RCA life began – ‘Design Without’ first meeting

I think I never mentioned it, but I am now at the Royal College of Art doing my MA in Visual Communication. And today was the introduction to the elective I chose, ‘Design Without’. ‘Leader’ of the elective is, known to many, Neville Brody, also Head of my course and the Dean of my Department. Design Without is about breaking down assumptions and ways of thinking about design, it’s about new processes, experimentation, boundaries and challenges. Design without any kind of boundaries or categorisations. It’s kinda demanding, as every week there’s a different project, with the exception of the first week, as I’m involved in one of the AcrossRCA projects, and particularly ‘Sound Space’. AcrossRCA is a bunch of multi-disciplinary projects, taking place in a week’s time, set by the college for all the students, without any department boundaries. I chose the sound space as it looked to me attractive – I would like to experiment with some sound! So I’m going to see what will happen with this next week! So, the students which are involved with AcrossRCA are allowed to deliver the first project of the Design Without elective in 2 weeks time, as the AcrossRCA projects take priority next week.

Randomly put here, a picture of my studio space as it looks right now I’m posting this, it’s still really empty, it doesn’t feel familiar to me yet, but it will in some time. There are people that the only thing that don’t do here is sleep. They have kettles and fridges and all this kind of things. I was actually ready yesterday to leave some stuff on the shelves you see in the picture, although it didn’t feel right, just yet.



Anyway that’s about my studio space.

And this is my new room in Catford, Lewisham (yeah that’s South East London, where none goes), which finished sorting out last night, after almost a month being here! I still have some stuff in boxes I need to organise but all the necessary things are done now (desk, bookcase etc).


So back to Design Without and the first meeting today at 10am..

Neville Brody expressed, for one more time, that graphic design nowadays is in the biggest stage of confusion, as design took many dimensions. He also mentioned that our goal is to somehow figure out or solve complexity and that’s why we need to be conscious, aware of what’s happening, use our senses, keep thinking and observing, check if there are any changes around and allow new thoughts and ways of thinking and also joint different things together.

Saying all these he eventually ended up to the project we have to do for this week, mentioning that everything is expressed in some form of language. Everything has something to say, everything has a meaning. How we ‘dress’ things is sometimes the way we avoid reality. The way we respond to a message is the way we present it. So the project asks to use found elements or existing spaces in 1 mile radius of the college that can be used as a form of language; the change of colour on a leaf, temperature, movement, certain kinds of sounds. Something that creates variable basics of a language. This foundings will be shared and discussed at the next meeting. He advised us to jump out of usual understanding of language, to talk without using conventional language and land with zero understanding of what language is. It has to be usable and to have a way of communicating. Ways of finding such ways of languages are by just walking around, emptying our mind, observing, understanding, questioning

Some general notes:

  • language is a framework, not the content
  • failure is an option!
  • project is not about a finished product – it’s about structural thinking, observation, to see the process of understanding what visual language is
  • don’t use something that has meaning (e.g. I’m hungry so I put this apple on the table to show I’m hungry)
  • dive in- don’t worry about the outcome


Yeah.. So.. All these things sound really inspiring, but I’m confused. I don’t really understand what we actually have to show. When I expressed this Neville was like ‘Good, if you’re confused, that’s positive!’. He also advised me either to worry too much or don’t worry at all. Again, it doesn’t make sense to me, well just yet.

For the time being I will just let my mind digest this and look at things that have to do with this subject. Like, try to research different types of visual language or watch ‘Order and Disorder’ episodes on BBC iPlayer. As the page describes the second episode ‘Information’: “Investigating the concept of information, Jim Al-Khalili learns that it is not just about human communication, it is woven very profoundly into the fabric of reality”. Interesting right?

Also, at the meeting we talked about the Dadaist method of Cut-ups and Fold-in, which I might post some more things later, I might also try it myself!

That’s for now, I might come up with some writing later on the day. For now, let’s feed the brain.


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