Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lesson Idea: Fruits of the Spirit - Contemporary Propaganda study | Graphic Design

 In a little less than one month, the United States of America will be casting their votes to elect the next president. I normally don't involve or concern myself with anything political but it's hard for me not to take notice of the hub-bub of it all. Even I can easily get caught up in the spirit of things and I am perhaps one of the most unconcerned and unlikely political types (for the most part) ever. And for this reason? I decided to do a politically inspired project idea with my Graphic Design students.

*** Feel free to scroll through this to get to the project notes***

A little background: Recently, I made the decision to take myself off of facebook (for personal networking purposes - my business ventures still have a presences there). I had been toying with the idea of doing it for quite some time now both because of my disagreement with Facebook user policies that not only readily permits but also encourages people to overshare things about themselves. This coupled with the fact that the upcoming election has made people almost combative with their personal political platforms and concerns? I don't know. I just think Facebook has become a place that simply isn't for me anymore. Still, even with all of the reasons I feel like it is bad (disguised as good), I didn't leave there without taking some inspiration for an art project idea for my student artists!!

I don't really watch TV that much these days so I have been pretty shielded from the ridiculous political mudslinging that is likely happening and picking up momentum in that way. However, I have been able to witness some it via people I knew on Facebook that very much served as the catalysts that I was ready to be done with it once and for all. Perhaps it's because I am very aware of what can be visually communicated but there were a number of memes out there (from and for either side of the political showdown) that I think are just ridiculous. I won't share them because I don't even want to give them anymore web space than they already take up but basically they take some of the most unflattering pictures of both candidates and then they say some pretty ridiculous things about them that are just plain unnecessary, usually untrue, and definitely unfair. Now, normally I don't feel like this is a problem so much but I started noticing that as people were posting things, it was inspiring one of two things:
  1. Serious division between people who were actually friends at one time but had all of a sudden felt like because of their differences of opinion in the realms of politics, they couldn't be friendly or even sometimes friends anymore
  2. Certain people who might have been "on the fence" about politics to believe things that were outright wrong about the two candidates so much that it was actually shaping their motivations to vote in one way or the other
You might be thinking, "What do you care what people think? Really! I mean, and what do you care and WHY do you care?" You know what?  I am not ashamed to say that I do very much care about the fact that such a thing is happening and has happened (and easily this is why Facebook is not the place for me). I care about how people interact with one another because I know (as my faith informs me) that what people say and do to one another whether virtually or in-person makes a differences. It can build up or tear down.

I know this all too well, in fact, because recently I believe that I actively and perhaps even subconsciously contributed to the annihilation of what I always believed to be a very deep and close friendship. I can't take any of it back no matter how much I am shamed by it but I know I was wrong and that the situation itself was just wrong (all together) and it only serves as even more evidence to me that people need to be a lot more careful and intentional about the things they are saying and doing. When you say and do things, you can say your apologies but the digs and cuts that you might make leave scars that are painful to deal with long after they allegedly healed. And so? I (even before the aforementioned event) am keenly aware of the importance of saying what you mean and meaning what you say and trying to make that be reflective of the fruits of the spirit as much as possible. I mean, I will get it wrong. I absolutely will but that truth doesn't have to stop me from trying to do it just the same. And so? That's where the idea of this project idea originated.

*** End of background information, start of project notes ***

I am a firm believer that the Lord and His gospel can be found within every and any part of the grand and intelligently designed thing that we know as the world and our lives. With this in mind, I examined and discuss the work of Shepard Fairey as well as the scandal that ensued because of it with my graphic design student artists. Are you familiar with what I am talking about? He was behind the infamous Hope poster done around the time of Obama's election that became iconic of Obama's campaign and actual election to the presidency. Here it is to refresh your memory...

Now, I totally think that what happened because of it was warranted and fair with the rulings for the Associated press photographer and against Shepard Fairey but that doesn't mean that I don't still think the work isn't truly noteworthy, successful, and just plain really solid and amazing design work in the way that Fairey turned it and twisted it to be what is. And this is exactly what I told my student artists! We also talked about how so much of what might be swirling about (in the way of graphic and pictorial propaganda and promotion) was bad - both in design and in actual content. I challenged them with the notion that we could take inspiration from Shepard Fairey's creative genius and also learn from what others are doing that is negative (with their political commentary) and do inspired pieces that promote fruits of the spirit just as the gospel promotes it. So? That's what we did!

Each student was assigned a specific fruit of the spirit and they had to take that and then design something that visually encapsulated and intentionally communicated what it would look like similar to what Shepard Fairey attempted to do with the Hope poster design. I created a keynote presentation that "unpacked" the details of the design and explained the anatomy in terms of specifics like the use of only (3) colors, using posterization to transform the the colors/images, using a single word to literally communicate in conjunction with the images itself, etc. I also showed them some very amusing spoofs on the Hope poster and talked about why things like that exist as a result of what happened. One last thing I did with them was to not give them a step-by-step tutorial. I wanted them to see what needed to be done and then figure out (by inquiry-based working mode) how to do it in photoshop. 

Here are some of the finished pieces that they turned out...


Now, before anyone says, "You just endorsed them 'lifting' other peoples' work just like Fairey did!!" Calm down. I absolutely did not. They were very aware of the fact that their work was not solely their own AND they would not and could not call it that. They were also made aware that what we were doing was a study and so it was kind of like doing a mastercopy of Shepard Fairey's work and that required them to use what someone else already did BUT they could not take credit for the other person's work and they would need to be able to explain where and how their image originated.

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