Work in Progress
by Ponto

Modes of Production — Workshop

On the 1st of May we hosted a workshop that was allocated within our empirical approach to research and content generation for the book “Work in Progress”.

In the workshop we were testing new models of production that are taken from the manufacturing industry and applied them onto the very specific, and already very established production processes within the field of graphic design.

The workshop was based on the words of Dexter Sinister in Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design, where they suggest that the process of making a publication is often broken up in phases that involve different people (like in the Ford model) and that by applying a more fluid relation between the people in these phases of publication-making (like the Toyota model) there would be better results derived from the collaborative approach.

Set-up of a Design sector

Set-up of a Design sector

The workshop was designed to test these principles and to make observations on how much the outcome is influenced by the process and the different kinds of relations between teams.
We worked with 14 students in each workshop (there was a morning and an afternoon session) who were divided in two groups – Ford & Toyota – after a quick briefing explaining not only the background and history behind the workshop, but also the structure and methodologies to follow.

[Note 1 — This blog post intends to be a critical analysis of the workshop. There is no intention of it being a descriptive memory of the workshop, but rather a critical reflection on the observations made regarding the participant’s experiences and reactions to the different models.

Note 2 — This reflection will be merged by the observations of Catherine Smith who was the enabler of this workshop. Catherine allowed us to host this workshop during one of her classes, which we are very grateful for. Her observations will be shown in the form of notes.]


As mentioned earlier, the participants were divided in two groups, each one following two different Models of Production.
Both models are based on the Assembly Line system used in manufacturing, where the production line of events is broken up into sectors. In the case of the workshop, the assembly line of production of publication-making was divided in four sectors, each one corresponding to a specific stage of the process: Curation, Design, Printing and Binding.

The two different groups, however, represented two different models of manufacture that reflect different uses of the Assembly Line system. They are the Ford Model and Toyota “Just-in-Time” Model.

Ford Model — The Assembly Line system was originally first put into action by Ford Motors. This system required that the different stages of production were divided into different sectors, allowing for a quicker response to orders as well as a considerable decrease in production costs. This model also made it possible for Ford cars to be much cheaper than other companies’, who relied on craftsmen to build a product from start to finish. This has allowed Ford to lower prices and introduce cars as accessible products, and no longer considered a luxury.

Toyota Model — Following the repercussions of WW2, Toyota didn’t have the facilities to incorporate the Ford model of assembly, since it required massive warehouses to house stock and inventories. Toyota then implemented the “just-in-time” model, which meant producing only what is needed when it’s needed. Like so, the number of inventories massively decreased by having a more controlled action over waste of materials and production time. Workers and machines would quickly change tasks according to what was required.

Toyota group - First meeting

Toyota group – First meeting

S E C T O R S + M A T E R I A L S

For the sake of the workshop, the room (D306 – Media Block – London College of Communication) was divided into sectors that took on the form of tables. There was a table for each sector in each team, apart from the print room and the finishing table, that were shared between the two groups. We also added a print station that consisted of a computer and a laser B&W printer that both groups could use.

Each sector of both teams was equipped with the materials it required, regarding the tasks that were to be completed. In the Curation table there was a Riso Guide and a computer; in the Design sector there was a Riso Guide, Riso colour swatches and a computer; in the Printing Room, where the Risograph was allocated, there was paper (4 different stocks) and obviously a Riso Guide as well; in the Binding table (common to both groups) there were a diverse number of materials including a wire binder, coloured elastic bands, bone folders, staplers, punchers, etc.

W O R K S H O P ( S )   R E V I E W

There are a number of factors that can determine the overall experience of a workshop, be it for the participants or the enablers. These factors range from very site-specific conditions like the availability of materials and motivation of the participant, to other more periferic, such as the weather outside.

In the day in which we hosted the workshop it happened to be a beautiful Spring day with inviting sunshine and warm temperatures which surprisingly didn’t affect the turn-around to the workshop – 14 in each session out of the 20 predicted.

The groups were divided into sectors, after we asked the students for experience in designing for the Risograph, which was surprisingly small given that this is a facility open to all students in the course. After allocating the students in different sectors, and grouping them into the Ford and Toyota Models, we assumed the position of enablers other than teachers or tutors. Our goal was to guide to participants other than tell them what to do. Given that the Ford Model required a Project Manager as part of the methodology, we have also taken that position. However we didn’t add on to any decisions made made the group as we were there to control the rhythm and stock flow, nothing more.
Given that the majority didn’t know how to work with the materials provided, we gave quick Riso inductions [12] to the Print Sectors of both teams, while they were waiting for the sectors before them to conclude their tasks. We also gave instructions to people in the Binding section who weren’t sure on how to use the wire binder, bone folder and other available materials, which also reflects the learning outcomes of this workshop which the students can apply to the project they have in hands [1].

The flow of the workshop started off as rather slow and “dragged” along which was a contradiction to the short running time of the workshop – 2 hours. After we “pushed” students into working faster—by adding  pressure to there tasks and continuously over-looking them working—the pace started to pick up, but not as much as the workshop would have required to. By the end of the first session, the workshop took an extra hour to complete which the students didn’t seem to mind much, but there were results on the table—both groups ended up with a zine each. The afternoon session seemed to run along in the same lines, with the exception of more technical problems with the Riso as a sign of the fact that it was being more used than usual.



We will now make some observations on the Production Models and their repercussions in terms of relationship between the members of the groups, and the effects on the Design Process and, subsequently, on the outcome.

F O R D   M O D E L  [co-operation]

— Slow start of the Curation team.
— Students took a while to understand the divided nature of the sectors and that collaboration wasn’t allowed between different sectors [14].
— Some students were very distracted with print/binding materials even though these were from other work stations [3][4].
— Pace started to pick up after the first 45 min., but only after the Project Managers added pressure on their tasks.
— The Curation team took over 30 min. to make a selection of 20 materials, which slowed down the whole line of production.
— In the mean time, the design team started to strategized the design of the book by preparing the files and making some decisions regarding type and colour [8].
— Initially, the Design team spent a lot of time paying attention to details, but once the Project Manager started to pressure them in to working faster, the designers had a less compromised attitude towards their work.
— The Print sector [15] did a smooth job, even though one of the members of the team was away during the whole printing process.
— Because one element of the group didn’t engage completely with the methodology of the Ford model, and would often cross sectors at will, some copies of the publication were trashed. The element in question resolved to go against the decisions made by the Binding section, costing the group some stock.
— They didn’t meet the deadline but were more efficient and quicker than the Toyota team.
— The group didn’t seem very proud about what they’ve made which was visible by their decision of leaving several copies in the workshop room after leaving [17].

— The formation of the sectors was quicker as students seemed to be very engaged with the workshop.
— The Curation team was a lot quicker [19] in comparison to the morning session.
— Even though it went against the methodology of the Ford model, there was some cross-station influence. For example, the Curation team was being pressured by the Design team, a condition that made this group be the most productive in terms of quantity of work generated.
— The Design team started generating some content for the publication (by adding shapes and textures) before receiving the content selected by the design team.
— However, the “rushed” environment did cause some mistakes that were only noticed after the publication was printed.
— The Print team, due to lack of experience, was very insecure about printing with the Riso, and required the most guidance of all groups of the day.
— The Print team also had a difficult job given the complicated design of the zine and lack of instructions by the Design team. Regardless, the people in the Print sector, couldn’t pick up the fast pace which led to the publication being “stuck” in the print room for more time than it should [16].
— The Binding team has made a bold choice by using a piece of elastic in a creative way to bind the publication.
— The whole team helped the Binding sector given that it was past the time that the workshop was supposed to have finished, and that they were keen in finishing the publication.

T O Y O T A   M O D E L  [collaboration]

— Despite the initial collaborative engagement between the members [2], the mood soon turned conflictual / intense atmosphere with some students more involved than others.
— Students had a hard time collaborating together and were too fixed on their specific tasks – this was specially visible in the Curation and Design sectors.
— Eventually some arrangements were made between the Curation and Design team who started working together on the design – even though the Design team showed to have more control in terms of decision making [6].
— People from the Printing and Binding sectors seemed to be very disengaged and were simply “waiting” around for the previous sectors to complete their tasks [7].
— On the other hand, the element of the group from the Design team seemed to have taken control over the whole process. This element wouldn’t embody a very collaborative practice which may have been the reason to some other members to disengage and simply let this member do everything, which would add on to the stress [5] and pressure this member was going through [9].
— However by having one person taking control over the design [11], and despite the stressed environment, the publication had a consistent concept/layout, and was the only include body text throughout the publication.
— Contrary to the Toyota model’s premises, students weren’t very engaged with one another [10][13], except from when it came to printing the publication – the group seemed to work well together in this task.
— However, the excessive number of members printing the publication allowed for more mistakes and confusion.
— The group didn’t meet the deadline but the outcome is (arguably) more thought-trough than the other groups, and more bold in terms of design + print.

— The group seemed to get along well despite the initial confusion regarding their roles in the production.
— The group took a very long time (almost hole of the 2 hours) in the Curation and Design sectors.
— The group seemed to be more engaged with one another [18], and much more collaborative than the morning group.
— The group worked on a very relaxed environment, and all opinions would be taken in consideration.
— However by having 7 people working together in all the stages instead of a small group did affect the production requirements in terms of meeting deadlines.
— However the printing choices wasn’t very bold being the only group to only use one colour – could be a time-saving strategy allowing for more time to the other stages of production.
— However they were also the only group to use coloured paper – again could be part of the strategy to save time in printing and introducing colour in a different way.
— The great majority of the members of the group seemed to be very engaged with all stages of the workshop, whilst it was still easy to identify the “headers” of each sector.
— The Printing was done in a very quick manner despite the technical problems with the machine. This is mostly due to the fact of only using one colour, but also due to the level of trust and engagement between members.
— The group was also very efficient in terms of Binding, by having a mini assembly line within. The group divided themselves into folders, collectors and staplers, and finished binding the book in a matter of minutes.


Toyota group - Design sector

Toyota group – Design sector

Toyota group - Curation Sector

Toyota group – Curation Sector

Ford Design team planning ahead

Ford Design team planning ahead

Ford group designing their second publication

Ford group designing their second publication

Toyota group meeting in the print room

Toyota group meeting in the print room

Ford group - changing colours on the Risograph

Ford group – changing colours on the Risograph

Morning Workshop - Toyota group finalizing their publication

Morning Workshop – Toyota group finalizing their publication

Afternoon Workshop - Toyota group finalizing their publication

Afternoon Workshop – Toyota group finalizing their publication


Both groups had to work with content that was very vague (as part of the overarching brief, students were asked to bring graphic ephemera that they liked), and very visual and image based. Even though we suggested they could bring essays/texts/articles—which we also consider to be graphic design ephemera—the students decided not to bring/use materials of this genesis. Apart from the Toyota team of the morning session, none of the publications featured a Design text.
Therefore, when the publications are mostly image-based and consisting of more or less random content, the results can be difficult to analyse on an editorial or aesthetic level.
Our form of analysis recalls the way in which the process has significantly affected the final outcome in terms of attention to detail, dedication to the job, and overall appreciation of the end result.

We also would like to list the amount of work that each group on each session has generated—apart from the one publication which was required for them to produce by the end of the day—since that each station had to repeat their task until the workshop was over (this was specially stressed in the Ford Model).


Ford Model, Morning Session:
— The Curation Team have successfully made a selection of 2 groups of materials;
— The Design Team have completed 1 publication ready to print, and 1 other which was complete apart from the print set-up;
— The Print Team have printed 1 two-coloured publication;
— The binding team have successfully finished 1 series of publications apart from 2 copies which were trashed;


Toyota Model, Morning Session:
— The Curation Team have successfully made a selection of 1 group of materials;
— The Design Team have completed 1 publication ready to print;
— The Print Team have printed 1 two-coloured publication;
— The binding team have successfully finished 1 series of publications;


Ford Model, Afternoon Session:
— The Curation Team have successfully made a selection of 2 groups of materials plus 1 other group which almost reached completion;
— The Design Team have completed 2 publication ready to print;
— The Print Team have printed 1 two-coloured publication;
— The binding team have successfully finished 1 series of publications;


Ford Model, Afternoon Session:
— The Curation Team have successfully made a selection of 1 group of materials;
— The Design Team have completed 1 publication ready to print;
— The Print Team have printed 1 one-coloured publication;
— The binding team have successfully finished 1 series of publications;

The first observation we can make of this listing is that the Ford Model is more effective in terms of work turn-around. The Ford Model has produced a greater quantity of work in comparison to the Toyota Model. The Ford Model was specially dedicated to finalizing the task and be the first ones to do it. The pressure was greater but it was felt in turns, according to which stage the “publication-making” was sitting at the time. So the people within each station would work on moments of relaxation followed by moments of great tension or vice-versa. The Ford team was focused in making the most work possible, but by the end of the day they have achieved the same as the Toyota (even though that they did it first), which meant that a lot of work made by the Curation and Design stations was wasted since the Print sector couldn’t print it and, consequently, the Binding sector couldn’t finish. From this observation, we can state that even though that the Ford Model was more efficient in terms of quantity, the quality aspect of the outcome was secondary, given that the process was more broken and the sectors were more separated, and would only specialize in their tasks. The specialization of each task meant that the lack of interaction resulted in poor consideration of the previous and following stages of the process. In this Model people were asked to only care about doing their job, without considering the other tasks of the process, which led to more efficiency but less attention to detail on the work produced.

On the other hand, the Toyota Model was only focused in delivering one publication, which was true to both groups even though they had very distinctive approaches to the collaborative nature of this production model. The Toyota Model still breaks up the process into stations in the form of an Assembly Line system, but by allowing the stations to interact and swap tasks according to what is required—in this case 1 publication—the team focuses in delivering just that. Even though that the atmosphere was much more stressed in the morning session than in the afternoon one, the teams seemed to have embraced collaboration, at least during some point of the process. There is an interesting observation to be made between the distinctions of these two groups following the same model, which is that personalities and motivations of the participants can be determinant in a collaborative practice. Collaborations are made of people and don’t work as well as co-operations when it’s forced on them. In terms of the final outcome, both teams handed-in publication that seem more thought through. For example, the publications from the Toyota models are the only ones to have a title. Also it was in the Toyota model that was produced the only publication where there was a text throughout the book and the name of the authors. Our final observation would have to be that the Toyota Model answers what the need is without wasting work on unnecessary tasks. However, by depending on collaboration, the model can fall apart when this is imposed on the group and could clash with personalities/relationships that are prior to the work itself.

O B S E R V A T I O N S  [by Catherine Smith]

[1] High levels of engagement when learning new skills
[2] Toyota Model—strong collaboration / discussion within teams.
[3] Ford Model—Binding + Print people worked together to learn about binding methods.
[4] Some cross-group discussion taking place.
[5] Toyota: “We have no idea what we are designing for so we can’t design”
[6] Prompted direct response from the curator who went to work alongside the designer. Worked out the process together.
[7] The print people seemed to be waiting around, whereas the binding people just started experimenting.
[8] Ford model appeared more self-sufficient + focused as there were less people working on each task.
[10] Toyota model was a lot looser and there appeared to be higher levels of anxiety. Maybe due to lack of clarity on each task? As they weren’t so focused on their own, they became easily diverted & distracted.
[11] Toyota model — over half the team weren’t on task & weren’t collaborating. Just waiting for their ‘turn’. Strong personality on the design team who seemed to be unwilling to collaborate or at least put off the others from collaborating.
[—] Do you need an even number of people on each station ? Does this help or hinder? Is it better to take more time over skills audit in the beginning so people are really working on an area/task they feel engaged with.
[—] Lack of direction impacts productivity. Being left to own devices can be a barrier to a working process.
[12] What is the role of induction? When people are clear about expectations maybe they are more productive?
[13] Most people don’t like/feel comfortable telling each other what to do.
[14] Quite frequent validation between individuals about what the tasks were. Indicating maybe that there was a degree of confusion.
[15] In Ford — Grace gradually took an inter-department role. She wasn’t aware she was in that role + did it quite and subtle way — by “making friends” or being bubbly + generally interested in what everyone was doing.
[16] If 1 stage is slower it slows the work for the other stages.
[17] The separation means you don’t understand where the work is going. Your part is clearly significant in the role you’ve been  given. Your significance lessens the more stages it goes through. It distances you from the rest of the production. It depends on how much you trust the other people/their knowledge.

[—] Briefed differently. Advice given about necessity of speed in curation dept.
[18] Toyota team had a collaborative curation process, involving 5 people.
[19] Ford team selected images more quickly as did not have to get many people to agree.

S T U D E N T  T E S T E M O N I A L S

“Working in a system where the stages of production are broken up is quite nice, actually—it’s a different way of working. It allows people to concentrate more in the task at hand, on what they have to do—what’s in front of them—as opposed to having to worry about the whole piece or finished outcome. It’s nice, better, I think, to have people delegate tasks. It’s micro-managing in a really good scale.”

Ash Beezmohun, Ford Model — Binding Sector, AM session.

I find working in a system where all the stages were broken-up very ineffective. The reason was because these stages are reliant on each other—stage 1 needs to be completed before stage 2 can happen. If not, then stage 2 can do only very limited things until stage 1 has finished, and only then does the work start. And basically what this results is is people not doing any work and those resources and people could be have been put to use at stage 1. So I felt like a lot of waiting was happening and waist of time.”

Daniel Apt, Toyota Model — Design Sector, AM session.

“I think the system is effective because everyone is able to focus on their individual tasks, and don’t get ___ by doing loads of different things and completing the minimum. Therefore by doing each individual task and focusing on it, they can put the maximum effort in and produce the best outcome, and people can work where they believe their skills are up to it.

Grace Aldis, Ford Model — Printing Sector, AM session.

“I enjoy working in a system like this because I think I find it easier to do my role efficiently. When I’m juggling multiple roles I find it quite difficult. So it allows you to focus on what you’re best at and get the best possible outcome, assuming you have a good team and everyone will do their bit.”

Ollie Konstan, Ford Model — Design Sector, AM session.

“I don’t think the Toyota system improves collaboration, necessarily. In the system everyone works in separate departments and no one’s communicating with one another, so there’s no room for collaboration in that.”

Zain Mallin, Toyota Model — Binding Sector, AM session.

One Comment

  1. Bart
    May 9, 2013

    And they call me, intense! Good work, impressive.

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