Last Thursday in communication class students had to present an iterative design project. Basically what was required was that they take the research they have been doing on their topic and reflect that research and the theory that they are working with in some form of creative activity, what everyone in this field refers to as “creative”. Being involved in this class has been interesting because in the design class I know how to sew and I understand all the tools ie. needles, pins, thread, tracing wheels, seam rippers, bobbins, fabric, notions, lining, interlinings, canvas, etc. These are things I know, understand and have worked with before even though it has been a long time. The communication students have been spending the last 3 years developing skills by taking classes in photography, art direction, digital media, event planning, illustration, advertising design, etc. I have no background in these areas so doing parts of the capstone project in communication is much more challenging for me. I even struggle to understand some of the course requirements and expectations.
So in class last week we met in our small groups (there are 5 of us) with the instructor and each student presented their “iterative design project” or “creative” that they developed to explore their topic further. This was not something that needed to be related to the final capstone project. For example if your final capstone creative is a advertising campaign, your iterative project could be a painting. If you final project is a book of photography, your iterative project could be a poster. I knew that I was going to have a very difficult time doing a photo series, or short film, or painting or anything else creative that would require me to learn new skills and technology at the same time as trying to get my muslins done in the design course. The instructor asked me what kind of creative I thought I could manage to complete. I told him I could write a story. So I wrote a story. This was also very new for me as I have never done any writing that isn’t a report, or essay, or letter….a creative writer I am not.
It was really great to be in the room and listen to 4 of the communication students talk about their topics and present their iterative creative. It helped me better understand the whole process because I could see it in concrete terms.
The first student to present is looking at wellness, environmental sustainability and stress management particularly as it pertains to the fashion industry and its culture. For her iterative project she created recipes for 5 healthy juices. She made the juices and brought samples for us to try. Healthy and tasty! She presented the thinking behind each one and the ingredients that she chose.
The second student is researching the objectification of women in fashion photography and advertising. She is looking at the impact of advertising on women’s self esteem and hoping to promote an advertising culture in the fashion industry that shows a diversity of models, eliminates the idealized image, eliminates body retouching and uses relatable and believable posing in fashion photography. Her creative was a posing guide that breaks down for art directors and photographers how to pose models in an empowering realistic way (not in the way we often see in the industry as illustrated by the picture I included here).
The third student is doing research into the promotion of compassion and giving. She designed a poster for the subway that promoted women in roles that give back to their communities and she created a line of corrugated cardboard coffee cup sleeves to be used for take-out coffee that each had a message on it related to compassion and giving to others. She made then and passed them around. Imagine if the sleeve on your coffee in the morning said something like, “Lend a helping hand to a stranger today” instead of just carrying the logo of the coffee shop.
The fourth student is working on a project looking at the impact of the fashion media and images on individuals with anxiety and depression. She is looking at our tendency to compare ourselves to those who we think are better than us and the impact of this on individuals in negative mood states. She is exploring the resulting potential for degradation of self-esteem and well being. She created a poster to show the stages of this degradation by manipulating photographs to illustrate the loss of self through comparison with others.
I was the fifth student and I read the story I had written. I tried to borrow from how a children’s book might be written and the elements of a parable. The intention was to write a story that taught simple and obvious lessons about empathy, which is the topic I have chosen for my project. It also needed to relate in some way to fashion. I read the story out loud in class and I don’t think I have ever been more nervous about anything in the last 20 years. This was definitely outside my comfort zone.
We expect our students in creative fields to put their work, which in many ways is very personal, out into the world in a way that can make them quite vulnerable. I needed to have this experience as well to truly walk in their shoes. I am reminded of the quote that the instructor read to us in the first class about vulnerability… a quote from Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly”
…we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen…
I will share my story in full in my next post. Stay tuned.