‘Hip Hop Hooray’ project educates about the realities of design

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Published:  December 18, 2014
Veronica Grow

This year, the students at Melbourne’s Old School New School of Design and Typography embarked on a “Fieldwork” module that brought them in touch with a professional project that encompassed creative development, experimentation and traditional craft within one journey.

School founder Veronica Grow talks us through the “Fieldwork” structure, and how the students used it to create the Hip Hop Hooray Calendar with Ask Alice Stationery.

Of what value is a qualification?

We live in an unprecedented time when most everyone has an official qualification, yet practical knowledge is lacking. Students always need to know how to enact their learning via a live brief, and they need to meet people who can enable them to continue their professional journey.

For this reason, Fieldwork is an educational strategy program for learning real-world practices, professional do’s and don’ts, and unwritten rules of business that most designers can only pickup on the job.

The completed Fieldwork project – the Hip Hop Hooray 2015 Calendar

Few companies are concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think. Fieldwork helps students understand all the resources that are required to get their work out and into the hands of the public, and to understand that it’s okay to fail. The strategy alone is not enough however; it needs to be coupled with essential foundation skills in visual research, typography, semiotics, sociology, history, conceptual thinking, narrative, story telling, and presentation — this means that the notion of learning solely from “industry professionals” is too limited. If learning is only business focused, it lacks the creative scope for richer, more playful outcomes.

For the Calendar project with Sass Cocker of Ask Alice Stationery, the students took direction from someone new, and worked to a less creative brief. The focus on style was tricky for conceptual thinkers who naturally wanted to push the brief. The client put together a very structured brief and met with the students to help establish a personal relationship.

Each student had to create an illustration using hip hop lyrics for one month of the year. Overall, the calendar had to inspire people to purchase so that the project could raise $20,000 for charity. Once all twelve illustrations had been resolved, Sass found a paper sponsor in Bambra Press and Saint Gertrude Letterpress printed the calendar.

During the process, I found some students hold on too tightly and won’t jump into the deep end, finding it challenging to let go of their preconceived beliefs. On the other hand, some students are too willing to please the client, and in doing so fail to ask the client important questions which they may feel are impolite. Some fail to empathise with the needs of the client. But the students who are well prepared and can think on their feet discover that they soon build client trust.

Mixing ink for the Calendar

Amy from Saint Gertrude Letterpress prints the calendar

 

Sass Cocker, of Ask Alice Stationery, holds up the printed pages

The students learnt that while it is important to defend a good idea, it’s important to be adaptable – they soon learn there is always a happy compromise if they work to find it. Surprisingly, learning not to fall in love with an idea, and to respect and understand the responsibilities of your client can be a challenging lesson, but a valuable one.

The calendars have been very popular and are selling well. The commercial success of this real world project has helped students to clarify their career path and better understand work place, organisational and community dynamics, as well as the ability to analyse how their contribution has helped the project.

From my perspective, I find the time and energy that goes into smoothing the path of emerging designers who undertake Fieldwork very satisfying. When many professional design studios are under huge pressure, and lack the resources to nurture emerging designers, Fieldwork is a valuable option. The growing professional relationships that the program fosters are here to share with both students and teachers.

As of this morning, there are still a few calendars remaining. You can purchase for $25 here.

The Fieldwork module sits within the framework of Old School New School’s design program. 2014 saw the School consult for London’s Future Lab as a typographic expert for the world’s largest type foundry, Monotype, guest lecture at Parsons New School for Design in New York City, and create connections with Andrew Shea, author of Designing for Social Change, Steven Heller, Cooper Union and Ken Barber Type Designer for House Industries. In 2015, Veronica Grow will be looking for new collaborators, projects and clients who are willing to work with the students and the School. 

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