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School: Thoughts on the MFA, Continued

February 3, 2010

I broke this post up because it was already long enough and I should have written the first part yesterday–when I was truly agitated about it–and the second today. Since yesterday I’ve had some thoughts about the MFA–which a thousand things could change until then–but here is where I stand.

First I talked with Alex and he agreed I’d be a good candidate, etc, though it’s still unclear to me how the classes are substantially different from MS classes.

Second, and this might be the true ah-ha moment–I went to the library to browse type books in preparation of doing type homework. (That is another blog posting altogether, because I had quite a moment with Invisible Cities tonight, which is why I am still up so late.) I was looking at a lot of great books–Dimensional Typography (computers doing weird 3d things with type–not generally my thing, but interesting to look at–and they had vellum pages, which I am currently obsessed with), mmm skyscraper I love you (a really great book–basically an illustration of New York City through typography. I generally don’t care for just straight up abstract type books–though I love MAKING them–but this book is truly excellent, I think.) and also, The End of Print by Carson.

Bear with me, cause this gets a little circuitous. But it comes back to the MFA, I swear.

For my job designing for the Undergrad CommD Department, I am thinking about how to do a poster for a Presentation Seminar. I have been thinking about it andI came up with this image of a steamed up mirror, with either “Presentation Seminar” written through the steam or super imposed–it depends how it would get photographed.

A good enough idea, really. The idea of clarification–that my image somehow taps into, etc. But really–the same thing I can do in my sleep, no? A strong, compelling texturized image with well integrated type, especially handdone type. That sort of thing–I love it, it’s super fun–it’s in the bag.

Anyways in The End of Print I saw a MICA poster for a David Carson talk. It had an abstract white swirl on a red wash background; at the bottom was a mouth slapped on. Then there was text that was partially cut off, some by the image and some by the edge:

YOU CANNOT
NOT COMMU

And I think that was an explosive moment for me. It was like a moment of–MFA or not–but THAT is where I need to go with my design. So tht I am not just making images–cool or smart as they may be–but somehow adding value to the message.

Obviously no one said to the MICA kid–“and we want the text to be “You cannot not commu…”

So there I am. As I said, I’m not sure it pushes me to the MFA or not, but it surely pushes me somewhere–which I’m super excited about.

Not just making images; not just treating type. But interpreting the message beyond the image. Adding value.
I know, I know. I’m all Seth Godined and Merlin Manned out. But what else can one do?

I claimed this would come round back to the MFA discussion, but I’m not sure I can take it back there. I think on background has been a secret suspicion of mine that I hate theory and am not necessarily interested in a design program that is into “questioning the discipline,” etc. I was first and foremost, I thought, interested in MAKING. DOING. NOT theorizing. So this moment in the library was sort of the first time that I saw how I might fit within that–how I’d be “questioning the discipline” and “pushing past barriers” (or however these high end MFA programs are marketed) but STILL making things.

Which is what I want. I want to be making things, useful and fun and visual things that communicate. But are also exciting and so hot and fresh they singe your fingers a bit.

My third thought on the MFA, which I am duly recording in
chronological order is that if all it takes is another half year, then it will have been three years. Which is to say, it will have been the same three years I would have given RISD or Yale or whoever, had they taken me for their three year programs, had I had I had my wits together enough to apply to those. And what are those programs: a year of prep work and 2 years, serious grad stuff. So instead of seeing this year as wasted, I could see it as the same–prep work–wherein I finally have some modicum of confidence in dealing with type; I got a little better at Illustrator and such; after this term I will know some Flash (and thus some sort of time storytelling) as well as some more traditional straight up design like branding and advertising (through Vis Com).

So I think that way of thinking actually gets me pretty excited about the MFA. I’m talking to Jeff soon about the credits situation and I will try to be less of a delicate flower about this whole thing and not spaz out ether way…. either way it’s really going to be out what I bring into it.

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