Something out of Nothing
Talking about and doing creative work
This week I had the pleasure of going to give a talk and run a workshop for Graphic Design students a the University of Suffolk. It was a treat. I even enjoyed giving the talk, which doesn’t happen often as I’m not all that keen on public speaking, that’s to say it terrifies me. The talk was about 20 things I’ve learnt and am keen to pass on to young designers, one of which is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable — easy to say, harder to do—but also something I really want to live up to. This is actually a bit of advice I stole from the actor and improv supreme Pippa Evans after attending one of her Improv your life courses, here’s what I wrote about that at the time.
And if you’d like to see the slides from the talk they’re here.
Learning about improv has really help shape my thinking about my work and the things I value — there are wonderful principles that underpin it and they are all at the service of enabling good things to happen.
The workshop built on that, with the aim of creating something out of nothing. We looked at that in two parts, creating as an individual and as a team.
Below is the poster for the workshop, and the materials I’d gathered for it. The idea was to take rubbish (boxes that Tesco were chucking away) and ask the students to find something memorable, beautiful or funny in them, and then to use their skills to bring that idea out and communicate it to others. This was the individual bit.
After a hesitant start, where I think the students were asking themselves “what’s he bloody on about?” they then really threw themselves into it. I encouraged them to find a piece of cardboard that they felt suggested something, and then spend a bit of time to work out how they might approach the task of investing it with value and meaning. The pieces the students made were really stunning, and for someone who makes quite a bit of this kind of work—seeing the quality of the work was humbling (and mildly annoying).
After that first hour we moved to the second part of the workshop where we collaborated on a zine that would contain all their work. Each of the students came up with a title for their work and figured out how best to shoot it, we worked out a pagination, Matt took the lead on getting the content in place while Lex drafted an introduction and helped adjust the levels on the photographs. As the afternoon continued more of us gathered around Matt and Lex as the zine came together, offering suggestions and tweaks to layout and typography. In the mean time Rob (one of the tutors) sourced some really nice paper for us to print on to.
The last part of the workshop was us putting the zine together; scoring, folding, stapling and trimming our way to what felt like a very satisfying conclusion.
I was very impressed by the student’s energy, ideas and commitment to this task and was pleased that I’d prepped some thank yous for them. Thanks also to Nigel Ball, the course leader, who gave me a lot of very useful advice ahead of me coming in.
I’m keen to do more of this. If you teach or work somewhere where you think this kind of playful workshop would be of value—do give me a shout.