30 Days of Art & Design

What’s 30 Days of Art & Design?

To get better at something, one needs practice. I asked students to create an artifact every day for the duration of the Design Awareness in Publishing Process and Products. This course is all about challenging the students’ creative thinking and design practices (like wrestling with some of the dilemmas designers face and talking about our professional, social, and ethical responsibilities).  

I did mean every day (well, kind of). Some days off or cheat days were okay (let’s be realistic). To make it easier to keep up the practice, students could spend as little as 5 minutes a day. And to keep everyone accountable to this daily practice (to avoid doing 30 mini art projects in one day), every student had to share their work with their classmates or make it public. 

It could be messy, weird, and silly.

The goal of this project is not to create something pretty, amazing or flawless. Instead, it’s all about getting better at a creative practice and trying to push one’s creativity. It could be messy, weird, and silly. And I asked students to avoid selecting something they were already good at doing to explore something new. 

Students projects

The first task was to submit a creative brief, including what they wanted to learn and the scope of their project. Most students limited themselves to a medium (like calligraphy, photography, tea leaves, software, etc.), a subject matter (monsters, drop caps, logos, lyrics, etc.), and a time frame (ranging from 5 to 90 minutes). Second, was carving time out of every day for their daily creative practice. Third, was to submit a reflection on the process, discussing the evolution of their work. It was amazing how every student ended up with very different projects. Some explored particular skills in a familiar design world, others learnt new software from scratch, while others focused on gaining an entirely new art practice. 

The instructor tries … ish

To support my students in this daily demand for work (it’s not easy), both our TA and I participated. My own goal was to learn a new application, focusing on drawing things from my garden in 30 minutes. Thinking back on my process and progress, the results of my daily illustrations were mixed.  

I really liked focusing on one subject (my favourites being the slug and snail) and trying various methods to illustrate it. Since I was interested in learning a new tool and what it could offer, the drawings were very different from one another (I was using different brushes and blending tools). A few illustrations only took 5 minutes, while others took a couple of nights to complete. The time spent plus the tools selected dramatically impacted the level of detail in each post.

I go back and forth about which one I prefer or which one I would want to make “my” style. The more detailed illustrations felt satisfying and felt like “real” art. (Let’s not even get into what “real” art might mean!) But the looser (and quicker!) illustrations felt freeing and daring; a fantastic feeling! Strangely, the quick, fast, less perfect drawings were more challenging for me, not because they took more attempts to get the lines to work “perfectly,” but because they are rawer and made me feel more exposed.  

Daily accountability

Where all my students succeed, I failed terribly! I only did 15 of 30 posts! Many of us stopped posting for #blackouttuesday. Questioning what to post, if anything, was particularly important when, in class, we were talking about representation, cultural appropriation and decolonizing design practices. It felt important to talk about the impact our design artifacts have in our worlds. But without this project’s public accountability, I stopped my daily practice. Yet my students continued, some privately and some publicly, each at their own pace. Their thoughtfulness and their dedication humble me. So, I will keep doing this project, even though the class is done, and I’m submitting this assignment soooooo late. 

If you are interested to chat about daily creative practices fails, how to avoid using the computer to be more creative, or publication design, email me and check out the Master of Publishing program or the Undergraduate Minor in Print and Digital Publishing

Mauve Pagé is a Publication Design lecturer with Publishing @ SFU. She hopes to inspire students to find creative solutions through conceptual thinking, and get them excited about the unlimited potential to communicate ideas aesthetically.

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