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å February 2016

í Unit 7: Overview & Assignment


How can designers distill a narrative to its essence?

Unit Summary

Designers are editors, interpreters, organizers, and remixers of meaning. In this content-rich world, we have the opportunity and obligation to communicate complex narratives using curated elements and visual shorthand; to infuse new meaning and point-of-view into the old; to capture something long and layered in an instant. In this unit, you will explore methods of making —including compression, deconstruction, abstraction, and translation—with the goal of telling a familiar story in a new way.


By the end of today’s class, pick a narrative (book, film, tv show, play, etc) that you know very well. Reduce it to three collections of core elements—including (but not limited to) characters, places, events, themes, symbols, language, tropes, narrative arcs. Using the collections as content, visually represent the chosen narrative three times.

The final format of each collection is up to you, but should respond to the content (eg a set of characters might be presented in a family tree) and should not be the same form as the original narrative (ie don’t make a book about The Catcher in the Rye).


—How much can you reduce the narrative and still capture the spirit of the original text?
—How can your point-of-view about the original be conveyed through your editing/design decisions?
—How could your narrative become information/data?
—How can your final output speak to audiences familiar and unfamiliar with the original?

Learning Objectives

—Edit content down to the most important components
—Embed a point-of-view into an existing piece of content
—Communicate complexity by applying economy
—Translate something old/familiar into something new/fresh

Extended Portion

Part 1: Extend, Develop, Refine
Option A (One): Develop your favorite approach from the first week into an extended narrative.
Option B (Many): Apply your favorite approach from the first week to a series (at least three) of additional narratives.

Part 2: Present, Document, Share
Title and document, and share your project with an audience (physically and online).

Timing /Deliverables:
Week 1
Option A:
—develop your approach into 3 distinct directions
—thoughts on final format

Option B:
—full list of new narratives
—design sketches for at least 3 (include at least 3 distinct design routes)
—thoughts on final format

Week 2
—project refinements
—format prototypes
—plan for part 2

Week 3

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í Unit 6: Overview & Assignment

Question: How does form shape content? 

Unit summary: We will interpret an object by looking at it 13 different ways, thinking deeply about how its form shapes its meaning and content, and consider how form IS content in its own right. We will use Thomas McEvilley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” as the basis for exploring objects from different formal perspectives.

One Week portion:
Read Thomas McEvilley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Then go to the RISD Museum and pick one object on display. Using the 13 points in the essay as a basis, you will create 13 interpretations of this object in graphic form (graphic form is left deliberately open, and could mean posters, stamps, words on paper, marks on paper, video, photos, etc…). Each interpretation should be its own short quick project. Each interpretation should highlight that specific “way of looking” at each object.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an object in the RISD Museum:

  1. Content that arises from the aspect of the artwork that is understood as representational
  2. Content arising from verbal supplements supplied by the artist, designer, curator or institution
  3. Content arising from the genre or medium of the artwork
  4. Content arising from the material of which the artwork is made
  5. Content arising from the scale of the artwork
  6. Content arising from the temporal duration of the artwork
  7. Content arising from the context of the work
  8. Content arising from the work’s relationship with art history
  9. Content that accrues to the work as it progressively reveals its destiny through persisting in time
  10. Content arising from participation in a specific iconographic tradition
  11. Content arising directly from the formal properties of the work
  12. Content arising from attitudinal gestures (wit, irony, parody, and so on) that may appear as qualifiers of any of the categories already mentioned
  13. Content rooted in biological or physiological responses, or in cognitive awareness of them


Additional Readings:
Michael Rock, Designer as author
Michael Rock, Fuck Content


Learning Objectives:
– develop ways of looking deeply at the world and objects within it
– develop a more complex understanding of the relations between form and content
– develop complex ways of looking at and interpreting content
– develop habits of iteration
create a shared formal language
– create ways to approach the critique of work

Extended Portion
You will create a single work that communicates basic information (title, author, date, medium, dimension, any text available, etc…) about your selected object, along with at least two of your ways of looking. Use your one week explorations as the basis for your continued investigation, thinking about how some of these different explorations may be synthesized. Also think of what information you are communicating explicitly, and what aspects of the object you are communicating implicitly through your choice of form, typography, medium, distribution.

Week 1: Produce 3 different versions. Bring all three versions to class.
Week 2: Choose one version and refine it
Week 3: Final

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w DS2 Syllabus
February 17, 2016

Spring 2016