i. office-party

Founded in 2018, office-party is a series of short typographic [1] workshops that stem from a personal interest in looking outwards, both in terms of exploring graphic design education (and the expanded forms that can take), and gaining a more collective understanding of our experience as practitioners of the discipline. We believe that there is a divide between academic and pragmatic design discourse, and see the workshop format as a way to bridge that gap. Through breaking with our daily routine, we can actively stake out a site to occupy and begin to fill it with ideas. [2]

“Evolved from the Greek, typos means figure and grapho means I write. This two-sided practice (reading-writing) I’ve just described is even written directly into the word typography itself.” — David Reinfurt, t-y-p-o-g-r-a-p-h-y

ii. abstraction

As graphic designers we deal in abstraction. In a commercial capacity, we are constantly working to best represent others, often making assumptions about the reception of our work in the process. In Statement and Counter-statement, Experimental Jetset express their disdain for the term ‘Target Audience’, not out of arrogance but “because we respect the individual viewer so much that we try to avoid generalisations…”. We are all tied up in this realm of profiling, ‘Personas’, and sweeping generalisations, whether we choose to admit it or not. office-party is about acknowledging this, and opening up the space to pursue work that is unashamedly personal. Represent yourself.

“Experience deserves respect but is equal to the value of naivete.” — Stuart Bailey, Incubation of a Workshop

iii. constraints

If we consider graphic design as a discipline with a “logical capacity for self-production,” [3] the industry dichotomy of ‘Problem’ and ‘Solution’ reads as a poorly formulated interview question that invariably elicits a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. office-party is about presenting a prompt rather than a problem — we want to shift focus away from solving to learning, [4] arriving somewhere less absolute. Each workshop explores how constraints can help to delimit our free terrain as designers in a productive way. Placing parameters in place to react to / push / pull against, we can read each response as a statement, one “answer to a question” [5] addressed to many.

“[Interviewer] Does design obey laws? [Charles Eames] Aren’t constraints enough?” — Interview with Charles Eames, THE WORLD OF CHARLES AND RAY EAMES

iv. tense

Each office-party workshop begins by turning to the past, revisiting assignments from Nina Paim’s Taking A Line for a Walk compendium (after Klee). Some of these were conceived nearly a century ago — by the likes of Corita Kent, Josef Albers, and Wassily Kandinsky — while others are more recent efforts from David Bennewith, Julia Born, Sam de Groot, et al. Some provide instructions to the nearest millimetre (“Arrange nine matte black dots 2 cm in diameter on a sheet of matte white cardboard 30 cm square…” [6]), are poetic (“Make a horizon.” [7]), or read more as manifestos. [8] We take interest in the permanence of these model assignments of 20th–21st century design education, how we can re-enact any number of them today, gain a sensitivity towards their approach, and apply what we learn through this process to an original assignment.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are poor, not rich. We cannot afford to waste materials or time. We have to make the most of our least. All art starts with a material, and therefore we first have to investigate what our material can do. So, to begin, we will experiment without aiming to make a product. At the moment we prefer cleverness to beauty. Economy of form depends on the material we are working with. Notice that often you will have more by doing less...” — Josef Albers, Bauhaus, Dessau, DE, c. 1928

v. context

There is an act of interpretation inherent to what we are doing, dead space that sits between the conception of these assignments and our reenactment. What was left out, delivered verbally? Are these continuations of a theme within a broader curriculum? In an institutional context, lecturers own conceptual and aesthetic preferences (institutional politics / bureaucracy notwithstanding) inevitably come into play, so we are curious if a flat context results in a body of work more varied. As these questions reveal, context is also about capturing what would otherwise remain ephemeral as ideas in conver­sation.

vi. renewal

Photographs / sketches / notes / traces will be gathered on this website, a space for the ideas of the day to converge and endure. At the close of the series, work will also be valued in the form of a public exhibition, and all workshop resources will be made available for download. While the physical aspect of the workshops is critical to the series, we are interested in this possibility of renewal, We would love for others to build upon the base we establish; completing the same assignments, adhering to the same time constraints, moving outwards while referring back…

“... even if a project is self-initiated or clientless in the traditional sense, it still looks outward, needing input from other places, such as in cultural references, locations, circumstances.” — Matthew Galloway, Towards a Definition

office–party _v1.1 01/07/18

  1. Reinfurt, David. “T-y-p-o-g-r-a-p-h-y: Introduction, 3 February 2013” (Accessed 27 March, 2018)
  2. Bailey, Stuart. “Incubation of a Workshop” in Emigre, No. 48, ed. Rudy VanderLans (Fall 1998), 41–47
  3. Goggin, James. “Practice from Everyday Life: Defining Graphic Design's Expansive Scope by Its Quotidian Activities” in Graphic Design: Now in Production, ed. Ian Albinson and Rob Giampietro (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2012), 54–57
  4. Bailey, Stuart. “Incubation of a Workshop” in Emigre, No. 48, ed. Rudy VanderLans (Fall 1998), 44
  5. Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966).
  6. Rand, Paul and Eisenman, Alvin. “Dots” in Taking a Line for a Walk, ed. Nina Paim (Leipzig: Spector Books), 17
  7. Melzer, Tine. “The Horizon” in Taking a Line for a Walk, ed. Nina Paim (Leipzig: Spector Books), 7
  8. Albers, Josef. “Constructive Thinking” in Taking a Line for a Walk, ed. Nina Paim (Leipzig: Spector Books), 22