A Facebook page for teaching graphic design students to make absurd connections

Note: This is a composite image that I cobbled together by taking screenshots of the stream as I scrolled down and then pasted side by side in photoshop in order to give a clearer idea of the concept. The actual page looks like a completely normal FB page, of course. ;-)

I do not know how others go about it but with me it is like this: When I make things I do not usually start out with a clearly defined objective (used to be so in the bad old days of course, when I had “real” clients, with “real” jobs and “real” briefs for whom I had to develop “real” strategies and whatnot – the nightmare of it all!…) Anyway, now that I am old and free, I usually start to do something for whatever reason and then things start to happen. I make connections that sort of evolve out of what I am doing.

The best definition of the whole thing I think comes from Arthur Koestler. And I did write at some length about this in a blog that I keep for one of the graduate classes that I teach:

(As you can see, I am talking about “creative practice” in the post linked above, which is a term that I would not use for my own stuff. But my students are young, and they will probably like to think of what they are engaged in as “creative practice” ;-). That it is a special state – this being a “creative practitioner.” When I was their age I used to think of all this in a very important way also. Nowadays I finally know that it isn’t… Or rather, I think that the minute you start seeing it as such then the whole magic goes away and you may end up not enjoying yourself terribly while you are at it since it will be a “serious” thing, and furthermore you may end up taking yourself seriously – and then poof – it may all go up in smoke.)

So, for me, it is all about making absurd connections basically.

And how does one teach one’s students to do that? I am trying out this new thing – a Facebook page in which I collect images from FB, so the page has no original content that is uploaded – it is only what I come across.

The requirement for an image to end up on this page is that it should have an absurdity to it. There should be something that makes a connection between unrelated materials or states or ideas. Something should not fit. The images are placed randomly as I find them, which is also important. So, not only do the individual images have inherent absurdities but the stream on the page brings together an even more disconnected content, from the accumulation of which you can derive your own bisociative material. In other words there are two levels of unrelated matrices – that of the images, and that of the stream.

Now, normally people look at the stuff that appears in FB from their own home pages in their own stream. However, another way of looking at things is by looking at them on the page itself – which for the purposes of this exercise is important. I ask my students to do both since the whole objective is to get them to make connections that are off the wall. When they go to the page they are expected to pick several images and make up a “client” whose services or products should be defined through the images that they picked. Sometimes I ask them to pick a series of images that are in a sequence on the page – picked together from anywhere on the stream – and sometimes they are free to pick whichever ones they like. Then, as said, they have to invent a thoroughly absurd company, and then they have to describe a service or product that this company puts out, and then they have to write a “brief” for the visual identification and/or graphic design strategies of that service or product. Such as creating a logotype for example.

These are design students, so sooner or later they will be faced with the nightmare of restrictions that are part of their jobs: They will be working with “real” clients and “real” products whose parameters will very often be very clearly demarcated – just as it used to be the case with me when I worked as an art director. That said, I still think that in order to be able to do that, it may be a very good thing to learn to do the “free-fall” first. Although in the beginning they were somewhat nervous about the whole thing, once they got it, once they realized that they were meant to go crazy and have fun, most of them have taken to it like ducks to water. Such as this one here:

Alpha Auer / November 19, 2012 / Teaching, Visual