We were hosted by the BA Graphic Arts students and staff at Winchester School of Art in October for a day of 'Workin It'. Complete with post-its a plenty, a great discussion on life post-graduation and a collab on a 16 page riso publication with take-outs from the day. Read more about the day over at insights from the field blog. Thank you for having us, it was an absolute pleasure! And credit to Missy for soundtracking our day.
This week Crowd gave our two pennies worth to a great article from Lisa Hassell at Digital Arts about the secrets of the best design talks, conferences and courses. Find out what Crowd, It’s Nice That, Let’s Be Brief and Shillington College had to say about meeting, sharing and talking in the full article here.
Or to hear what we had to say, keep on reading….
Conversations in the crowd
Occupying the ‘exciting, slightly awkward space between education and industry’ Crowd Talks launched in 2013, as a design discussion event thathosts talks across the country, aiming to ‘break away from the traditional lecture format’.
Inspired to develop their own event following a panel discussion evening they organize for their degree show ‘Now What’ in 2012, Brighton University graduates Roz Edenbrow, Laura Gordon, Matt Dreyer and Jake Evans were united on ‘the feeling that the most interesting design conversations happened after the lecture, not during it.’
Observing a shift in the student-tutor-university relationship that seemed to reduce ‘experimental, boundary pushing education,’ largely as a result of tripling tuition fees, the group realised there was a need to encourage ‘a more active discourse around art and design culture, both in relation to education and industry - and the links between the two.’
“We promote an approach to learning that strikes a balance between professional skills and the motivation to reinvent that profession,” enthuses Laura. “I don’t think it’s British politeness that holds people back from developing or sharing their opinions – I worry it’s a product of an education system that doesn’t nurture open debate from a young age.”
“We’re big believers in learning through questioning,” says Roz. “We get to hear a range of opinions from different people with different backgrounds; we hope this gives people a wider view to help them form their own opinions and work out where they stand on an issue.”
Taking a relaxed and informal approach when talking to both students and practitioners, they seek to involve the audience in debate.
“Two way discussion is key to Crowd, and this marks us out from the rest of the design lecture landscape.” says Laura. “We’re passionate about involving and learning from students, not just imparting advice. The informal atmosphere allows us to have a different conversation than more established events – our favourite parts of Crowd are when people are arguing, laughing or being unexpectedly profound.”
While the audience are not pressured to get involved in the discussion she notes that generally there is always enough debate to get people talking, ‘people always have something to say.’
Admittedly they have experienced varying levels of success with the format. “It’s a spontaneous, evolving venture; the events rely massively on the mood and feeling of both the audience and panel which can be risky, but it means that when it works well the discussion takes on a life of its own.”
Scheduled to take the stage at Pick Me Up in May, the team are also looking to the future, strengthening their ties with Universities as a way to link up with young designers and ‘be actively involved in the future of design education’.
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 18:30-20:00
Old Post Room £6
On arrival the event’s atmosphere was warm and inviting. After being registered I was led to the space by two volunteers and picked up a welcoming drink. The circular layout of the room and scattered seating made it easy to slip in. Even though I had only just arrived in the nick of time for the start, I still had a very clear view of the panel and an understanding of each person's role due to initial intros/slides. Throughout the talk the mix of audience became apparent, young students and graduates, suited and booted counter-arguments and the older and wisercourse leaders and experienced professionals. The mix certainly made the debate. With such an all round contribution off points there was no feeling of hesitation in adding ideas to the discussion, more of a battle to squeeze everything in in fact. The concept of the talk proved to be quite pleasing, being so heavily reliant on the mood of it’s crowd sounds like a risk but was defnitely a reward!
In terms of the talk’s content, I had expected there to be more of a focus on art and design being rivalled by coding and programming, rather than so highly tech related. Having said this I was pleasantly surprised by the extent of the panel’s approach to using technology creatively and also educationally. And I did indeed learn a thing or two about what coding and programming actually count as in technical terms and the need for them to be taught as skills as well as in context. My mind is now far more open to not just teaching such topics but to how they ought to be taught. It was certainly reassuring to see this particular panel pioneering the idea of off-screen experimentation in the teaching of this subject and some sort of a relief to my own concerns which lie in the potential loss of DIY craft and craft culture amongst the onslaught of technology/computer contact. (I could rant here about the future of young people only a decade my junior/ the importance of gallery learning flling the widening gaps in the curriculum…alas)
As for having an enjoyable and worthwhile experience, the participational element of the talk was the most important for me. Having to speak up certainly had my brain ticking, not just at the time, but all the way home and even in conversations afterwards. I viewed the event in comparison to a talk I attended two days later on a not too distant topic; again with a panel, but in a dark and silent setting and without the participation element, the casual drink and with a ticket three times the price. Overall it was far more formal and I must admit I barely thought twice about the content after I had walked out of the door. I have seen the name Crowd Talks crop up a few times and have always meant to go but not quite got in gear. Now I am sure I would want to see and hear more. My only question being, why go in circles discussing such issues – what can your contacts and panels do collaboratively to begin to resolve these issues?!