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Degree show time is upon us, and this year the Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration students from UCS Ipswich have branded their show he110 after the studio number R110 they’ve been working in for the last 3 years.13131441_1000143950071523_6870947813051939198_oThe show opens to the public on 3 June in the UCS Arts Building, (weekdays 10:00–18:00; weekends 11:00–15:00), with the Private View on the evening of 2 June from 18:15–21:00.

This year the graphics students have been busy marketing their show and are posting daily on their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles. They’ve also launched their own he110 website with links to their personal portfolio sites.

Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration students are exhibiting alongside other degree courses: Computer Games Design; Dance; English; Fine Art; Digital Film Production; Interior Architecture and Design; and Photography. The Photography degree show is on in the UCS Waterfront Building until 8 June before going to Free Range in London.

For details of how to get to UCS follow this link and come along to the show and say he110

 

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Graphic Interruption: Perfect Image image

I am embarking on a new venture as of this week; that of starting a Masters. As a result it is unlikely that I will have the time to blog here as much as I have in the past. Dubdog blog is not closing, merely shifting emphasis and directing its attention elsewhere for the time being.

I anticipate I will still add to this blog over the next 2 years that I’m doing the MA course part time, but what with my day job and other commitments, I will have to prioritise rigorously and blogging here will be a much lower priority.

I am hugely looking forward to doing my MA. It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but have had to put it on the back burner over the last 5 years due to work commitments. The irony is that as an academic I am expected to be conducting scholarly activity and researching but the lecturing and administration side of being an academic is the thing that has held me back from doing this in anything but a piecemeal fashion. In the last five years I’ve maintained a regular (ish) activity here; peer-reviewed and written reviews for books for art and design publishers; attended conferences; contributed to other blogs, including that of Eye magazine; and I’ve been actively researching historic typographic and print related publications. I’ve even managed to create the odd piece of graphic design, self-published a book and followed my growing passion for photography with a number of personal projects. However, none of this has had a continued focus or the structure that is needed to truly give any of it real academic merit. The framework of an MA will give me that structure and allow that focus.

Do keep checking back from time to time, there will be the odd new post every once in a while. Thanks for reading thus far.

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Scribble cover. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

When you work with someone on a regular basis you tend to get to know them well. You tell each other stories, you share aspects of your life and you get to know their working nuances intimately. But just recently I’ve been spending time with my work colleague, friend and ex-tutor Russell Walker a lot more than I would normally outside of typical ‘office’ working hours. This is because Russell Walker, designer, illustrator and educator of some 30+ years has just published a book of his creative and educational life called Scribble, and I’ve been immersing myself in it.

Starting from his earliest memories of childhood in his father’s tailor shop, Russell’s close friend Mike Doherty narrates his move through school and on to art school, into the world of being a professional illustrator and times spent teaching generations of design students as a lecturer, course leader and senior lecturer. From the outset the pair proclaim that the intention is to share these memories and experiences in order that others can dip in and benefit from them in some small way.

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Fetchaset spread. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

From his days at Hornsey College to describing leaving student life as looking over a bottomless cliff, there is much here for the novice designer stepping out into the world of work to learn from, and all illustrated with the sumptuous and colourful portfolio that Russell has built up over the years. From initial excursions in the world of going freelance, tales abound of interviews, knock-backs, successes, international agents and working for some big name corporate clients. Those that know Russell as well as I do will know that his determination generally wins out in the end and this book is ample proof of a will to not so much stay ahead of the game, but to shape it. The phrase I’ve often heard Russell say to students: ‘if you are hungry for it you will get it’, couldn’t be more true of the man himself.

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Chairman Meow. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

While knowing much of this work already, albeit seeing it in singular sittings, the collection that Scribble presents brings a personal awe at the vastness of Russell’s output—witnessing this work again but in collected form only reinforces my understanding of his creative talent. From early drawings through to skilful air-brushing; onto digitally rendered outcomes before coming back to collage and the hand-drawn in more recent pieces; Scribble showcases the visual journey of someone who doesn’t like to sit on their laurels.

The fact that Russell has dedicated much of his career to the education of others, and in doing so has potentially sacrificed the fame other illustrators of equal standing may have afforded themselves, I would argue has kept him more creatively relevant. He has avoided pitfalls of stylistic cul-de-sacs and the development of his technical and stylistic approaches in visual attitude is on show here for all to see. To say someone is ‘of their time’ often suggests they are stuck in some distant past glory, but such a phrase used to describe Russell I propose suggests that each stage in his creative journey has been ‘of its time’; a continuous line of constant updating. Russell treads a fine line in remaining alive to nuances in contemporary illustration while keeping a firm grip on his personal visual language—this is in no way an easy task and is in part driven by the requirements of educating others.

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Run’m Up, Run’m Out. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

The importance of line, colour and composition in Russell’s work is present from the start of the book to the closing pages. The inclusion of original sketches, work-in-progress and quotes from others, (typographer and designer Jonathan Barnbrook tells of his time as one of his students, and this rubs shoulders with a portrait of Russell by illustrator Brian Grimwood), alongside his perspectives on design education make this a book that works on many levels for many audiences. The fact that this book has been produced in collaboration with alumni from the Graphic Design course at UCS who now run their own successful design studio, Three&Me—described in the closing pages as ‘design partners’—is testament itself to Russell’s dedication to encouraging and supporting the next generation of creative talent.

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Le Kit Adagio, Viande. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

The one thing that I can’t quite get my head around with Scribble is that to publish a book such as this suggests some sort of end point has been reached. But knowing Russell as I do, this will certainly not be the case. Ever a person to develop and push forward, there are many more chapters yet to be written for Scribble.

To purchase a copy of Scribble, contact Russell Walker via Fetchaset

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I’ve recently written a guest post for EngLangBlog, a blog for A’ Level English Language students. The post is titled Graphic Language and it’s available to read here.

Thanks to Dan for asking in the first instance, and for the proof reading.

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Tom Gauld’s response to reader’s letters about Steven Pinker’s article on grammatical rule breaking. The Guardian Review 23.08.14.

Do we need less or fewer pedants in this world? Well, according to Steven Pinker’s article in last weeks’ Guardian Review, (16.08.14), there are some grammatical ‘rules’ that we can afford to break. If you are convinced by his argument, then we can clearly agree we need less pedants in the world.

Personally I’m with him on this. There are just too many English language rules, many of which I have no knowledge of. And if you don’t know what they are, how can you change your behaviour? One of the problems with language pedants is they adopt a moral high ground that judges the character of the person who doesn’t quite get it right, despite the fact they may be communicating perfectly well.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my pet peeves. My wife and step-daughter will warn anyone in my company they will fuel my wrath if they start a list-based sentence with ‘A’, and then progress to the second part of their list without saying ‘B’ beforehand. This in my mind is less about pedantry though, and more about committment. Worse though, they will tell you about my hatred of the use of the word ‘evocative’ to describe something without stating what it is evocative of! I find this particularly annoying if used to describe music. But again, this is less about pedantry and more about ensuring what you are saying actually makes sense.

Professionally however, when it comes to communicating clearly, use of language is important. My degree design students don’t know it yet, (they will find out in approximately one month, unless any of them read this post), but in one of my second year modules I ban certain words. That’s not quite true; I have a list of words and phrases that they aren’t allowed to use unless they are followed with a qualifying statement. For example, I don’t allow them to use the word bold. In and of itself, bold a meaningless describer for something visual unless it is being used when talking about a typeface, in which case it is entirely appropriate. Otherwise, it is just a subjective descriptor. I want my students to dig deeper than that—for starters, what makes something bold as opposed to not being bold? It is important to acknowledge such distinctions otherwise such phrases are meaningless. Likewise, the phrase ‘eye-catching’ has me thinking of someone playing ‘catch’ with an eyeball. What does eye-catching actually mean if it isn’t qualified; it is not something that can exist in its own vacuum. And while this might mark me out as a pedant to my students, it is an important aspect of design education, because as graphic designers we have to justify our rationale for the design decisions we make. We have to convince clients that we have analysed their communication problems and aim to successfully deliver their messages to their target audience, rather than employing our own artistic tastes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when we are designing we are not artists.

Despite not classing myself as a pedant, there is one area where I will confess to such a trait and that is when teaching typography. Students get sick of me discussing the difference between dashes and hyphens and appropriate usage of an ampersand. I’m not about to go into a typographic lesson here, but I think it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of pedantry at the heart of any typographer.

The contradictions in my views are not lost on me. Where I’m happy for the English language to be adapted over time, and accept this as part of a cultural/societal evolution, I am more resistant to the bastardisation of typographic constructs. But I equally accept that this is all they are, constructs—rules some people have mutually agreed to adopt that then become standards that others follow. Despite this dichotomy I am able to accept both my pedantry and that some of the things I believe in will fall out of usage by the simple fact others don’t accept it as that important as I do. I shudder that the em dash could disappear within my lifetime, but by rights, what should I really care?

Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in the future of typography, I still believe it is important that graphic designers should understand what they are doing, (or not doing), and why, and to be able to justify their reasoning. The ability to communicate is at the heart of being a designer, and to choose to break ‘rules’ is fine if, A: you can demonstrate this is appropriate for the communication that needs to be delivered; and secondly: errr… if it makes a point.

Letter to the East Anglian Daily Times, re: an article printed on 28.06.14 regarding the publication of the 2014 State Of Ipswich report

Dear EADT

I write to take issue with analysis of the State of Ipswich report in Paul Geater’s article on Saturday. It claims “…the poor standard of education probably contributes to it, [Ipswich], having one of the lowest average wages of any town in the country”. Such ‘analysis’ that makes assumptions without presenting any evidence is compounded when, in a reference to the fact that 25% of Ipswich workers earn below the ‘living wage’, it states there is: “a difference between the genders with 18% of men earning below this figure, [£7.65 / hour], but 32% of women below that line”. This is despite the fact that Mr Pinter of Ipswich Borough Council is quoted as saying, “that this difference in wages was in spite of the fact that girls did much better than boys at school”.

In summary the article presents the view that women are worse off in employment than men despite doing better at school, but it is ultimately the education system that is at fault for low wages. While there may be many things wrong with the education system in Ipswich that need addressing, I’m afraid that the blame for low wages and gender differences in the workplace can only be laid at the feet of employers. Such reporting does not hold employers accountable for poor wages and inequality, and in doing so excuses such unacceptable behaviour.

Nigel Ball

Invitations

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I’m proud to have recently finished working on the third edition of Childhood Remixed, a University Campus Suffolk (UCS) online interdisciplinary academic journal themed on childhood. The journal, published annually, has previously only featured papers from staff and students at UCS. However, this year much of the publication has been made up of submissions to the international Children and Childhoods Conference held at UCS in July of last year.

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The international flavour of this edition demonstrates not just how much the journal has grown in three years, but how much UCS has developed in that time as well. First launched in 2012, Childhood Remixed was intended as a ‘stepping stone’ into the world of being peer-reviewed and published. For third year undergraduate and postgraduate students, and for lecturers who hadn’t been published before, this was an excellent opportunity for a safe trial into the daunting world of academic publishing. The journal still provides this platform, but now allows those same students and staff to be featured alongside academics and researchers from across the globe.

ChildhoodRemixed_pagesIt is hoped with this international issue, that the journal will be available to the wider public soon as a download rather than just internally within UCS as the previous two editions have been. More details will be posted here when it is available.

Thanks to Dr Alison Boggis, Senior Lecturer in Early Years at UCS, who has tirelessly pushed this publication forward since its first inception three years ago.  Read a report of the launch of the first edition here on Blogger.

Yesterday I attended the annual UCS (University Campus Suffolk) Learning and Teaching conference. It was a day packed with presentations looking at open, distant and e-learning, as well as investigating how technology in both the lecture theatre and online can enhance learning.

Keynote speakers, Dr Andrew Middleton and Professor Stephen Gomez discussed student engagement and learning landscapes. Gomez interestingly pointed out that perceptions of what constituted a lecture when he first came to education hadn’t changed since the 14th century, whereby a didactic method of imparting knowledge from one source, the lecturer, to a passive audience, the students, was still being used today. He related this to the differences in business or health care in the 14th century to current day practice, stating that as academics we were either incredibly lucky to hit upon the ‘correct’ methodology back then, or we needed to rethink these old ideologies.

Throughout the rest of the day, I heard speakers discuss the benefits of online handbooks and  teaching resources; using technologies for adaptive release of tests to students (whereby a learner can not progress to the next stage of a test until they’ve completed that section correctly); the advantages of verbal feedback being supplied as audio files; and the idea of releasing feedback and grades separately to encourage reflection and help students see feedback as supportive rather than linking it to what they may see as negative grades.

In the afternoon Professor David Gill gave a presentation on how Web 2.0 technologies had become leading tools in linking students, academic research and the press, with how the Looting Matters blog, which reports on archaeological research and stolen antiquaries, had become a ‘go to’ website for Reuters when reporting on such issues. As a counterpoint to some of the other presentations during the proceedings, Dr Fidel Meraz and Dr Mike Doherty, lecturers from the UCS Interior Architecture and Design course, discussed the importance of not relying on the fetishisation of technology when working with students who have to have an experiential perspective on the human and social aspects of navigating space and designing for interaction in a physical environment.

The day was extremely stimulating. The pedagogical rationale surrounding different frameworks of teaching, and how the  methodology behind decisions of delivery using technology has provided much food for thought in considering my own teaching. In particular, Professor Gomez demonstrated an online resource for tagging imagery which could be very useful in critiques about student work, or when teaching the history of design.

However, throughout the day there were many questions I felt weren’t being discussed. These include:
—data protection of staff recording things on personal devices
—staff using personal devices they’ve paid for in order to meet expectations of contemporary education
—health and safety issues around RSI
—the possible disenfranchising of students who can’t afford up to date technology
—the possible disenfranchising of students and staff who live in areas of web poverty
—workload management and work/life balance issues in an ‘always connected’ culture

The focus of all the presenters tended to be on pedagogy without any discussion about any wider ethical implications. For example, data protection was only raised once in one Q&A session, and social justice was only briefly discussed at the end of the day in the plenary session when a student raised the issue for the panel to discuss. For me, for such ethical considerations in open, distance and e-learning have to be explored alongside all other discussions about the positive benefits of championing existing and emerging technologies in higher education. Drs Meraz and Doherty have a point in using the term the ‘fetishisation of technology’ and I worry we are rushing into a future where by all manner of problems will rear their heads down the line for both students and lectures if due consideration of such issues isn’t embedded into current dialogue.

These comments are not meant to be critical of any discussions that took place, or to be seen with any luddite connotations, because I embrace new technology in both my personal life and professional practice, and can truly see the potential advantages to both learners and teachers that emerged from the majority of presentations I witnessed. But they are meant as a word of caution on not divorcing the social and political implications of championing technology in any such discussions, and the belief that, as educationists, it is our duty to always be considering our practice holistically.

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Still from Academic Earth video, The Psychology of the Internet Troll

Ever wondered what the psychology of a troll is, you know, those annoying people who are deliberately out to promote arguments and upset others on the internet? Well, according to the video The Psychology of the Internet Troll, hosted over on Academic Earth, it is all linked to being alone. “We all behave differently when alone. Anonymity frees us from a perceived obligation to act in accordance with certain social norms,” they state, going on to say that, “while most of our anonymous behavior is relatively benign, what happens when it isn’t?…We’re 20 years into the experiment of the World Wide Web, and we can clearly see how Internet anonymity plays out across social media, chat rooms, and comment sections. Usually just a nuisance, anonymous troublemakers, known as trolls, can be dangerous when they go after the vulnerable. In an effort to better understand what makes them tick, psychologists are starting to take a closer look at the psychology of the Internet troll.”

My own experience with trolls has thankfully been limited to befriending someone on Facebook who I hadn’t seen for over 15 years. They then preceded to comment, uninvited, on conversations I was having with others online, and stating to get argumentative with people they didn’t know. They also started to negatively comment on anything I posted. I didn’t think of this activity as trolling at first, until a friend posted a comment after a protracted argument with said protagonist that they had forgotten the adage “do not feed the troll”, and signed off from the conversation. This realisation that my old acquaintance’s behaviour was deliberately vindictive, which I had only previously thought of as annoying, opened my eyes to his divisive actions and I unfriended him straight away.

The video is well worth a watch, and uses animation to break down some complex psychological research that explains the behaviour and mentality behind trolling. And if there is any one thing you have to keep reminding yourself when online or using any form of social media, it is: DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.

Watch the Psychology of the Internet Troll here.

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