Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Fall semester 2008
Instructors: Prem Krishnamurthy, Adam Michaels
excerpt from course syllabus
“‘Let us then go straight ahead,’ said the Captain, ‘and connect this idea with what we have already defined and discussed. For example: what we call limestone is more or less pure calcium oxide intimately united with a thin acid known to us in a gaseous state. If you put a piece of this limestone into dilute sulphuric acid, the latter will seize on the lime and join with it to form calcium sulphate, or gypsum; that thin gaseous acid, on the other hand, escapes. Here there has occurred a separation and a new combination, and one then feels justified even in employing the term ‘elective affinity,’ because it really does look as is one relationship was preferred to another and chosen instead of it.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities
Design is an inherently social activity. The activities encapsulated by the term “graphic design” require a network of interested participants, including typesetters, printers, programmers, publishers, editors, and distributors. While contemporary digital tools offer unprecedented opportunties for individual production, more significantly, they provide even greater potential for engaged forms of collaboration.
This course will explore the potentials and particularities in varied modes of collaboration within graphic design research and practice. By producing work across a range of media, including publications and exhibitions, and in a range of interpersonal configurations, students will create connections between their work and that of their peers. The course’s intent is to push beyond the limitations of individual practice and sole authorship, using shifting design alliances to engender unexpected syntheses of knowledge and methods.
These collaborative frameworks require a high level of attentiveness and a willingness to negotiate. Groupings of different scales will be both chosen freely and assigned; some projects may have specific working parameters in order to yield productive challenges. Although our assignments will focus on concrete design products, the process of collaboration itself is of equal importance to the class’s focus. As such, reflection and analysis on the relative success of a given collaboration will play a key role in our discussions, and will help to extend our understanding of working together under different circumstances.
The course will begin with a series of shorter assignments, in which students will work in small groups of different scales and configurations. In each of these assignments, a particular subject matter and focus will be paired with an appropriate collaborative structure. By mid-semester, students will have explored different modes of working with several of their peers.
At mid-term, the entire class will join together to work on a larger-scale project that will extend through the end of the semester. This project will involve research, curation, editing, and design; the work will be completed by multiple groups of students working in tandem.
Class periods will be spent in a mixture of in-class workshops, small group discussions, and class critiques. The initial assignments of the course will be divided up into two week project blocks, each led by one of the instructors. The larger end-of-semester assignment will be advised jointly by both instructors.