Work in Progress
by Ponto

Work(shop) in Progress Process

Days before the Modes of Production Workshop, Darren Raven, the lead tutor of the Design for Graphic Communication course and tutor on the Graphic and Media Design course at LCC, asked us if we were interested in making a similar version of the workshop with students from the second year on the GMD course.

At the moment, second year students from this course are divided into three “streams”. Each stream, or brief, is led by a different pair of tutors. The stream led by Darren Raven and Giulio Miglietta is currently working on a project where they were asked to explore their own process of work.

Since the students were working with the concept of Process, based on Richard Serra’s Process Art ideologies, we were told to make some adjustments to our previous workshop to fit with the work the students were already developing for the overarching project. Since it wasn’t of our interest to remake the same workshop we were quite open to changing it around and test the production models in different ways. At the same time, Richard Serra and the Process Art movement [1] are almost directly related to what we’re trying to investigate with this project.

Briefing Presentation of the Afternoon Session

Briefing Presentation of the Afternoon Session

The adjustments we’ve made to the original “Modes of Production” workshop were mainly in terms format and outcome generated, since it was of our interest to maintain the two Production Models, Ford & Toyota. Serra’s and Process Art ideologies were introduced to the workshop in terms by asking the students to produce something to advertise their work in an unfinished stage and nowhere near completion, since it’s still in the stages of experimentation through different processes.

Another significant change was one made to the structure of the session — we tested the Ford Model in the morning session and the Toyota Model in the afternoon instead of having both models running simultaneously. This way we were able to understand how the Models work without the competition factor — Ford vs Toyota —, and instead having a comparison of how two groups of people work on the same terms at the same time and following the same model of Production.

Similar to the previous workshop, there were 14-15 students in each session who were divided in two groups of 7-8 people each, after the briefing session. This workshop was also not so focused on the production aspect of the design and more about the work of the students and how they portray themselves as a group.

[Note 1 — The workshop was part of the project 4 of GMD’s 2nd Year programme. Darren Reaven & Giulio Miglietta are the tutors leading one of the three “streams” of students, and have asked us to repeat the workshop in one of their classes. Giulio was directing the students for this session and kindly wrote some observations of the workshop which will be merged with the body text of this blog post in the form of footnotes.]

F O R M A T

The goal of this workshop was to publish the student’s ‘work-in-progress’ in the form of a Newsletter — in both digital (e-mail) and print (A4) formats. The Newsletter is a format that was initially used by various entities to announce their ‘news’ to their audiences in a quick way in the form of a printed hand-out. The approach to this format varied greatly among these entities, in terms of layout and distribution strategies, but commonly the object would be a one or two sided printed “letter” featuring recent news and announcements in a typographic layout, resembling the front page of a newspaper. Later, after the media revolution and the introduction of the Internet as a powerful communication & advertising medium, commerce companies started using the e-mail as a way to quickly reach their clients, and have appropriated the newsletter format as a way to quickly announce products and promotions to their audiences.

Newsletter Board (examples)

Newsletter Board (examples)

The determined format of the outcome was the newsletter, a sort of publication that isn’t promoting the same thing each time, and changes according to real events. It’s also not intended to be a finished publication whilst being periodical. There’s no intention for a newsletter to be “final” or definitive, as it is always followed by another one until the company changes their marketing strategy or, in the worst case scenario, ceases to exist. A newsletter can advertise the same product/promotion multiple times, but this is done in a different way each time, which is a reflection of the versatility of this format. The newsletter doesn’t present something static or definite, unlike a book or a magazine, but it’s contents can be.

Therefore we thought that this format was a great way to expose the student’s “work-in-progress”. A lot of established designers and academia defend that the “backstage” of a project is sometimes more interesting than the outcome —”the final piece”— that follows it, as it is very interesting and relevant to understand the processes and methodologies that lead to it and how they inform the designer at work. Whilst at University, students are often told to present their research and processes together with the outcome, so that tutors can evaluate how the resolution was informed by the process. However, the presentation of the process never leaves the assessment room, and by the end of the course it’s only their final outcomes that are exhibited, open for the viewer’s interpretation which often lacks understanding due to the lack of support that the research / methods give to it.

By choosing the format of the “newsletter” we wanted students to advertise their process, by showcasing work which is still being produced. The students were free to send this newsletter to whoever they wanted, inside (print version) and outside (e-mail version) of university.

methodology

M E T H O D O L O G Y

At the same time, the workshop was also meant to explore the possibilities for generation of work that lie in different methods of production and how the process can affect the outcome(s). The methodologies used in this workshop were the same as the MoP workshop—the Ford & Toyota models[2]—which are different versions of the Assembly Line system, a industry-set manufacturing system.

Like in the previous workshop we’ve broken up into four sectors of the Assembly Line, each sector corresponding to a different stage of the Newsletter-making: Editing, Copy-writing, Design and distribution.

To stress the concept of “Process” which was being explored in terms of format and methodology, we decided to also include a twitter feed. The participants were invited to contribute with their thoughts, statements and photos while the workshop was occurring. The tweets featured in this blog post are taken from the twitter feed.

S E C T O R S

Like in the previous workshop, the groups following the two models of production, Ford & Toyota, were divided into different sectors, each one corresponding to a different stage of production. The sectors — Editing, Copy-writing, Design & Distribution — had a maximum of three people each, and were completely separated in the Ford Model [AM] and more fluid in the Toyota Model [PM]. Each sector had a maximum of 20 minutes to complete their tasks before passing on the work to the following stage. By establishing a time limit, the students were able to work on a quick pace and produce a lot of work.

Editing — Toyota Model [Group A]

Editing — Toyota Model [Group A]

Editing— In this sector students were responsible of collecting and selecting their group’s work, to be featured in the newsletter. If some work had to be photographed students were only allowed to use Photobooth to do so. Once they made a selection of work, they had to place it on a USB stick and pass it on to the next station.

Copy-Write — Toyota Model [Group A]

CopyWriting — Toyota Model [Group A]

Copywriting— This sector was responsible for the written contents of the Newsletter. Whilst waiting for the images from the previous sector, the copywriters could ask their peers for quick descriptions of their work, and sort out small introductory or descriptive texts. Once they had received the materials selected by the Editing sector, the copywriters were asked to match the descriptions to the images. Their final task was to add the written content in a .txt format to the USB stick, together with the images and the title of the Newsletter, which was also one of the tasks of the sector.

Design — Toyota Model [Group A]

Design — Toyota Model [Group A]

Design— The designers add to create a one-page-layout which had to include spaces for title, images and text. They also had to choose the Typeface(s) to use, and place the content on the document once they got it. After finishing designing the newsletter, the designers had to export it as a pdf for print (300dpi) and as a high-resolution image to send out digitally (75dpi), place everything in the USB stick and give it to the Distribution team.

Distribution — Ford Model [Group B]

Distribution — Ford Model [Group B]

Distribution— The Distribution team had to come up with a strategy prior to receiving the materials from the Design team. They had to come up with a strategy that’d determine how they’d distribute the newsletter in both digital and print formats. In order to do that, they had to create a list of e-mails based on who they wanted to reach (their tutors, possible employers, idols, family etc.), as well as planning where they wanted to place the printed version inside the LCC building (by taping to the walls, going in tutors offices, hand out to people, place on the cafe, etc.). They also had to choose the colours of the paper and the ink but the printing itself was out of their boundaries (since GMD students aren’t allowed to use the Risograph which is meant to be used only by DGC students).

W O R K S H O P ( S )  R E VI E W

AM [Ford]

The class in the morning session was divided in two groups [A & B] both working under the same premises of the Ford Model.

Each group had then to divide themselves into different sections, according to their strengths and skills as graphic designers. The Ford models implies that sections work separately and respect their times of production given the other sections reliant of their work.

The groups of the morning session worked on different levels, despite working under the same model of production.

Group A was quicker in the beginning of the workshop — their Editing and Copywriting team had both completed their tasks under the deadline of 20 minutes per task — but
the Design team had significantly delayed the production of the Newsletter by wasting
a lot of time assembling it. It was also here that the designers had noticed that the Editing team had selected content for various Newsletters, one per each member of the group, which was not what was required in the brief. After noticing this mistake the production had to restart, and the Editing team had to select a new set of images.
Despite the mistake, which led to the delay of the production, the Editing team quickly made a new selection of work and got the line back in production. The Design team, however, wasn’t as quick as the previous ones, which has led the Distribution team to miss the last Newsletter.

After repeating their task 2 times, both the Editing and Copywriting sections have decided to stop their production, defending that they had no more content to edit or copy to write. However after the 2nd Newsletter was complete both of these sections had to quickly set up a new one. Since they had stopped the production, the Editing, Copywriting and Design Team only had 20 minutes to complete all of their tasks at once. However this 3rd Newsletter wasn’t distributed.

In short the dynamic of this group was very unbalanced, since some sections worked quickly and others had some delays. The stations weren’t working on the same pace and overall didn’t seem very engaged with the product they were making. At the end of the workshop, this group managed to produce 3 Newsletters, but only 2 have completed the full cycle. The 3rd newsletter stopped in the Design sector.

Group B seemed confused at first about the formation of groups and the concept of the assembly line. This group showed some hesitation about having work done in a quick manner, speacially when the number of people was larger in each section, revealing that good communication between the members of each section is key in determining the flow of the overall assembly line.

This group seemed very panicky every time the deadline was mentioned — this also a motive for the blame game. Students in this group started jokingly blaming each other’s sections for not respecting the deadline, or having things done on a last-minute basis.

The Design team seemed very preoccupied about the previous section’s decisions and also very reliant on their orders (even though this disrespects the Model’s rules). The Distribution team was very engaged with the workshop and was very efficient despite showing signs of stress.

Despite the initial confusion, this Group was very efficient in repeating their task until the end of the workshop, even if the deadlines were sometimes missed. This group had a good dynamic and seemed engaged with the outcomes produced. However, there was some cross-section discussion, and ideas-exchange which was against the Model.

By the end of the workshop, Group B had successfully created 3 newsletters, but only 2 completed the cycle. The 3rd one was printed and ready to distribute by the end of the workshop.

PM [Toyota]

In the afternoon session the workshop changed models, and this time they got to work with the Toyota Model.

Similar to the morning session, students were divided in two groups and each group had to divide their members into sections. However, the toyota model supports a much more fluid dynamic of work, allowing for cross-section collaboration. Still, students still had to assign themselves roles so that there were responsibles for each of the sectors. Given the fluid dynamic of this Model there were no deadlines and it was the group responsibility to make sure they produced as much as they could.

After the briefing, Group C didn’t seem very engaged with the workshop and took their time to determine who was going to work in each section. Some of the members were more engaged than others, leading to only having a few working on their tasks. The work dynamic was very slow and it seemed that some members were marginalized by others. The group was also very distracted from their tasks, and it seemed that there were no people responsible as the work would often swap hands in mid-production.

By the end of the workshop the group made 2 newsletters, and once the last one was handed to the distribution team the rest of the group seemed to lose interest in continuing their work. This group was also the only one to give continuity to their newsletters by naming them #1 and #2 resembling normal practice.

Meanwhile Group D seemed very engaged and was by far the most productive group of both sessions. However the group didn’t seem to have worked in a “Toyota” dynamic since the sections were very distinct. There was some dialogue and cross-section discussion but the sectors worked very seperately and very focused on their own specific task. However, towards the end, the editing team started to design and do the copywriting as well, and the copywriter moved on to the distribution team. In general terms, sectors seemed to work efficiently but the collaboration aspect wasn’t as evident throughout the whole process, only towards the end of the workshop.

By the end of the workshop this group managed to produce and distribute 4 newsletters.

O U T C O M E S

outcomes1

outcomes2

O B S E R V A T I O N S [by Giulio Miglietta]

[3] Ford Model—Strong sense of collaboration, fresh approach. Everyone seems engaged by the task, good point having a limited amount of time and a stopwatch handy.

[4] Interesting to see the students working with each other’s work. One side, prepared to let this go, the other generally quite analytic and productive.

[5] The “blaming process” is introduced in some group, but always with humour. This seems to be pushing each other to get more stuff done and brake interpersonal boundaries.

[6] Some members of the groups tend to slow down, and rely on the others to take decisions. They limit themselves to agree or disagree. Quite a shame, but it’s always expectable.

[7] Really nice idea to keep a tweet feed about the workshop. It seems to spark the competition and bond teams together.

[8] Even though groups are required not to collaborate together, they sometimes chat about common expectations for the outcome. Is it hard to keep the unexpected unknown? Or is it an issue of trusting and relying on each other’s input? Interesting rule infringement for the Ford production model.

[9] Really interesting copywriting work from group B. It explains each member’s work and gives a clear idea about their approach. Makes the Newsletter interesting and appealing to an audience that has only seen a single image of the artist’s work.

[10] Toyota Model – Much more relaxed than the morning group. Might also be for the nature of the production model, where everyone is covering a task but still cooperates and has an overall view of what each other is doing.

 

Notes

[1] Richard Serra & Process Art [sourced from Wikipedia]

Richard Serra (born November 2, 1939) is an American minimalist sculptor and video artist known for working with large-scale assemblies of sheet metal. Serra was involved in the Process Art Movement. He lives and works in Tribeca, New York, and on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

Process art is an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art, is not the principal focus. The ‘process’ in process art refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions and proceedings. Process art is concerned with the actual doing and how actions can be defined as an actual work of art; seeing the art as pure human expression. Process art often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product.

[2] Modes of Production Models

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.

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