My Thesis (For Those Interested)
I was originally asked to post my thoughts on the design process, which I haven’t really done yet. So what I’d like to do, if you will indulge me, is explain the process I’m going through with my thesis project.
First a little background: I’m in my second and final year at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan working toward my MFA in Design. The program title is Designer As Author. In other words, the focus of this program is to get graphic designers to move beyond being decorators and become authors of their own work. Our thesis project is to design a product that is entirely our own idea which we design, brand, package, market, and attempt to sell in the marketplace. It has to have a real market and we have to actually market it. This eliminates a lot of experimental thesis projects, but opens a whole new set of parameters and challenges (which designers love).
(Examples of recent projects are: one student just sold her redesigned prescription drug labeling and packaging to Target. Another guy designed a book called Speck and had it published. And another has just gone to market with her bowls (which have measures built in, for dieters) that have been published in dozens of magazines and are featured on QVC.)
Anyway, so the first semester is deciding what you want to do, how you want to do it, all the research, and write a pitch book (as if you were pitching the idea to investors). The second semester is production. We have thesis advisors, chosen professionals who are willing to assist you on the project. All of this ends in May when you finish prototype production, finish the pitch book, and display everything in the final exhibit/show. Then after graduation, if you desire, go out and actually produce it and sell it.
This is a little different than other MFA projects (and a lot like an MBA thesis).
Initially I had many ideas. I’d think I had the perfect idea, research and work on it for a week or two, and then decide it was too big, not realistic, I wasn’t qualified to do it, I couldn’t raise enough money, etc. (trust me, I was right.) After a couple months of this I remembered a project I had worked on the previous year and realized with a series of changes, it would be a fantastic project to fully realize. So I made a number of adjustments, did loads of research, spoke with scores of professionals, and engaged in hours of discussion. This is the result:
I am creating a magazine for teenagers (high school) that explores multiple perspectives on current issues. Each issue will explore a different theme (such as religion, entertainment, sex, technology, fashion, sustainability, relationships/love, etc.) in an engaging, smart, and entertaining manner. Every article will be comprised of at least two perspectives on said issue. The topic might be something heavy like the two sides of the Iraq war, or something light like if button or zipper fly is better. This will be carried out in a variety of ways: Op-Ed style articles, comics, choose your own adventure style writing, music/movie reviews, “most important movie of (topic)”, etc. The purpose of this magazine is to create discourse among teenagers, leading to better understanding and sensitivity to ideas that circulate within and without our culture.
Milton Glaser and Gail Anderson are my thesis advisors, and I have the rest of the faculty at my fingertips (including Steven Heller, Stefan Sagmiester, Brian Collins, Julie Lasky, among others). I am surrounded by amazing, brilliant, gracious people who are taking steps to help make this happen. It’s very exciting and I invite any and all to come to the thesis exhibit in May.
A couple notes:
1) I sometimes think I kinda know what I’m doing, but I always welcome others informing me otherwise. Please give your opinions, thoughts, criticisms, etc.
2) A magazine is inherently a collaboration and I’m not much of a writer, nor will I be when this is published (my plans are to be the creative/art director, leaving most editorial decisions up to an editor). Therefore, I will need writers and contributers. I know there are many talented and passionate writers on this blog, if anyone is interested in contributing please email me at rusty at rustyclifton dot com. Also, if anyone’s interested in reading the pitch book, let me know and I can send you a PDF.