human culture and attempts to define our relationship with what he calls "the box you are living in".  He uses ripped up matter from magazines that he says provide an encyclopaedia of culture.   


What I admired most about Yellin's work was his idea that we are biologically all the same and that we delude ourselves that we are different by the cultural markers we assign ourselves.   Dustin Yellin discusses how he transitioned his work from small objects embedded in resin, to larger encapsulations that threatened to kill him (due to the toxic nature of excessive resin use) to the trialling of glass layering and finally the huge scaled human sculptures in his newest work.  I commend him for his dedication to work through, testing, adapting and modifying his process, each stage generating more outstanding work.  This is a strategy I will try to develop in my own work, a part of the process, vital to developing great ideas.  

Fig 2. Pyscho-geographies - Dustin Yellin
List of Figures

Fig 1. Trinnale Weaving Series - Hannah Waldron Available at:  [Accessed on 22/03/21]

Fig 2. Pyschogeographies - Dustin Yellin.  Available at: [Accessed on 22/03/21]


Finding the Gaps (c2021) Lecture Resource, Falmouth University.  Available at: [Accessed on 14/03/21]

Eno, B. (2017)  How to Beat Creative Block.  Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

Eno, B. (2017) On Creative Potential. Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

The School of Life (2017). The Importance of Vulnerability Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

The School of Life (2015, March 23). Keep Going. Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

Eno, B (last ed, 2018) Oblique Strategies , Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

TED Talks. (2014)  A Journey Through the Mind of an Artist: Dustin Yellin. Available at: [accessed on 14/03/21]

Parker, T. (2021).  'Made by folk' Interviews. Available at: [accessed on 17/03/21]

D&AD Penguin Books Brief.  Available at: [accessed on 15/03/21]

Morley, M. (2016).  Go Back to Bauhaus with Hannah Waldron's Graphic Weavings. Available at:  [accessed on 19/03/21]

Creative Voyage Podcasts. (2018) How to Make a Living as a Textile Designer with Nadine Goepfert. Available at: [accessed on 19/03/21]

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