“Handsome Paper” workshop di graphic design
In September 2016 Parco Studio and the Makemake Association (represented by Filippo Bazzoni) were invited to hold a four-hour workshop on self-production in graphic design and publishing. The workshop was part of the “Firenze Rivista” festival, a three-day event focused on local independent publishing and its ability to offer an interpretation of society.
“Handsome paper” took place at Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, a splendid 15th-century building in the center of Florence, involving 30 students from high school focused on graphics.
The scope, the participants, the goal
We wanted to give students the opportunity to experiment through the self-publishing process and the idea of a self-commissioned project related to communication. We asked participants to choose a topic and communicate it in the way they thought was most effective. The final result became a typographic cover for a hypothetical magazine that deals with social issues.
Introduction to the workshop and challenges
We started with a brief presentation of graphic works that inspired the groups, starting with the iconic poster “WAR IS OVER” realized by Yoko & John Lennon for the cover of the Canadian anti-capitalist magazine AdBusters. Strong messages, along with simple execution are still brave and effective. This helped the participants to answer a difficult and specific question: “What are you really interested in and do you feel the need to communicate?”
Asking a teenager to face this type of question (especially on a Saturday morning) can be very challenging and, in some cases, frightening for sensitive students. To help them manage the process, we proposed that they start thinking about general topics (e.g. consumerism, social anxiety, family relationships) and gradually deepen a particular aspect of their lives. Towards the end of the workshop, we worked together on copywriting to finalize their texts. The greater complexity of the first part was related to two aspects: first of all, containing and managing the complexity of the considerable amount of thoughts that this self-analysis could generate, secondly it was important to avoid the risk of getting stuck because of too many possibilities.
After the break, it was time for everyone to get their hands dirty (Handsome!). We have given some guidelines (based on the conditional design practice) to help everyone overcome blank page syndrome and be sure to get a result despite the limited available time. We therefore suggested using a simple composition, made up of three horizontal lines which occupied the entire page length.
Before working on the final version of the poster, the participants made some drafts to explore different ways to translate the meaning and atmosphere they had in mind for their messages into a strong visual idea. For most of the group, one of the main difficulties was to feel the expressive power of typography. They felt a constant need to add illustrations or figurative elements to communicate the message.
The main challenge for us was to shift their attention from a figurative representation to a more abstract use of typography through the use of color, composition and line spacing.
The moment everyone understood the potential of this aspect, the atmosphere changed rapidly from a strong hesitation to a joyful attitude of exploration, and curiosity towards new tools and techniques. Many scissors began to pass from hand to hand, burying the table under mountains of cutouts. Finally everyone was focused on their own project!
At the end of the morning, everyone accelerated to conclude their poster, which we laid out on the floor for a group discussion.
Results and things learned
For almost all the workshop participants this was the first attempt to mix desktop publishing tools with more manual techniques such as calligraphy, hand-drawn letters and collage.
The other main effect was the improvement of the graphic designer’s awareness of social responsibility, and the discovery of communication as a powerful tool. Self-production can give voice to points of view that have no space or that are openly repressed by the mass media.