Jan Van Toorn and Els Kuijpers workshop with MA Graphic Media Design students
Recently Jan Van Toorn and Els Kuijpers came to LCC for a week of workshops, talks and seminars with MA Graphic Media Design students.
We spoke to Els about the value of taking part in events like this and caught up with some of the students involved to find out more about the week’s activities.
Els, why are these kinds of workshops important for young designers?
“In general, it can be very valuable for young designers to meet other makers and thinkers with specific expertise in visual communication. In the Dutch design culture to which Jan and I belong there is a long tradition of collaboration, discussion and public orientation.
“Our workshop was about making good ideas critical and productive, about design strategies on the basis of an agenda and a mentality. This is also why we think it is very important to offer a workshop tutored by a curator, because our job is to work with designers to translate and narrate their reinterpreted vision of the brief.”
What did you take away from the week at LCC?
“The great inspiration that came from LCC, in a city as large as London, was that students from many countries and cultures come together and are attracted to learn on the basis of strong programme, an interesting curriculum and the desire to partake in contemporary design discourse.”
What key bit of advice would you give an LCC student who was about to graduate and wanted a creative career?
“Always remember that ‘design is cultural’. Allow yourself to be challenged by the knowledge that what you produce should have meaning, and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty.”
We spoke to Rebecca Worth, an MA Graphic Media Design student who took part in the workshop, to get a glimpse of the week from a student perspective.
Rebecca explains “last year, while living in the Netherlands, I booked a flight to London specifically from Eindhoven so that I could spent some time at the van Abbemuseum to take in the retrospective of Jan van Toorn’s work. I remember being really impressed, particularly by the consistency of his beautiful calendars.
“I did, however, find it a difficult exhibition to digest. It felt messy. And I wasn’t guided by familiar museum systems like labels and vinyl text. Having now met Jan, and Els, the exhibition curator, I understand that this experience was intentional, forcing the audience to do some work.
“Els Kuijpers started the week with a very in-depth lecture following the history of human attempts to organise and visualise information. Giving many examples, she spoke about the fluid nature of ‘fact’ being relevant to its particular period.
“She referred to how previously objects were organised using methods that might seem ridiculous to us now, like paintings grouped as ‘landscapes’ as opposed to analysing the content and context of the paintings.She used this an example which served to remind us to question established practice.
“Following a lunch break, we divided into groups and discussed the material we’d brought in. We began discussing the very current phenomena of the ‘Instagram celebrity’ and how these people become a medium for advertising, which is presented in the appearance of ‘real life’.
“Jan pointed out that while these might appear very contrived, the reality is that we all construct our digital identities, to a greater or lesser extent. He suggested that we undertake the challenge of exploring what a ‘real’ self-portrait might look like, and we spent the rest of the week developing these ideas and curating a body of work.”