Process Stories

Process Stories

When you try so hard to not be Harry that you become Massimo

I have a poster of the London Underground next to my bed. I see it every night and every morning. Using travel – especially types based on fixed infrastructure, with such lovely connections, junctions, hubs and destinations. has to be a metaphorical honey trap – it seems like too obvious a choice. So while I was avoiding any allusion to the Tube and Mr. Beck’s map, it would appear, I created a version of the NYC Subway map. Upon noticing this, I was going to lean into it, but I backed off and did not use Helvetica.
Sorry, Massimo.

I am actually quite happy with it. I wanted something more diagrammatical and less…I would say abstract, but creating a diagram of a process is abstract. After talking to Kris – who suggested creating something understandable but also beautiful, I reworked some existing ideas, and now ask myself if it is either understandable or beautiful, neither, or both?

A more abstract model

The Hagfish Model

What looks like a plant, a vortex, an unravelling, sucking up, spitting out, or a hagfish – this model aims to express aiming for a similar spot from different places (metaphorically in both instances). Sometimes the process can be the outcome, or sometimes the process reveals the final outcome.

It’s not about the leaves, it’s about the insect.

A Typographic Response

A typographic response – my process genuinely includes multiple approaches.
Do something fast and immediate,
Then do something slowly and measured.
Then do the opposite of both.
CMYK overlays are this week’s chef’s special

Figuring out my process was easy(ish). Expressing it in a graphic turned out to be a lot trickier than one might think.

First off, it has to be said that there is not just one process. Depending on the piece, I have a different process. Secondly, the process is somewhat fluid, flexible and modular; many external factors can affect it.

I don’t like the teenage years

I love the ideation phase, I like everything about it, and I like the refinement stage, There is excitement when leaving on a trip, and the joy of final descent, but Greenland at 38,000 feet is tedious at best.

The first piece I do is really to be scrapped. But it has to be of a high enough quality to be a final piece. It should really be the first idea that comes into my head, no research of any kind. And it can be multiple iterations or ideations. This does two things.
1. It relaxes me, and I can focus on spending time finding new insights and other potential solutions.
2. I can be sure it is not tainted by the ideas flea market that is the internet.

Having said that, I do agree with Hella Jongerius that there is no blank page, as she states ‘Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product’ – worthwhile being an important word there. I also believe in Gladwell’s hypothesis that we have a lot of knowledge in us already, which has been marinating and fermenting and has been transformed into something authentic, if not unique.

Once I have the first piece I returned to either assigned research or chase the rabbit through the warren taking note of interesting insights and from this invariably another piece emerges.

Then, I do look at the work of others, this might lead to new concepts or tweaks in existing ones. This is an important step – if only to check that I haven’t inadvertently or through cryptomnesia created something that exists already. Having two possibilities already helps to avoid any possible envy-paralysis, instead, it can influence, tweak, improve, or lead to a new idea.

At this stage – if it hasn’t happened naturally already – I will seek to create something completely different – different in medium, different in feel, different language, different attitude; whatever makes sense, it is mostly an exercise.

Finally, and sometimes when I am struggling to start, I will just create forms, maybe discover a new tool and see what it can do how far I can push it until forms emerge that are either too interesting or beautiful to ignore, or something starts to make sense in relation to the project – a combination of Tchaikovsky’s routine and staring at clouds and seeing figures, perhaps.

It is impossible to overestimate the power of sleep

There are important elements that are currently not included in any of the models. These are not steps or actions but in someways inactions. One is trust – trusting the process is important to the process working. However – and this I cannot stress enough – for me, sleep has become a very important part of the process. With very few exceptions, sleeping when tired, sleeping when struggling – without fail – always helps. It is my liminal space, like something that unlocks. Sam Winston refers to this when he talks about not being able to not do anything. I know – mostly – when to sleep, and when to Tchaikovsky-force-create.

So where are the gaps in my process, where are the weakness? I suppose the development phase is something I try to outsource to others. I can get bored with the production aspect or costing. I have never really cared much about the precision of colours as colours don’t exist. My process can be messy, literally or digitally; there is only a framework of order that is broken frequently for the benefit of speed. It can also take over large parts of my life both in terms of time and brain space.

It could be that one of my weaknesses is not seeing (or wanting to see) my weaknesses and gaps. Gaps and weaknesses that I am sure exist.

The messy iterations

At one point (on the left) I was trying to create a graphic that would communicate a process while also spelling out the word process. I abandoned it as it felt both a bit twee(?) and chasing two rabbits most often ends with catching neither, as well as issues of time.

If anything, this version may have been inspired by pneumatic tubes or the exposed air ducts in my apartment.

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