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I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Eddie Duggan of the BA (Hons) Computer Games Design course at UCS. Eddie has been organising From Cardboard to Keyboard and Back, the XVII Annual Colloquium for the International Board Game Studies Association, due to be hosted at UCS’s Ipswich campus later this month. It is a major conference with papers being presented from academics, historians, archaeologists and students from around the world.

I agreed to design and artwork the conference programme last year, and after a hectic few weeks of work on the contents over Easter, the artwork was finally sent to print this week. Eddie and I involved second year UCS graphic design and illustration students in the process, who in small teams had to pitch concepts for a cover illustration and delegate maps, with Eddie acting as an external client who they had never met before. The activity provided them with a chance to hone their professional skills by presenting their concepts to someone who wasn’t a peer or a lecturer they were familiar with.

Cover

Colloquium programme cover with the winning illustration by second year graphic design student team comprised of: Jamie Bird, Tatjana Gecmane and Georgina Warden; who won a ‘client pitching’ activity to have their work featured in the publication.

It has been an honour to be involved in some small way with this conference, and great to have been able to give graphic design students a chance to have their work showcased to an international audience.

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An exhibition of work created by third year Graphic Design students at UCS themed on English culture. This exhibition will also feature work by graphic design students from Edith Cowen University in Australia, who answered a brief in tandem with UCS students looking at Australian culture.

The exhibition is being curated by second year UCS Graphic Design students as part of a professional practice module. Second year students are creating the visuals that support and publicise the exhibition, deciding how to hang the work on display, as well as blog and tweet about their experiences in hosting an exhibition for the first time.

The Private View is 20 May at 17:30, Public View weekdays 21–26 May 10:00–17:00, (email graphics@ucs.ac.uk in advance for access).

Room 1, University Campus Suffolk, Arts Building, Ipswich

ourenglanducs.wordpress.com

@OurEnglandUCS

I have always been fascinated by maps. On returning from family camping holidays in France as a boy, my dad, a photographer by trade, would create a big photo album of our adventures, and in pride of place at the front of these albums he would stick a photostat map of France that detailed our journey. My father had itchy feet on holiday and we would rarely stay in one location more than 2 days before he bundled the five of us back in our rusty old Fiat van to trundle off to another site of interest. I think between the age of 8–14 I must have experienced most of France over 2 week periods every summer. Now days Claire and I mostly holiday in the UK, and as we near the date of departure we always buy an Ordinance Survey map of where we are heading and study it intently. It has become a bit of a ritual which I think harks back to the family holidays of my youth.

This information is given as background to the fact that I have recently come across several personal coincidences featuring maps. Two weeks ago it was my mother’s eightieth birthday, and struggling to think of what to get her I struck upon the idea to take her to Norfolk on a trip down memory lane, (my family had relocated there from London in the 1960s, and as a result it is my county of birth). The obvious way to physically give this as a present to my mum—with the date for the intended trip yet to be arranged—was via a map. So I bought an Ordinance Survey map of The Broads, some stickers, and wrapped them up with an instruction card informing her to choose the locations she wanted to revisit.

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The coincidence of maps on that weekend happened when early on the Saturday morning, prior to making my mum’s card and wrapping her present, I had to go to the Post Office to pick up my order of Where You Are by Visual Editions, a book / box of maps by “writers, artists and thinkers … each one exploring the idea of what a map can be”. The coincidence was cemented in my mind when sitting down to look through the Visual Edition maps, still prior to creating my mum’s card, and realising another book on my studio table waiting to be read had a map on its front cover. This book about typography and printing was published in 1947 by the long gone Cowell’s printers in Ipswich, which I had been prompted to buy the week before after reading Ruth Artmonsky’s excellent Do You Want It Good Or Do You Want It Tuesday: The Halcyon Days of W.S. Cowell Ltd. Printers.

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A Handbook of Printing Types by John Lewis, published by W.S Cowell Ltd, 1947

The former of these two books, Where You Are, really stretches the traditional concept of what a map actually is and how maps can be interpreted. I was particularly taken with Valeria Luiselli’s beautiful and mysterious Polariods in her map: Swings of Harlem contained within Where You Are, in which she photographed her daughter on every set of swings in every play-park in Harlem. In her text accompanying these images she passes detached thoughts on the location, the procedure of getting to the park, and her own mood as she watches her daughter play and eavesdrops on other people’s parent–child conversations.

I got to thinking about the concept of psychogeography as I read Luiselli’s piece over the following week. In particular I was considering how we can approach the world around us in a detached manner, forming our own maps of our circumstances and psychologies, and how these can differ greatly from maps produced with the purpose of trying to give order to the world around us. Feeding into this thought process was a post I read in February on Al Jazeera America questioning why the north ended up on top of the map. This led me to dig out The Situationist City by Simon Sadler, a book that had been sitting on my shelf unread since I bought it last year.

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The cover of Sadler’s book features Guy Debord’s 1959 psychogeographical map, of which the author says: “…made as part of Debord’s correspondence with his situationist colleague Constant, the piece was a tiny gem of situationist pot-latch (art created as a gift) and détournement (art composed from ‘diverted’ aesthetic elements).” This image in turn reminded me of a catalogue cover I had produced 12 years previously for a graffiti art-trail of Ipswich I curated. The project’s intention was to question what could be constituted as an art gallery and the cover image I designed openly and appropriately rips off Debord’s visual concept—appropriate because situationism was never afraid of plagiarism as a concept and actively courted it as an artistic device, as highlighted by Sadler above when discussing détournement.

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The catalogue, circa 2002, also contained a map I designed, (below), for exhibition goers to follow. A few years after designing this I realised it was similar to a map of London that NB Studio created, (see link). I don’t know when NB Studio made their work, but if it was prior to my map, I was completely ignorant of it at the time—this is a statement which I realise calls into question my honesty considering my previous comment about Debord’s map, but I swear it is true. Regardless of this, anyone looking at NB Studio’s map will soon agree that my mediocre design effort pales into insignificance in comparison.

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To wrap up all this map talk I suppose that I’ve come to realise that all my recent thinking around the subject has actually been a journey in itself, and therefore, this blog post is a map of my thought processes over the last few weeks. I will be the first to admit that these thoughts and coincidences are somewhat ill formed and disjointed at the moment, but I’m currently ruminating on many different thoughts with the hope of formulating some of the more interesting ones into a future project. So without wanting to force a pun, I haven’t come to the end of my journey in this matter, and I fully expect to return to it again here in the near future.

However, it is probably worth pointing out an irony from the starting point of this post. On the way to a celebratory meal in a pub for my mother’s eightieth birthday on the evening of the aforementioned Saturday, at which my childhood fellow French adverturer brother and sister were going to be present, Claire and I got completely lost on the drive there, too reliant were we on Apple’s iPhone Maps app!

 

I’ve been asked to give an introduction to a showing of Helvetica.

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IMG_6407It may not be a great piece of graphic design, but this random act of kindness impressed me on Boxing Day, when Claire and I took our dog for a walk to one of his, and our, favourite haunts. He was equally impressed with the treat, (and surprised, considering we don’t usually take them with us on walks). Given the sentiment, and the touching words, I can forgive the use of Comic Sans *.

Text reads: “Dear dog-walkers. Please help yourselves to a treat for your doggy friend as a small gesture to remember our beloved chocolate Labrador Rolo, who passed away 3 years ago today. Rolo enjoyed many wonderful walks along these paths – he is very much missed and forever in our hearts. May you and your canine companion have a happy Christmas together.”

 

 

* (Comic Sans aside though, there really is no excuse for the clip art.)

 

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This week saw the first exhibition in London by UCS Ipswich Graphic Design graduates. Titled We Are, the exhibition was held at The Coningsby Gallery, and was a deliberate attempt to try and buck the trend of the morale sapping rigmarole of New Blood, New Designers and Free Range graduate exhibitions, where by thousands of graphic design students compete for attention all at the same time of year and all under one roof. Notably at such events, those from the design industry tend to seek out the courses they already have contacts with, and rarely spend time looking for new talent from emerging courses. What successes come from this first UCS solo exhibition this week are as yet to be seen, but as this was the first of its kind for our students, it was a bit of a trial run and will hopefully develop over the coming years.

It appeared to inspired current first, second and third year students, who we took up to the gallery at various stages this week. And during a very busy period for current final year students as they are in the middle of writing their dissertation proposals and completing course work, they are also preparing for their International Design Auction which will help to finance any such ventures for them in 2014. The ‘We Are‘ graduates ran one last year, and raised nearly £2000 for their end of year show and London exhibition, and if the lots that are coming in so far this year are anything to go by, the 2013 auction is likely to raise a lot more money. There is signed work from Stefan Sagmeister, Tom Gauld, Jessica Hirsche, Milton Glaser, Armin Vit…I could go on, (and on, and on). While in London on Monday to catch the We Are show, current students even managed to find time to visit Margaret Calvert to pick up her 3 donations to the auction, (as well as accept her hospitality of tea and biscuits).

International Design Auction 2013 is being held at University Campus Suffolk’s Waterfront Building in Ipswich on 27 November at 17:30. Check out the lots on the  students’ website for the auction, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for up to date information.

ida2013.com
ida on Facebook
@IDAuction2013

Earlier this week I was asked to go head to head on the radio in a song war with a friend of mine Tim Hetherington. Kim Trotter, who hosts the All Things Considered show on Ipswich Community Radio runs a feature called Wheels of Steel, where by she pits two people’s song choices against each other in three categories. When Kim asked if I’d be interested, I jumped at the chance, as I’m always up for a bit of musical competitiveness.

The winner was decided by studio guests, the band Reggae Rainbows, and I think I scraped a narrow win against Tim, 2–1, through bias, as one of my choices was Ken Boothe. You can listen to the show here—the Wheels of Steel feature is about an hour in.

For those without the time, here are the tunes I picked, and their competition, plus the rationale I emailed to Kim to justify my choices.

Best punk song: Shot By Both Sides by Magazine vs Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers
This was actually my second choice, the first being Boredom by the Buzzcocks from their Spiral Scratch EP. However, as that had swearing in it and not suitable for broadcast at 11am on a Thursday morning, I went for Magazine. Howard Devoto has the best Punk voice ever, (he also sung Boredom, as he was originally in the Buzzcocks before leaving after Spiral Scratch to form Magazine). The lyrics have an outsider spirit which completely fits the original punk ethos, as well as having nihilistic undertones. The fact that Pete Shelley allowed Devoto to take a guitar riff with him when he left the band and use it for Shot By Both Sides completes the circle on this. However, the irony is that Devoto formed Magazine because he didn’t want to be confined to punks’ narrow and reductive aesthetic, so I’m sure he wouldn’t be best pleased with thinking it is thought of as a punk classic.

Best pop song: Prince Charming by Adam And The Ants vs Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode
The opening guitar strum, the primal screams, and the acoustic riff all set this song up for greatness. And then the lyrics kick in, declaring that no one should be afraid to express themselves. Raising self-esteem and personal pride lies at the heart of this song, and that, in my mind, sends an important personal/political message from the get go. Questioning who has the right to tell anyone what to do, how to dress or how to behave should be at the heart of pop, whether implicitly through dress codes or explicitly through lyrics, and pop has been doing this since Elvis first shook his legs in Memphis in July 1954. My love for this song was reaffirmed when I saw Adam Ant in Ipswich last July, and the sight of pretty much the entire audience, (except for me), do ‘that’ dance, made me smile in admiration at them all as Adam sang ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’, probably one of the best pop lyrics ever.

Best sing along song: Everything I Own by Ken Boothe vs Sweet Talking Woman by ELO
This song is sheer emotion—there is something about Boothe’s tender vocal delivery that pulls directly on the heart strings. I have always been fascinated by how he pronounces his ‘H’s on this, which I stupidly emulate when I join in wishing I had such a voice as his. I sometimes wonder whether I just HAVE to sing along to stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably, it is that powerful. It is sung directly to the listener forcing you to FEEL his heartache. And all to a gorgeous Lover’s Rock rhythm to boot. But please, don’t anyone mention the Boy George version, or I’m likely to get very angry.

 

Thanks Kim and Tim, this was great fun.

posterFor more information: ucs.ac.uk/designauction

The BA (Hons) Graphic Design course at University Campus Suffolk is proud to be hosting Image Conference on 13 November 2012. Speakers will include designer and typographer Jonathan Barnbrook, illustrator and designer Brian Grimwood, Roderick Mills of the Association of Illustrators, and motion director Jonathan Yeo.

Held in the UCS Waterfront Building in Ipswich, the conference will look at where images come from, how they help us to understand the world we live in, as well as reflecting on the potential of images. The conference will co-incide with the UCS Waterfront Gallery hosting a retrospective exhibition of the work of Brian Grimwood, which celebrates the launch of his monograph: The Man Who Changed the Look of British Illustration.

There are three pricing structures for Image Conference: Standard ticket — £30, Studio ticket — £100 (admits 4), and Student discount — £10. Price of admission includes lunch and refreshments.

For more information, and to buy tickets, go to:
www.imageconference.org.uk

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