We began this term discussing the distinctions between art and design. How do we differentiate these two creative fields? Can something be both art and design at once? We read Rick Poynor’s article, “Art’s Little Brother” from Icon Magazine Online.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Design is functional. Art is expressive. We accept these qualities as truths about the related and interdependent disciplines of art and design. The converse is also true: design can be highly expressive, and art serves a necessary function in our society.

Design is communication. Design is a vehicle for conveying meaning. Design has the power to evoke emotion on a massive scale. The covers of popular magazines have forever been a site for designers to air experiments and trends. Widely distributed media has the ability to shock, please, horrify, or deeply move the public. Graphic designers are trained visual communicators with an arsenal of semiotic tools and tricks at their disposal: conveying messages with word and image become challenging exercises whose solutions have the power to express distinct emotion. Such widespread expression of ideas and emotions can facilitate a collective consciousness that would not be possible without the scale and accessibility of design.

Design is visual culture. As seeing beings we observe and respond to pieces of design daily, often in the same manner in which we observe and respond to pieces of art. Poyner writes this about pieces of design: “The sensory, intellectual and emotional satisfactions they offer as pieces to look at, think about and react to—as well as to use—are akin to the experience of sculpture.” (Poyner 3) A piece of design can ask questions and a piece of design can evoke emotion.

Art functions as an intellectual and emotional playground in our fast-moving, highly pragmatic world. It serves an intangible function that is contested, and perhaps to some, unnecessary. The Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project of the 1930’s and 1940’s revealed a moment in our county’s history when art was considered necessary. Artists were given employment opportunities and unprecedented (and unrepeated) equality in the eyes of the government. The work of a poster artist was just as important as the work of a crane operator.

Art can be an accessible lens into inaccessible issues. Artists have long exposed public sentiment on controversial matters through their work. Art can tell a story, can expose valuable truths, and ask questions. These are all necessary parts of the human condition.

Art can be decoration. This idea isn’t derogatory, but instead reveals our desire as a society for the presence of compelling visual elements within everyday life.

Art can create community and art can create change. Contemporary and historical movements and genres within the art framework have united neighborhoods, nations and cultures.


A new year, a new term

January 13, 2010

This blog has grown on me. I find myself finishing an assignment, posting it to Flickr, and feeling like it needs one last motion of archiving and sharing. So I’m continuing it. Ideally this blog will be a way for me to track and keep record of my progress, process and solutions as I wrap up my final year as an undergraduate.  Here goes Winter term 2010, my second-to-last ten-week term at PSU.

Readings 15 + 16

December 8, 2009

How do you handle a frustrating creative process? How do you handle potentially negative press about your work? How do you keep working as hard as you can and as good as you can? Ask Will Bryant. I think he’s on to something.

+ + + + + + + +

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Chapters 8 + 9
Self-Promotion + The Creative Process

+ + + + + + + +

Christy and I decided to googlechat instead of writing a reading response because we had both waited until the last minute to finish them all and we were sick of writing reading responses. Well, that’s at least my outlook on the whole thing. Below are some excerpts of our conversation, interspersed with my own thoughts and some found images that are supposedly relevant to our conversation.

Self-promotional piece from Cari Vanderyacht, PSU alum. Whoops! I guess it worked! She works at W+K now!

Christy: ‘I don’t want to be famous, I just want my peers to like what I do.’ lol

me: oh hey

one second

Christy: cool 🙂

me: but that’s what I define “famous” as!

Christy: I know, that’s sort what was funny about that because that’s what we all strive for.

the acceptance from our peers

me: Agreed. I want people to want to put my work up on their walls as inspiration!

Christy: me too, I’m not there yet but hopefully soon …

Admiration + respect, not fame

me: yessss

Promotional design by Kyle Van Horn. Pretty smart.

me: There was an interesting note about fame in terms of getting press.

Want to hear a quote I typed?

Christy: yes

me: Oops, no quote. Just a paraphrase: One piece of design press (one article, one blog post) doesn’t equal instant fame, it’s accumulative. People have to read about you + see your work a few times in order to recognize that you’re capable of greatness.

Christy: lol

me: That one made me humble =)

Christy: Self promotion is the ability to make it in people’s minds, mouths and walls … in addition to our doings when we give people our cards and promo pieces. Blogs help get others to see what we can do.

me: Yeah, blogs are really interesting in that regard. They are real enough to make us feel like attaining acceptance onto them is the ULTIMATE, but they’re super ephemeral.

There were no blogs around when Charles and Ray were making things together. I have a sneaking suspicion that they didn’t give a shit about being famous. They just wanted to make good stuff. Let’s all learn from the Eamses!

Christy: the reputation such fame brings or the reputation one strives for

as you make the press will come to you

me: I want my reputation to be that I’m a forest creature that lives in a tree house! (=totally false)

Christy: I want my reputation to begin, but at the same time I don’t even care. I just love working with other people and getting out there in any way I can. If I go throughout my whole life never being mentioned in a magazine or blog, I’ll be ok. Just as long as I am working with great people like Nicole, Precious and many others 🙂

me: Oh, you! If you have your mind set on making making making and challenging yourself and putting your work out there, you’ll totally make it happen.

People will notice, whether you are trying to get them to or not!

Some advice on how to approach the idea of getting written about on blogs or not getting written about on blogs. I wish I could say, “Jeez, they’re just BLOGS, get over it!” But ask any one of my roommates how much I freak out when I get a google alert with my name in it…

Christy: I agree with that. lol, I’m trying to go through this chapter

me: Did you read the part about self-initiated briefs? “Graphic authorship?”

Christy: Oh, constraint, that’s interesting.

no both chapters is good

I haven’t read them fully

me: Yeah, constraint!

I really liked the concept of giving myself a brief to work with.

Like, defining my goals, touchpoints, themes for a project, making a proposal to myself, and then striving to accomplish it.

It makes me think that all artists wish they knew about design briefs!

Christy: “designers need briefs like cars need fuel”

me: oooh did you make that up?

Creative Process in Action: Jesse Brown and Chad Kouri of the Post Family camped out at Renegade Handmade in Chicago for a week and worked in the window.

Christy: Oh man, the creative process … it’s a long one sometimes

me: Whoops, sorry, was taking screen shots of my brand book.


That is what I need.

I think that is what a brief will help with.

Christy: I sort of just want to find a design job or something in the field that pays me well enough that I can go to Holland for a holiday and come back inspired and well rounded.

me: YES.

That sounds perfect.

Sorry. I can’t stop thinking about bloggers. This lovely little thing was made by David Fullarton. SWEET.

Christy: see you tomorrow at 2!

me: yeah! nice chatting with you

Christy: you too . bye

I intended this project to be a long one. One that I could focus on long after school finishes, and certainly into the next two academic terms.

So the word “final” applied to these images and ideas is somewhat of a false one. In the realm of Art 470, Fall Term 2009 with Lis Charman, these are final images and ideas. But in the rest of time and space This Place Projects is an ever-evolving project.

Download a PDF of my brand book here: BRANDBOOK

See close-ups below.

Thank you!

Places that inspired the formation of This Place.

Visual Mood for the project: nostalgic, timeless, regional.

The Hometown Lecture Series: Documentation of peoples’ lectures.

TP1 > An Ode To Summer In The West by Nicole Lavelle (me!)

(See more on Flickr.)

Reading Response #13 + #14

December 7, 2009

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Chapters 6 + 7
Winning new work + Clients

In lieu of serious or introspective thoughts about clients, I’m going to re-post a number of links to funny scenarious where clients ask or do things that make your jaw drop (in horror? In appreciation of humor?)

A Funny letter showing the mindset of some customers

A HILARIOUS collection of the Funny and Bizarre world of Client requests

Real (?) Email exchange: “It’s like Twitter, except we charge people to use it.”

But no, really. I work with clients three days a week  and for the most part people are genuinely kind and respectful of your specialized knowledge of your chosen field. I think the biggest and best thing I’ve learned while at my current job is that trouble arises when expectations of client and designer (or client and printshop) are not the same expectations. Taking steps to clearly communicate what you’re doing, what it’s costing the client, and what they’re going to get in return can qualm hiccups that might appear along the way.

Communicate, be honest, and don’t be afraid to say no to clients who you think you might not work well with.

Readings 9 + 10 + 11

December 7, 2009

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 from How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul
(How to find a job + Being freelance + Setting up a studio)

Each of these chapters could have been its own book. They need more room to stretch. That’s my sole criticism.

Tips on portfolios were useful. The anecdote of the young woman trying to open her portfolio only to have turned it upside down made me cringe and laugh at the same time. Awkward!

Even if I work at some huge soul-less firm and don’t have a workspace of my own, I want to make sure to have a fully-stocked home studio for tinkering in on the weekends (and early mornings!) (Skinny Laminx studio via sharesomecandy)

The prospect of the ultimate flexibility that accompanies being freelance is SO utterly appealing that I have to keep from quitting school, quitting my job, and running out into the world of graphic design to fend for myself. That said, the stability (financial and schedule) gained from a regular, full-time job is also more realistic and practical. My goal is to find a happy medium that allows me to take time off to hang out with my sisters AND that gets me up at the same time every morning. Working on freelance projects but in the company of others is the MOST appealing scenario this book has posed for my future working life. Having creative people around to bounce ideas off of PLUS having the freedom to take a nap after lunch sounds terrific.

The ULTIMATE cabin studio of Mel Kadel and Travis Millard (Via Fecal Face.) I would work here. Happily.

Skinny Laminx makes working for yourself look REALLY GOOD. Teatime anyone? (Via sharesomecandy)

I most appreciated the insight into the client-designer relationship and how it manifests in each of these three scenarios: working within an existing studio, working on your own, or setting up your own studio

The client-designer relationship is one that mystifies me. At the point we’re at, most of us design students have only worked for our parents, our family friends, our neighbors or the coffee shop down the street. The end objective for accepting such jobs is usually to boost the variety of work in our portfolio. We rarely get paid, and if we do, it’s measly. We don’t choose our clients and our clients don’t choose us: these relationships are the result of circumstance and convenience, not typical scenarios that pop up in the “real” design world.

A place to talk to clients, in the Minneapolis studios of Eight Hour Day. (Via sharesomecandy)

I also liked the idea of a craving for authorship as being the impetus to start one’s own studio. At least for a while, I’d like to continue having support to ease out of the school environment. But as soon as the work I’m making under the direction of others starts to feel stagnant or separate from my creative input, I’ll get my own digs. I’ll keep the notion of authorship in the back of my mind to help me pinpoint if I’m getting bored.

Can’t stop gawking at dream workspaces. APAK studio via sharesomecandy.

Considering authorship is another way to tie these three separate (but related) design existences together (working for another studio, being freelance, setting up your own studio.) In a freelance situation, you retain sole authorship of your work, your voice is heard and your aesthetic is obviously stated. This appeals to me the most, but I also am wary of diving into a situation where my skills and work are judged so directly until I feel comfortable in my design shoes! Must find that voice, must have that commanding use of type, must be SO GOOD before I break out on my own.

Some beautiful personal work by Lisa Congdon. (via sharesomecandy)

Margaret Richardson said in Art History class the other day, “Your life will start as soon as you start thinking of yourselves not as design students, but as designers.” She meant, “Do it now.” Make that mental switch and things will start to make more sense. The transition out of school won’t be so difficult.

Thanks, Margaret. Now, can you get me a job at Nike? (Just kidding.)

But that’s okay because only two people read this anyways! Me and Lis!
Here’s a link to my PDF presentation for tomorrow.

NicoleLavelle470 <—–Download it if you want to know where I’m at.

You probably don’t. This is just to have a back-up in case the file I sent Lis doesn’t work.

Will you comment if you read this? I’m curious to know if anyone reads this blog.


Picture 1

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

Hello friends!

You are invited to participate in the Hometown Lecture Series.

The first installment of the series takes place Monday, November 23 at 12noon in the MK Gallery. This space is located on the second floor of the Art Building at PSU, 2000 SW 5th Avenue. (It’s where the Graphic Design Student Show LOVE WHAT YOU DO is installed right now.)

Picture 3

You’re invited to give a short (2-5 minute) presentation on what you know best: where you come from. Please bring at least one visual aid: a photograph, your childhood blanket, a map, a video.

Picture 2

If you are not interested in presenting, you are encouraged to come and listen! As part of the audience, you are important.

Limited refreshments will be provided.

What is this all about?

The Hometown Lecture Series is part of This Place Projects, my thesis project for Art 470. TPP is a curatorial and creative experiment exploring location-based artmaking. Find more at the This Place website or follow my scheming and planning on my 470 blog.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

****Related Sidenote**** This Place Projects has submitted a proposal to Portland Stock, a monthly public dinner event which funds small to medium-sized artist projects. Please consider attending the event and casing your vote for This Place! (Diners pay a modest $10 for a dinner of homemade soup and the chance to take part in deciding which artist proposal will receive the evening’s proceeds. In other words, the dinner’s profits immediately become an artists grant, which is awarded according to the choice of the diners. Winning artists will present their completed work at the following Stock dinner.) Head over to Portland Stock to learn more and RSVP for the dinner! Come support two great projects. An interesting tidbit: two of the three Stock organizers are current or former graduate students in Art from PSU!

Picture 4Right on, Adrian Shaughnessy. Thank you for taking it upon yourself to write this book. That’s the premise of the introduction.


I appreciated Stefan Sagmeister’s break down of the different types of designers working today, and in particular I was glad to hear someone acknowldge the fresh young ones working with “one foot in the art world and the other in the design world.” That is what I hope to accomplish: a working balance between traditional design and contemporary art.

Picture 3

Geoff McFetridge, one of those guys working with one foot in each world. This is work for the Pepsi One campaign. Maybe the animal hand is the art hand and the little pink human is the designer hand, and they’re joining forces to become one? (I’m projecting.)

Hearing Sagmeister’s insights into how he successfully started and maintains his own design firm led me to garner a singular valuable truth: learn. Keep learning. Listen, watch and read. Remember.

The attributes needed by the modern designer are creative, philosophical and practical attributes. Cultural awareness, communication and integrity, according to Shaughnessy. I might add intuition, curiosity, and dedication.


Barry McGee, an artist making graphic work. Sometimes he makes work for clients and sometimes he makes work for galleries.

This book is a startling newsflash (and one that I need to be served with) that graphic design is largely about client work. I kept looking for insights into making great personal work and getting paid lots of money to do that. I didn’t find them. It’s about time I reconcile my perception of graphic design with the reality of the design world. I don’t necessarily have to abandon my inclinations or impulses to make the things I want to make, I just have to scoot over and let in some of that client world I’ve been ignoring for so long.


Daniel Eatock is an artist with roots in design. He says he devotes 5% of his time to client work and the rest to personal work.

In Art 321, Branding and Identity, we were given the opportunity to design a visual identity for an entity of our choosing. Did I choose a real client? Nope. I chose a hypothetical one. The State of Jefferson. A secessionist movement from Northern California and Southern Oregon that contains an eclectic rural population of radical farmers, pot-smoking hippies, gun-wielding libertarians, etc. They were my client but I was really my own client. I was more interested in contemplating the solution to brand a whole people than I was creating branding for a product or business.


The Beautiful Losers artists that Sagmeister mentions. People who are making art that is also commercially viable, either as art or design or film or advertising.

I suppose until the realms I wish to work in start to value design as worthy of their funds, I’m out of luck. I’ll have to listen and watch and learn to work with clients and reconcile that sometimes I make craft, sometimes I make art, and sometimes I make design.


October 29, 2009

3101856879_249e7d9a06_bUser research. Flickr.

This is a reading response to Personas: Practice and Theory by John Pruitt and Jonathan Grudin from the book Design Studies.

“Personas are a medium for communication; a conduit for information about users and work settings derived from ethnographies, market research, usability studies, interviews, observations and so on.”

Call it what you will: user archetypes, market segmentation, user role definition, user profiling, fictional charaters: this article hails the importance of all designers and developers having a detailed understanding of human behavior. Designers often have a vague or contradictory sense of intended users, and may base scenarios on themselves. I do this all the time. I often find myself making work that I’d use and like, but this only goes so far. Developing personas can “amplify the effectiveness of other research methods.” As designers, the act of creating personas can help us make our assumptions about our target audience more explicit.

550438755_29c4e3d16aLittle stand-up personas. Flickr.

Though there’s nothing more boring than reading about the development of MSN Explorer, this article was valuable to me. It encouraged me to think more critically about my audience. I must be more willing to take myself out of the picture from time to time and realize that not all consumers of my design are white, 20-something middle-class hipsters from Portland, Oregon.