Maryland Institute College of Art

Research

NCSU/Option Shift Control Symposium

Postcard by Kristian Bjornard, Ryan Clifford, Joe Galbreath, and Tony Venne

Postcard by Kristian Bjornard, Ryan Clifford, Joe Galbreath, and Tony Venne

WISH YOU WERE HERE
Tony, Ryan, Kristian and Joe conducted a workshop at a symposium hosted by North Carolina State University titled Option Shift Control. The focus was on the relationship between designers and users in an increasingly participatory culture. We designed a workshop where participants were forced to surrender control of their designs and work with larger and larger groups to create a single piece of work.

Brainstorming in the GD MFA Studio

Brainstorming in the GD MFA Studio

BRAINSTORMING
In the spirit of shifting design control, we decided leading participants through an exercise revealed in stages would be an interesting way to complement the symposium’s theme. To better express the workshop’s structure, we designed a diagram illustrating single participants coupling with their neighbors, trading source material and working together on a new collage. Trading work eliminated the sense of authorship thus encouraging the groups to dismantle, destroy and re-contextualize the source material.

We decided on a postcard theme because we knew people would be traveling from a number of different places and each person would want to share their experience and thoughts with others back home. We titled the workshop “Wish You Were Here.”

Before heading down to Raleigh, we tested the workshop’s structure and appeal by conducting a trial-run with a group of MICA graphic design seniors. We were able to evaluate time limits, explanations of process and material demonstrations to clarify the goals of the exercise.

The workshop at NCSCU

The workshop at NCSCU

Joe Galbreath holds forth at the workshop

Joe Galbreath holds forth at the workshop

WORKSHOP
During the conference we were give a classroom and an hour to complete our exercise. At the workshop participants were issued an envelope containing supplies and Letraset® and had to react to a word. The list of words related to notions of home and travel, such as memory, secret, souvenir and destination. Then, every few minutes we would group them with their neighbor and pass their work along for others to use in new collages. By the end, each person ended up in a group of 4-5 working on a single composition.

AFTER THE SYMPOSIUM
Back at MICA, each of us used the art generated from the workshop to create four new collages, thus participating ourselves. We designed them to print as 4″ x 6″ postcards to send to the workshop’s participants.

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FINAL POSTCARDS
Our designs were then printed at MICA’s Dolphin Press. Our digital files were translated to film, burned onto polymer and then printed on a letterpress. We personalized each postcard with funny notes to each participate and mailed them out.

CONCLUSION
Although the final pieces at the workshop could have used more time for design, the collaborative process implemented turned into a success. Creating situations where strangers work quickly together forces participants to drop inhibitions and allow their instincts to take over. The rapid, energetic collaborations created an environment for natural instincts to take over. Hopefully the participants will remember this exercise next time they are presented with a collaborative project.

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