For their final major show as part of LCC Postgraduate Shows 2018, students from London College of Communication’s MA Graphic Media Design explored design-led research and practice through ‘A Line Which Forms A Volume’ – culminating in a publication launch and public symposium.
Rooted in the logic of critical thinking through critical making, MA Graphic Media Design is a practice-led, research-oriented course. Participants are situated within a progressive site of award-winning pedagogic development and critical subject debate.
Coordinated by Jaya Modi, and with a team including Cristina Rosque Gomez and Lan Le, we sat down with some of the students behind A Line Which Forms A Volume (ALWFAV) to find out more.
What were you hoping to achieve with the symposium?
The symposium for the second issue of A Line Which Forms a Volume aimed to enable a site for active discourse on design-led research and practice. It sought to activate a line of enquiry between guest and participant speakers through connecting questions and themes. One of our main goals was to create a new and different way to engage our audience – through both spatial design and the structural curation of the symposium, by truly exploring the different options that the space assigned could bring to us.
With the theme of the symposium, we were particularly interested in their projects that had a communal or socially engaging initiative behind it
The final format was purposed to catalyse the ideas and bring to life the intentions held within this issue of ALWFAV – which aimed to bring together emergent and established voices, and make them both accessible to the non-academic realm. Keeping this in mind, we invited guest speakers Gavin Wade and Peter Nencini, to continue a conversation around the Upcycled version of their work that was published in this issue, and collocated them with student speakers who presented excerpts from their own research – thereby punctuating the various activated systems of criticality.
We hoped, through the symposium, to actualise the variety of perspectives, narratives and methodologies that together make the MA Graphic Media Dsign research led design course so fertile for critical thought and engagement. Our issue for this year was thematised as Networks In Action, and we thought to take this idea further, by intertwining diverse narratives of participant study and established practices. We aimed to foster a conversation about the potential for design as a purposeful tool for enquiry and research across a range of situations and applications.
We were able to showcase unique design-led approaches that helped students examine, deconstruct and understand their core materials. For example, Cristina Rosique Gomez, who was both a member of the symposium team and a speaker for the event, used methodologies of video gaming and poetry to explore the female experience within urban spaces. Her idea of the female flaneur connected to another speaker’s material and therefore, we were able to establish this connected and pulsating network within otherwise extremely diverse areas of study. This was a very successful demonstration of how design enables an interconnectedness that constantly informs and feeds into a shared resource.
Lastly of course, the symposium aims to provide a strong launch-point for the next issue by providing a backdrop of successful projects by students and inspirational speakers that underline the values of the issue itself.
What key themes and thoughts did you want visitors to take away from the symposium?
For us we really wished to display the high level of design thinking and criticality that the participants of the course engage in – both quantitatively and qualitatively. We wanted the symposium to encourage a curiosity of design-led thinking within our visitors, emboldening them to question and find answers within forms and functions around us. The symposium presented itself as a chance for interactive engagement with the new issue, the exhibited work on display at the postgraduate show, and the un-mined potential of design research and enquiry, that we wished to champion.
We wanted the visitors to be able to find a similarity between how the symposium wove together connections and speakers, and how that was asserted through the design of this issue as well. Overall, a reiteration maintained throughout the symposium, was the theme of interconnectedness – especially to underline the importance of the role of formed networks within design practices.
We were keen to bring more attention to the ALWFAV initiative, which itself is a student led initiative but also acts as a piece of pedagogic research to examine the working practices of the researchers and subjects through the framework of cooperative inquiry.
It felt great to have an opportunity to practice our problem solving skills, and with the support received from everyone in the course, we were able to turn our vision into reality. — Lan Le, MA Graphic Media Design student.
What skills and experiences on collaborating on a project like this will you and your colleagues take forward in your careers?
Jaya: For me personally, this project gave a wonderful opportunity to curate and plan an event, thus obviously feeding into curatorial and project or event managerial roles. As the coordinator for the event, I had to maintain an equity between participants on the project – ensuring equal opportunity and engagement is assured to everyone, while being a hundred percent accountable for my timing and promised deliverables across a timeline. Of course, when a project involves multiple people, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong!
I think improv and adaptability were key lessons learnt – we were encouraged to be imaginative, resourceful and quick on our feet. As I served in a core editorial position as well, I had to cope with multitasking different responsibilities – the experience of which fed well into my personal interests of writing, research and publishing. Such an endeavour brought together the team’s skills as well. I’m lucky I had such a great team with me.
Cristina: This experience gave me the chance of interacting with both creative and design professionals, and an opportunity to learn from them. I was able to value the importance of feedback and constructive critique during our team meetings and felt that such a positive style of working allowed us to develop our concept to its true potential.
Having to present at regular meetings with other teams on the project further strengthened our rationales and overall ideations. Being an architecture student previously, the spatial challenges of our assigned space were exciting to me, as we attempted to use the space allocated to us in a versatile way – in terms of audience and screen placements, external screens and lighting, etc.
Lan: The space was indeed quite unconventional and transforming it for the symposium was definitely an exciting challenge! Like thinking about ways to organise the seats and the stage in a way that allowed seamless transitions between different sections of the night. We had to allow space for the speakers to deliver their material comfortably, and at the same time ensure enough intimacy between each speaker, so as to activate their connections and encourage in-depth conversations them and their audience.
All these intricate details were crucial for the theme we set out. It felt great to have an opportunity to practice our problem solving skills, and with the support received from everyone in the course, we were able to turn our vision into reality.
Were there any stand-out discussions or themes brought by the guest speakers?
The guest speakers were very important to the symposium. Gavin Wade is an artist-curator, Director of Eastside Projects, of course! And Peter Nencini through his practice as an artist/designer/lecturer looks for ways in which animals, plants and people navigate each other in degrees of designed space.
We were all mostly introduced to them, or their work, through the “In Search Of” series that our tutor Sophie Demay piloted with our year. It was interesting for us to consider them as they are collaborators themselves, and also because their work possesses an inherent initiative of bringing people together to engage, to think, to discover. Their presence itself epitomised themes of connectivity and bringing people together to celebrate and integrate differences. This affirmed the strategies adopted on the course and the ALWFAV, of joining strengths, skills and facilitate growth.
"With the theme of the symposium, we were particularly interested in their projects that had a communal or socially engaging initiative behind it."
With the theme of the symposium, we were particularly interested in their projects that had a communal or socially engaging initiative behind it, and for us, it was really fascinating when they actually talked us through such collaborations of disciplines and visions. During one segment of the night, Gavin Wade went through one such project, by a dramatic retelling of it! That really stood out to everyone, it captured their attention and guided the audience into their discussion. Gavin’s style of working albeit different from Peter’s really complements it.
Peter Nencini’s methodology of working too asserts storytelling as a primary function of design, often exploring object-works as performative or pedagogical apparatuses, therefore it was extremely enjoyable for those present, to see the way 2 completely different styles of working amalgamated together to generate such wonderful projects. Their presence reaffirmed our underlying theme of connectivity and bringing people together, addressing the need for more intersectional practices across the disciplines that would encourage working towards a cause.
Another highlight of the night was a performance by course participants and frequent collaborators Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk. Dressed in boiler suits and badges, they used Buckminster Fuller’s 40 Questions as a framework; inspired of course by Gavin Wade’s book ‘Strategic Questions’, which is an ongoing series of artworks as publications that answer the 40 fundamental questions that can solve all the world’s problems. They did an interpretative adaptation, where using the question ‘Is it a coincidence that...’, they exchanged and deliberated on issues surrounding the polarisation of politics within media today. It was really wonderful to see, as it infused a sense of fun and humour, and Gavin Wade himself was exceptionally excited and enthralled by their performance.