The Department of Illustration


Posted in Ideas, Writing, Theory by The Department of Illustration on August 4, 2009

There seems to be a really ingrained assumption that it is the ability to verbalise the conceptual thinking behind a piece that makes it ‘important’. Why do we believe this? In practive it means that hierarchies and snobberies within the art school stop interesting things from happening, as everyone sticks to their ‘tribe’. Even within Design Communications there is a sense that some subjects are ‘above’ others. Designers have the ideas, illustrators just do what they are told, decoration is somehow ‘mindless’ etc.

Playfulness and enjoyment in creating, exploring materials and learning in a haptic way are demeaned at the expense of verbalising and intelletualising what we do. Although I can see the value in being articulate, being able to say what you mean and talk about how your work came about. I feel there is a need for more ‘academic’ recognition that something sophisticated is going on cognitively when you draw or make something. This is partly what the visual essay project is about- exploring new ways of framing conceptual thinking.


2 Responses

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  1. matthewkupon said, on August 4, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I suspect it all becomes irrelevant after you graduate.. but here’s my 2p worth:

    All the intellectualising of the process tends to kill enjoyment. The only work I have ever liked since switching from music to visual/design are the ones where I just enjoyed the process*. The ones where you need to think too hard usually never even got finished! too many inhibitions, too much thought!

    I think the first 2 years are a good time to get intellectual, but in your final year, you just need to enjoy it.

    * Although you still need to think really hard at the planning/ideas stage, but after that you can have fun.

  2. The Department of Illustration said, on August 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the comments Matt. I think the ‘planning and ideas stage’ is the bit art school should be giving you some strategies for so you can produce consistent work when you leave. This includes being aware of the ideological implications of any ‘messages’ in your work.

    What makes teaching interesting for me is that it makes me question how ideas come into being- and its interesting to analyse what makes your work your own. You are right tho, as a practitioner a lot of other things come first- the brief for one.

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