Musings on knowledge abstracted

You need many strategies to teach graphic design, and resources can be key to effective delivery. But if there is one piece of equipment I find it hard to teach without, it is a wipe board. I’m not neat, and I often respond to students comments intuitively when writing / drawing on these magnetic metallic sheets of white—if you walked into a lecture theatre just after I had finished my session that explores the contexts surrounding the sleeve of the Velvet Underground’s first LP, you wouldn’t be able to make head nor tail of what was on the board. (It is fair to say you have to be there.)

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Working in a shared studio space you can enter in the morning with another lecturer’s teachings on the board from the previous day. This was the case today, and my colleague Russell Walker’s notes, knowledge and information were still tantalisingly on display.

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Often, particularly after one of Russell’s sessions, it can seem a shame to have to wipe away what is displayed as they can appear to be items of design in their own right. But needing the board for my first year session as I did this morning, I set about with spray cleaner and paper towels. In doing so I noticed that the black / grey smears that formed were actually quite beautiful. Musing on this, I laid them out on a table and realised that what I was looking at was knowledge and learning abstracted, literally, teaching as art. I then did what I always do on such occasions and started photographing them.

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The amassing students looked on me as if I was mad taking shots of dirty rags, and they thought I was madder still when I jokingly offered these papers to them as notes of yesterday’s session. But notes they are in a way. Incomprehensible on any pedagogical level maybe, but a beautiful record none the less.

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As I often do when looking at a painting or other such art artefact, I consider how it could be applied in a design context. And so I can with these—next time I do my Velvet Underground lecture, I’ll clean the wipe board afterwards but keep the paper towels I use. They can be saved as readymades for any album art commission I might get in the future.

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