To begin Constellation Level 6, I found myself in the situation of making important key life choices that will affect my developing career as a creative individual; from beginning to develop an individual style of design, looking at the availability of creative employment in Cardiff and finalising the direction of my dissertation studies. Spending three years building valuable academic knowledge within the setting of constellation, has enabled me to feel confident in my capabilities in both research and execution of my work.
I have been determined to apply as much of my previous theoretical learning to the development of this current work as possible from the theories of existentialism and being. I often fear that I missed out on fundamental art theory and history education due to my ambition to progress straight to university instead of engage in a foundation course, but I seem to find that I lack the more common theoretical design knowledge in comparison to other individuals around my studies. I do find that this makes me want to try even harder to prove to myself that I can achieve at an academic level. I would love to see a more theoretical base to the studies within graphic communication that can expand further into employability skills from the application to design.
The concept of what makes up the being of an individual, in relation to existential theories and social sciences interested me from Level 4 of constellation. From these roots, and application to my subject study of graphic communication, I developed my dissertation title by combining my most personally enjoyable subject topic of brand development, to the theoretical topic of authenticity and being. I stumbled upon a series of difficulties that hindered my learning experience. Due to the current and fluid nature of my topic, I struggled with the prospect of finding relevant sources that met my needs, as initially I was unable to find text with more than a paragraph of usable information that I could read through. Although the university library has a plethora of different books available, with a niche topic like my own, I was forced to conduct a lot of research online through reports, articles and webpages especially when developing current case studies.
I was amazed to find that Gobe, encapsulated my vision of emotional branding before I even the knew the concept existed. It is an exhilarating prospect to discover shared ideas, and gained the knowledge that I too, could one day have the same influence with my own creative expansions. His exploration into the blurred lines of brand and consumer relationship, put into perspective how valuable and vitally harmonising the two influences can be.
I really do feel that every aspect of subject, field and constellation interlink in a way I would not have thought possible. The ways in which theoretical understanding can be applied to every element of creative practice means that I am always able to develop my knowledge of design further, even when outside of the studio.
Recently, I have started to cater my subject work towards acknowledging how I can effectively portray the key values of a client’s identity. Within a recent competition brief for the Royal Opera House, I found that in-depth research enabled me to understand the emotional qualities that make up that individual brand. If I could gain insight as to who the brand is, the personality, aspirations and passion envisaged as a physical persona; far deeper than their existing connotations, I would be able to authentically design for both the client and consumer in a true and engaging manner.
From the study of main dissertation themes, I have adapted to consider the way I look to design myself as a brand. I feel as though there should not be such a divide between the boundaries of who an individual is and their creative practice, and I hope that the extensive knowledge I have developed on humanity and branding will inform and enable me to rethink exactly how I see myself as a designer and how I can communicate those messages to others around me. I have altered the use of language within my online presence and creative portfolio in order to more authentically portray myself with a touch of individuality. By taking ownership of my creative style I hope to create a greater consistency throughout my future projects.
During my writing, I have asked myself many a time, how authentic am I? I have established that it is important to ask myself these questions, just as it is important to maintain a positive essence and outlook on why I do the things I do. Within constellation, I expanded on the theoretical topics that I was truly interested in, not because of expectation or peer pressure. Looking back reflectively, it may have been easier for me to have developed a thesis based on typography or art history, but I have the knowledge in myself that I developed an idea that was authentic to my identity.
Personally, the most important aspect of my exploration is the way I have brought my understanding out of the creative world entirely, impacting the way I view myself and how I in turn affect the essence of those around me. Consequently, thinking about how I can use my skills to benefit others has greatly encouraged me to alter my direction of work towards a project of change and helping others. I have grown increasingly interested in how the influences of humanity are affecting the natural environment for wildlife and I aim to employ a similar emotional design strategy with the aim of direct engagement on a level that mere physical design could not portray.
Level 5 constellation has left me with far greater rewards than I expected. After receiving my first choice, I was pleased to know I would be studying the idea of absurdity as it was the only topic that stood out to me as something that would really grab my attention with its content. Knowing I would enjoy what I was learning is a great bonus, and pushed me to want to carry on learning, even when out of uni.
My first essay in which I based on existentialism and design, allowed me to explore the structure of academic essays and referencing in further depth than level 4. I was able to establish a link to ideas regarding graphic communication and branding so that I would be able to use the knowledge gained in real practice. I found the first term seminars so useful, we would often be given background reading to undertake before attending the lesson, which meant I was able to already form an understanding of the theories before even walking in the room; everything I learnt after was like an extra added bonus of further knowledge which really helped in comparison to being bombarded with new information all at once.
Essentially my first essay allowed me to make some common mistakes in which I could learn and improve on before I came to write my upcoming dissertation proposal. My issue is that I don’t seem to fully communicate the points I am discussing, I knew that for my proposal it was essential that I always back up my ideas with some form of case study or background reading rather than just expressing my own ideas without any applied theory.
When developing ideas for my dissertation proposal, my main school of thought was to further my understanding of previous essays from first and second year. The ‘body and materiality’ and ‘absurdity’ had a lot of similar themes running through and if I could develop on my existing understanding of key theories I would find it easier to apply them within a more refined plan. My struggle was whether to study into something I am really personally interested in with not a great amount of direct existing studies, or something that has a wealth of background reading but has been done a million times. I decided to stick to my guns and choose the area of ‘brand authenticity’ in relation to human brands and focus in depth to the theories of visual communication and existentialism rather than authentic branding directly.
I am aware that I have previously not been the best at getting my head down in the library, and knew that I needed to turn it around this year by getting stuck into a broader range of texts to improve my knowledge and understanding of the new topics studied. I started working my way through various texts before the Easter holidays with the intention of studying them further in my free time away from uni. I can’t express how essential this was to my studies, as there is no way I could have developed enough background research for my proposal in a short period of time. I feel that I am able to interpret academic texts with confidence and not shy away from discarding information when irrelevant, as not everything I’m going to read will turn out to be useful in the long run. This generally helped me to refine my broad range of ideas down and establish a clear connection to my main point of study.
With application to my practice, I feel that the key skills I have recently developed will help me greatly within the next year of my course, and my further career. By choosing a topic I am truly interested in, I have been able to gain concise knowledge within the area of brand identity and the academic theories that surround it. I will be able to apply these to my practice and personal projects, to engage with an understanding of why elements of design are perceived the way they are. The skills I have acquired from writing academically will be essential to next year’s constellation. This was the first academic writing of real length I had undertaken, and the knowledge of how to structure and plan my ideas will be applied to hopefully make the writing of my final dissertation a lot smoother.
After initially feeling so daunted by the thought of the dissertation proposal, I feel that I have acquired so many skills that will definitely help the final dissertation; from academic reading and writing, developing my referencing skills, confidence within my own thoughts and application of theory to design. Although I did struggle with aspects including the structure of the plan and finding relevant texts, I feel like everything I have learnt will make the process of next year a lot less of a scary thought!
As explored within my research “the more you know the more you see”. I believe this statement is so true after this second year and I feel like I can only keep on learning more.
So, I found this pretty cool set of images that I feel relate really strongly to my idea of brand authenticity. Although these aren’t based on branding, the idea that a person can show an audience only what they want to see.. obscuring out all the unassociated background, is really interesting.
Knowing that brands can pick and choose what the ‘essential’ information is, can be quite worrying, what is going on that we can’t see? This is why it is so important for brands to have authenticity in themselves and ensure the way they are represented is accurate and trustworthy to their audience.
The idea of the constellation dissertation really puts me on edge! As a graphic communication student it seems absurd that for a creative course, so much focus is set on writing essays, I can’t help but feel it compresses my creativity. What frustrates me the most is that however hard I try with my essays, it doesn’t seem to be enough to correlate alongside my subject grades, I don’t want my writing to be what lets me down in the long term when I know my physical work is good enough.
None the less, I must continue and develop my ideas for the dissertation. My initial ideas are to continue along the themes of my past essays, I feel like I have developed an understanding of the key concepts and theories and that I can hopefully apply them effectively to my upcoming dissertation. My past essay titles included “To what extent are bodies, expressions of individual preference over powerful influences in society” and “To what extent do existential theories impact brand identity and design”.
Key themes within these have been:
- Existence and essence
- Facticity and transcendence
- Free will and false freedom
- Reflexive bodies
- Subject or object
- Habitus and capital
- Panopticon and male gaze
In some form, my main aim is to apply these to a graphics perspective so that my knowledge can hopefully be applied to further my creative practice. Something that has really struck my interest recently on my course and personal projects is that of branding and brand design. There is a lot of focus recently in creating brands that are more than just a brand, but almost a creation in themselves. With design applied, products and services are literally personified and can essentially be believable as a being. This leads me to the notion of human brands and how graphic design can make them come to life.
Brands are born and die, they have values, identity, personalities, issues, relationships, reputation and emotion. This all seems a bit crazy but it’s done simply by visual communication including colour, style, language, imagery and iconography. Brands as people is an interesting concept, it’s how the designers portray what they want the consumer to feel and believe. Things get interesting when you then start to think about authenticity and how the audience may be falsely led to believe certain things about a product or service just because of connotations in design. Graphic influence can be so important when it comes to branding and it’s something I would like to explore further to see what gives successful brands their reputation and appeal.
It’s the idea that by using specific imagery and language, a brand can make itself more personally appealing, trustworthy and loveable to it’s consumer when in reality it’s products are essentially just the same as everyone else.
I don’t think there is a better example than with Starbucks’ campaign to be on first name terms. “We’re Starbucks. Nice to meet you.”
Lippincott’s brand identity for Southwest Airlines fits right into this ideology. The ad explains that the airline’s people are its greatest fuel, and ends simply in reference to the plane (maybe even the business as a whole) with, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.”
Dove is one of those brands. The ongoing Dove Campaign for Real Beauty launched by Uniliver has a mission to “create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.” The two campaigns below are effectively the same idea, yet they both have completely different ways of presenting this. To many people the obvious choice of a ‘better’ brand is Dove as it reaches out to the people and is far more personable.
In a similar contrast, something that interests me very much is the notion of people as brands, and how a physical person can be categorised into a product. Individuals and entire groups of people can be stereotyped in such a drastic way due to visual communication from, for example, television programmes, magazines, campaigns and advertising. Designers can visualise a person’s attributes to create the right visual appeal for an audience, but may create an unrealistic, idealised representation of the person by doing so.
The ‘domestic goddess’ representation of celebrity Nigella Lawson has it’s scandals. She is shown as a glamorous, perfect housewife while in reality was in an abusive relationship and taking cocaine..
Other examples of celebrities as brands include, the Kardashians, the family have built up a reputation of themselves as a brand, with tv shows, clothing brand, makeup, mobile game, social media and even emojis!
The two ideas of brands as people and people as brands go hand in hand with each other, and I am excited to develop my research further.
Constellation has been a mixture of high points and low points. Starting the term from my previous sixth form, I was both nervous yet intrigued by the concept of constellation. Initially I was drawn to my course of graphic communication by the idea of being able to mix and integrate fully with the art school as a whole; making contacts and friends. Yet I still was unsure as to what it would entail.
My original worry was that of past knowledge, when starting the lectures in term 1, all were primarily art/ art history based in which I was unaccustomed to in my previous learning, however I found that I really enjoyed the theoretical side especially the theories applying to my current course including post-perspective and concept of sonic art relating to original art formats. Some of the main hall lectures in my opinion, for example ‘The Sensorial Object’, seemed to just be irrelevant to any learning, although I understood the importance of broadening knowledge of arts and culture, there sometimes was no link to course content and found the ideas very confusing to even understand in the first place. I would dread attending the lecture theatres in fear of falling asleep, which was a frequent occurrence for myself during term 1…
It was quite a shame because I loved the feeling of being in the large lecture theatre with the entirety of the art school, yet failed to establish a connection with the information given to us each week by the lecturers. For myself, constellation lectures were supposed to be the key of a theoretical framework and unison of the art school but it turned out not to be the case.
Study skills were something I found a lot more useful, in smaller groups, debating and analysing the art of argument and image etc. I was given some sightly information and techniques for example, Cath’s columns which have been applied to my essay writing further on in the term. The sessions allowed us to become more familiar with the tutors and students from other disciplines and I found it so useful being able to debate ideas with students who entailed different schools of thought to my own. Obviously a product designer, ceramicist and graphic communicator will have contrasting views but I found this a challenge that helped me to grow in confidence and express the views of my own subject.
The Controversy essay was a great challenge for me. For only 500 words, it would be assumed to be so quick and easy, yet the difficult part seemed to be actually trying to include any detailed information within the limit at all! Most of my blog posts tend to be longer than 500 words, so I found it quite a struggle to keep in the constrains of the word count. In reflection, I can see the reasoning as it enabled the skills to filter and cut out only the necessary information. After receiving formative feedback sheet for my essay, I knew I could further improve in the future. Simple feedback of writing statements not questions is something I continued onto my term 2 essay, as well as formatting critiques including double spacing. In hindsight, I definitely left my essay to the last minute as I assumed the short length would be completed in an instant, however research and referencing takes more time than I originally thought. I am not too experienced with academic writing, however the initial skills learn from the initial essay were key to my development further down the line.
When starting term 2, I still had that initial worry of how my past knowledge would affect my learning in the subject groups. If I was too late applying for lectures, I could end up in a room of experienced art historians with myself not knowing what in the world was going on! Luckily enough I was given my choice of The Body in Society, which initially I did not realise how personally interesting and informative to my course it would be. I have always been interested in more psychological theories, asking questions and debates, as they apply to my interest of graphic design and ideas of how the mind and body are influences for example. I was overjoyed when given the opportunity to learn more. Every lecture was easily comprehensible and I found for the first time I was learning some real in-depth material that could actually help in my future course and career.
Each week had a focus on the essay as an end point, so when it came to start researching and writing I found it simple to have a basic groundwork and knowledge to continue with. I found each of the eight weeks incredibly eye-opening and interesting but had a particular interest in learning about the psychology of what forces influence the body. and makes a body react to the stimulant.
This led me to choose my essay title of “To What Extent are Bodies, Expressions of Individual Preference over Powerful Influences in Society?”. After researching theories of Panopticon, body projects, male gaze, reflexive bodies, habitus and free will, I applied these to my question and took an approach that still tied in with advertising, branding and communication from my graphics course. By integrating the two I found that when continuing my subject lectures and projects, concepts and theories would seep through and give me a greater understanding and knowledge of graphic communication as a whole. I was easily able to find sources and references both in the library and online with summon and webpages/programmes and by using the academic writing notes on Blackboard, established a referencing system simple for me to use with my bibliography.
In conclusion I have thoroughly enjoyed constellation throughout the year, most definitely term 2 and 3, over term 1. Having the ability to learn something that is not necessarily course based, yet still stimulates my mind as much as my passion for graphics, is something I was unsure I would find by the end of the year. I have a strong belief that the theories learnt in my term 2 lectures will benefit my learning greatly in future projects on my course and simply in day to day life. I have found that I have grown greatly in confidence, often being the main speaker of my group and answering questions which is something I would have never imagined when initially being thrown into a room of complete strangers only a few weeks earlier.
All that’s left is to bring on year 2!
This weeks keynote lecture was based on the concept of Sonic Art, a subject I previously knew little about. We learnt about the development of music as art, from simple recordings of music made from vocals or household objects to the progression of electronic music in the modern age.
- additive synthesis
- subtractive synthesis
- synthesis by distortion techniques
- synthesis by physical modelling
- interaction design
What I found most interesting was interaction design as part of ‘current sonic art’. I found it really fascinating seeing the ways sound can be made from installations, for example, 21 swings where notes are created by the movement of the swings. I love how it can only be created by the interaction of a person; the sound is in their hands. Some notes can only be created by the unison of multiple swingers which a cool concept to promote sharing the experience of art.
Imogen Heap ‘Gloves’ and Waisvisz ‘The Hands’ are two other concepts that draw my attention. They both enable the user to create music in their own way just like interpreting art. What I love about The Hands is that it looks like a piece of art in it’s own right, by using the concept of sonic art with shadows and movement, it only adds to make a greater experience for all the senses.