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Design pieces in search of a narrative

November 11, 2010

Strength: knowing when things work and when things don’t.

Strength: sensing most of the time why.

Weakness: knowing the solution (when own work is concerned. Not if it’s anyone else’s work though of course. Seriously: Strength: giving others dead-on solutions for creative problems.)

Issue: Work is good, experiments are good, heading in good direction, of one theme, but are not connecting 100 percent.

I’ve been feeling this for a while, starting from the miserable Rube Goldberg machine books, which I should have photographed and put up here, but photographing work depresses me (the lighting! the photoshopping! trying to take down what is a 4d thing into 2d! is there anything more miserable!) (and the pieces are not that thrilling in themselves). That’s when I decided the everyday was my content, or something. And then the presentation of my work, where again this point was made (they kept using the word “context” which I think is needlessly broad, but I think they were talking about the same thing). Anyways, I think what the work is missing now is a sense of narrative (this does provide a sense of context, though I really don’t think context is quite the word). I kept thinking, but I DO have a content–the everyday+the small revelation.

AND THEN.

TWYLA THARP: the smartest one in the room. Can’t believe I forgot one thing she says which I’ve made a big deal about a thousand times. I just feel so dumb. (Aside: The Creative Habit is a really terrific book that has helped me analyze numerous creative blocks and failures. But that’s just me.)

She talks about work having form, narrative and spine. Spine is what holds it together: it’s the the underlying thing, it’s the reason the creator makes it. It may or may not become clear to the audience. It sort of doesn’t matter.

It’s not form-content relationship. It’s a form-content-narrative relationship.

Narrative is the tricky bit. This is where I begin to suffer being in a school program that makes me constantly find my own narrative. I’m not bitching, I’m assessing: as a designer who is actively trying to DEPERSONALIZE my work, it’s a lot to not just be searching for new form, new content and then on top of it, new narrative every single time. The narrative part — I think a part of me definitely sees it as something the client will provide so I don’t have to worry about. Fuck that: actually, I DEFINITELY think that. Of course, I as designer shape the narrative from what they give me and yadda yadda yadda, but the base is provided.

I’ve been looking for Experimental Jetset for inspiration — which I used to do all the time and have sort of consciously stopped. But I think they are also people who sort of just really care about form + spine and less about the actual narrative. And I have to say, I think that their self-initiated/client-less works is not my favorite. Because I suspect they’re like me. What you’re saying is not interesting; it’s how you’re saying it that is. Here’s a work that is essentially clientless that I think falls really flat.

So now. The question is:

The randomizer, the Comic Sans, the three million other projects I am brooding in my head about: how to make sure there is narrative? There is journey? There is point A to point B?

I actually think the randomizer, by dint of the refresh button, will have a narrative. (It’s another question of why everyone wants MORE with it..) But Comic Sans… for the love of God, how to take people from A to B by loving up Comic Sans? Maybe the redone Helvetica posters. Maybe. It sort of seems trite to me still, though: a collection of redone posters. Trite, but fun. Like toilet paper with art printed on it!!!!

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