As designers, we focus on our client's needs (and solving their problems) but often forget about our personal development as creative practitioners. Although investing in our advancement is critical, whether it be to;
- learn new practical skills,
- expand our existing knowledge,
- define our point-of-view or voice as a designer
- actively seek new collaborations or relationships in industry, or
- discovering fresh sources of inspiration is vital to keeping our work relevant and exciting.
No matter what stage of our design career we are - we should all be curious students of design, embracing each and every opportunity we have to learn. The Porto Design Summer School is one such opportunity - a rich and collaborative way to learn, generate practical skills, design innovative design outcomes, build relationships and adventure.
Applications for the (July) 2017 program (which has an amazing line up of tutors) is open until Monday 29th of May.
The Porto Design Summer School is a unique opportunity to study graphic design within the setting of one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Now in its 5th year, this highly regarded course brings together participants from all around the world (at all stages of their career from student to experienced professionals) for an immersive editorial design focused program.
This year teaching staff include Porto school founder Andrew Howard typo systems luminary Hamish Muir masterful book designer David Pearson, and artist/typographer Catherine Griffiths (of typ gr ph c) representing the ladies and our talent from down under!
Thumbnail image above Porto project work by Tyler Johnston, (USA) & Josh Peter, (USA)
Set in a small palace (yes palace, not a typo!) in a beautiful square right in the Porto city centre. The location is remarkable providing both visual and cultural inspiration. Accommodation is included in the course fees (which are super reasonably priced).
It's an intensive but hugely enjoyable two weeks of practice-based work in which, benefitting from the expertise and skills of the workshop tutors, participants will explore the creative possibilities of editorial design, examining topics such as narrative structure, navigation, typographic systems, hierarchy and composition, as well as editing and notions of authorship.
An adventure in the city and through the design journey, the course outline guides participants to build a practical editorial outcome, developing narratives, drawing inspiration from the location, their peers and the tutors.
The aim is to expand technical and conceptual skills and thus move participants closer to finding a unique outlook and signature as a graphic designer. The two weeks culminate with individual presentations of the projects in a formative review.
Above all, the course establishes an intensive, creative forum within which to discuss approaches to contemporary design practice, to share ideas and to celebrate our collective interest and enthusiasm. This is a unique opportunity to study with a diverse creative cohort, and the relationships you will build during this intensive program are invaluable.
I asked 3 of the tutors a few questions to learn more about the program and the city.
Andrew, how did the Porto Summer School first come about? What is/was your vision for the program in the future? And what have been the highlights for you over the last four years?
I moved from London to Porto in 1993. Quite a drastic change of context in many ways, from a hub of activity and cultural reference to a slightly isolated country on the edge of Europe – which is strangely what the UK might now become after Brixit! Now there’s an irony.
After establishing my studio here and taking a post as a design lecturer in Portugal’s primary design college (ESAD–Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Matosinhos), I began to invite friends and colleagues to visit, give lectures and run workshops on the course that I direct. Many noticed what I already knew, that Porto was full of potential as a design destination. It contained a thriving design community, a cultural setting in terms of lifestyle and urban environment that reflected the traditions of Southern Europe with the accompanying good weather and as yet largely unindustrialised diet, and in particular, was inexpensive. For sure this was part of the supporting rational for creating the summer school in Porto. But there were other equally important motivations.
One has to do with the nature of institutional education. As a lecturer with 24 years experience in such a system I acknowledge the positive things it has to offer.
But I also understand the need for learning to take place outside of state regulated supervision, in an environment which is able to be more personal and less concerned with academic measurements of success. There is a difference, as Ivan Illich famously wrote, between the commodity that is schooling and the process that is learning.
Finally, there is the pleasure of being to work with friends who share ideals and passions. The core tutor team since the first edition in 2013 has been Hamish Muir, Jessica Helfand, and myself. Each year, except 2104, a forth guest tutor has joined the team – Jonathan Barnbrook in 2013, George Hardie in 2015 and in 2016 Adrian Shaughnessy. This year it will be David Pearson. And to fill in for Jessica Helfand who is unavailable this July, we’re delighted to be joined by Catherine Griffiths.
One of the principle highlights over the past four years has been the opportunity to have welcomed participants from all over the world who bring with them different cultural perspectives, different routines and different expectations, as well as different experience and skills. Some, at the beginning of their design journey simply want to expand their knowledge, others, as professionals, want to break their routines and refresh. Whatever the reason, this coming together in territory which is new for them all establishes a unique group dynamic in which each is encouraged to extract what is relevant and meaningful to them whilst being guided through a common set of course tasks.
As for ambition for the summer school, it is simply that it manages to cement it’s reputation as a design destination that offers a unique experience, and that, who knows, we may even ‘take it on tour’ to other locations.
Hamish, you have a significant pedigree in editorial design and graphic authorship. How do you (as an educator) foster the innovative spirit and creative energy that 8vo brought to the Octavo publication in your students work?
The students come to Porto with a range of experiences and expectations. Octavo might be considered a little bit too much ‘don’t try this at home folks’ in the context of a two week summer school. But the values and principles that 8vo employed in the development of Octavo can be applied, in differing and appropriate levels of modulation, to any editorial design project. The things that I encourage the summer school students to explore are the relationships between content and form (typographic and physical form; papers, colours etc) and how in the role of visual editor, the editorial designer can modulate content to an audience with a particular purpose. Most of our students are with us to challenge themselves, to take what they know and apply it in a new context (which we expect them to define). If there’s one take away from the Summer School, it should be the notion that the designer can, and should be, as much an editor as anything else.
How important is authorship in building a designers voice (and creative confidence)?
That’s a tricky one. The problem with self-initiated projects is that, unlike commissioned work, one is to a large degree one’s own client. Therefore it’s important to work out the rules of engagement – to create a convincing premise before doing anything else. There’s nothing worse than doubting the purpose, or the content of a communication design piece half-way through the process. If there are no rules or parameters provided by a client you have to make your own. I have always preferred working collaboratively – a lot of the work I’ve been involved with in my career has been of this nature and without people to work with would never have happened.
It’s often a big leap for young designers to take on authorship. I would advise small steps at first, do something with a defined scope well instead of spreading yourself too thin in a seemingly more ambitious project. If you can’t describe what it is you intend to make in a brief phone call to a friend, it’s probably too convoluted. Graphic authorship is mostly about taking care and common sense. Trust your own judgement.
Catherine, you have run hugely successful design events (at all scales!) including New Zealand's TypeSHED11 conference, and a number of workshops in your beautiful Karekare bush studio. What is it about these smaller more intimate opportunities to connect with industry that you enjoy and what do you find most rewarding about teaching and learning in these contexts?
Yes, the scale thing, a feature of my wider practice, it seems … TypeSHED11 was small in international terms at 250 attendees, but enormous with five days of workshops and lectures, 17 New Zealand and 17 international speakers and workshop leaders, punctuated with the shortest of films, parties large and small, a football match, cooking show finale, and VJ improv by Femke Dekker, aka My Little Underground, and partner of an Experimental Jetset guest!
The symposium was co-organised and curated outside of the usual conference cliché, or template, if you like. The location was a waterfront wharf building which we transformed into a speaking venue lined with TDC54 and TDC2008 exhibitions, and the adjacent Site 7 where Typeradio broadcast live to the rest of the world.
Critically, and equally important, was the food: organic apples, Whittakers chocolate, Antipodes mineral water kept everyone bright-minded through the days … an opening night party served fresh organic and local … then there was the beer, bread & cheese party for the launch of ‘The National Grid’ #4, and David Bennewith’s book, ‘Joseph Churchward’, with the whole Churchward family in tow—the late Joe himself, wife, sons and daughters, as well as his typefaces, some named after his family! A moment in NZ history.
The thing is—and this is one of the qualities distinctive to the Porto Design Summer School—that everyone mixed. The “superstars” with the students, the professionals with the academics … no escape, other than to San Francisco Bathhouse or Mighty Mighty where they’d all find each other anyway. No high-speed rail out of town to a neighbouring city or country, everyone was here for the long-haul.
Similar with the typ gr ph c series of workshops you mention. You could say these workshops are TypeSHED11 “minuscule”. Occasional and purposefully small, the atmosphere—two studios in a rainforest setting with unpredictable weather, and food again—is crucial. It’s where conversation, critical reflection and debate is stimulated by an exchange of knowledge and perspectives brought by everyone to the table.
Each of the workshops have been entirely different, led with a guest via Skype (Leonardo Sonnoli was our first), or in person depending on the proposition. Paul Barnes was making a trip to New Zealand tagged to Australia; German designer Tino Graß came out to visit us, so we ran a two-day workshop then set off on an ‘OFF typ gr ph c’ speaking tour around the country, expanding on the idea with others.
One of the participants in typ gr ph c #4, a young curator, later gave her response to the workshop experience. Her meditation Nothing in Mind articulates the point of the exercise—that being in a space outside of the usual, allows other ideas to form, even post-workshop, after the fact.
You witness the on-going effect of a wider experiment, where those keen to engage make something unexpected of the initial offering—there is an exchange, and that’s rewarding. Looking now to July, two weeks of time and space in Porto with Andrew Howard, Hamish Muir and David Pearson—now that’s invaluable.
Full details of the Porto Design Summer School Program (and application process) can be found here.
And do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Hamish's Octavo Redux collaboration with Unit Editions currently active on Kickstarter (I cant wait to get my copy!)