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A Good F—ing Design Workshop

September 8, 2014 / By Guest Contributor Sherry L. Saunders

If you are not familiar with Good Fucking Design Advice, I’m sure the company name alone gives a bit of insight. GFDA states that it is “a company that trades in the commodity of inspiration” by providing great products, lectures and workshops to the design community. This past spring, I had the great pleasure of hosting GFDA’s founders Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher at Lamar University to conduct a Concept Development Workshop. Students and alumni participating were able to spend the weekend outside their comfort zone working through creative prompts and collaborating with peers.

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Good Fucking Design Advice might not be cut out for the conservative southeast Texas life style…but Brian and Jason did manage not to use profanity at the fair grounds!

I learned so much at this workshop, as this type of experience is difficult to cultivate in the traditional classroom setting. The experience was a focused creative retreat where the pressure of grades and fear of failure did not inhibit the participants’ ideas. When I asked the workshop participants to reflect on the experience for themselves, a recent alum, Thomas Harris, explained it better than I could myself. I feel his first hand experience as a workshop participant sums up the whole weekend:

“What Good Fucking Design Advice Taught Me…

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Thomas Harris and Kayleigh Thompson discussing their ideas at the GFDA Concept Development Workshop.

One of the best workshops I’ve ever attended was hosted by Lamar University in the spring of 2014 and presented by Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher, founders of Good Fucking Design Advice. What I discovered was to give a fuck about every design I take part of, that the design process is fucking magical and, most importantly, the design process can change the fucking world. A lot right? I know, it seems so dramatic. So let’s digest this:

First, Brian and Jason gave very specific tips on how to strip out everything from the design process to communicate with your audience in an instant, while avoiding cliché’s and creating visually interesting original designs. They both reminded me that graphic design is visual communication before art. With graphic design the viewer should instantaneously understand the design concept. To avoid confusion between fine art and graphic design, designers must remove distracting elements in order to avoid confusion or dilute the topic. Designers need to communicate in a clear, concise manner and rid their process of deep intellectual ideas. Design is not decoration, deep philosophy, nor making things look pretty (what many of my co-workers think I do). Designers communicate visually, directly forming dialogue through the imagery presented to our society. The design process should strip all excess to create straightforward, beautiful design:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Students hard at work sketching at the GFDA Concept Development Workshop.

Second, everything around us can be designed better. Or, in general terms, form follows fucking function. Form can always serve function in a clear, more efficient, timeless manner. Designers can go out into the world, with a new direct vision and honed sense of process, and change that world completely.

“The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight against the ugliness. Just like a doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is to cure it somehow with design,” –Massimo Vignelli

Finally, In the age of a global social environment, designers, with these tools of creating dialogue, control the future. Designers are the future intellects of the world: the philosophers, the politicians and the leaders.

So, in short, this workshop changed my fucking life. I owe a lot to Good Fucking Design Advice and the tools that they provided me to hone my craft and process in order to focus on clear messaging between myself and my audience. “

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Final solution from group 1. Created images to represent the article “The End of Car Culture.”

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Final solution from group 2. Created an image to represent the article “Dining Through Disaster.”

The final prompt in the workshop asked students to come up with a clear conceptual image that correlated to an article from the New York Times. They worked in two groups to come with sketches and with less than 24 hours, had to create a refined final image and present their strongest piece to everyone at the workshop. This short time frame forced students to critically evaluate their own ideas and work hard to refine and synthesize their work.

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Sherry Saunders, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX Sherry Saunders received a BFA from Emmanuel College in 2007 and in 2011, she received her MFA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design. She currently is the Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. She has received local, regional and national awards for her graphic design work. Sherry also continues to present research at conferences and publish her graphic design research. Visit her website.

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