Line Dance

A Line Which Forms a Volume is a new publication from the Graphic Media Design MA program at the LCC. This small book brings together writing and research from course members, tutors and guest critics, on a range of diverse, fascinating and often surprising subjects. We caught up with some of the people involved to find out more…

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What was the thinking behind the books intriguing title? 

Katie Evans: A Line Which Forms a Volume borrows its title from a subheading in Michel Butor’s essay ‘The Book as Object’. Under this heading the French novelist explores how writing records threads of speech and thoughts by dividing and stacking this continuous stream: ‘every word follows one other, precedes one other. As a result, they take their places along a line activated by a meaning, along an axis.’ Initially presented as a working title and concept by editorial advisor Bryony Quinn, this metaphor of a line moving into and filling a space resonated with the publication’s aims. Not only did the audibility and volume clearly link to the symposium and our strive to disseminate, and make the research public, it also reflected how we wanted the design research to be read: rooted in the present whilst continuously evolving and asking new questions. We continued to roll with the ideas from the text throughout the publishing process, developing our initial editorial concepts and strategies from it, which fed into the design ideas, leading to the splicing method found in the final publication. 

The title itself also informed how we began collectively writing a manifesto with the design team. This was edited for the publication’s introduction text, creating a system of dialogue, ‘A Volume is a space that projects, amplifies, and disseminates. A Line is a question, a conversation, a response’.  

The book is a collaboration between participants who are all on the same course, produced in quite a short time frame, how did the different roles get divided up? Was it a rewarding process?

Katie Evans: At the start of the process the roles were split into editors, editorial team, design team and symposium team. Responsibilities for each were outlined prior to the process, and we applied for them based on whether we wanted to build on existing knowledge and experience, or whether we had a curiosity to develop previously unexplored avenues of publishing. From the start, there were clear expectations from us and we used weekly meetings to present ideas, negotiate outcomes, and to collectively make decisions quickly. A mutual trust and respect between the teams was important for this to be an effective working model, which allowed for open conversations as well as planned actions to be made and met for the next week. 

Not everything was as clear cut, the set roles did naturally shift and morph throughout the process, at times spreading into many and at others, becoming very specific. This allowed the project to continually evolve; for example, when the idea of an active reading list was put forward by advisors Wayne Daly and Claire Lyon, the role of an Archivist was developed to help generate and manage this. Cate Rickards began to organise potential systems with LCC Librarians, something we are continuing to work on and hope to establish and expand with the coming issues. It was great to have this collaborative network with each other and within the wider university.

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This network of support stretched outside the University as we began to contact binders, paper suppliers, printers, publishers and type designers. People’s readiness to offer advice was surprising, in a great way, and I’m sure these connections will continue with the next publication. We also found this when contacting potential speakers for the launch. The symposium / launch night itself was really rewarding to see all these moving parts come together through the physical book and the talks by MA GMD course participants and practitioners. 

Personally, having never edited a publication before, I learnt a lot from working with co-editor Gabriela Matuszyk and editorial advisor Bryony Quinn. Bryony generously navigated us through the editorial process and created lasting structures which we will now continue to roll with as editorial advisors for the next issue. I definitely built confidence and practical skills going through the project by learning then quickly needing to do/implement. It’s been easier to answer this question now, as stated, it happened in a very short time frame, and at times it did feel a bit of a whirlwind. It’s encouraging to see that ALWFAV hasn’t stayed in boxes after the launch night, as it keeps being disseminated further, whether that's online, posting it out to people, and now being stocked at magCulture. I think keeping these conversations and collaborations up will be key for the upcoming issue. 

Was it a challenge working with such a diverse selection of editorial material?

Gabriela Matuszyk: As the publication was put together in an academic environment – in the midst of deadlines and graduate school exhibition preparations – the timeframe for ALWFAV was devised symbiotically to that of MA Graphic Media Design programme. This meant that throughout the initial stages of our schedule we weren’t exposed to the final editorial materials, but instead, we have worked from gathered notes and comments, in regard to contextual and formal aspects of submissions. This limitation turned out to be a blessing in disguise; as we weren’t able to focus our attention on commonalities within content, we have built an editorial model situating each contribution as part of a larger, multidirectional line of critical inquiry. 

The editorial model we constructed for ALWFAV derived from Michel Butor’s The Book as Object, an essay where he referred to book publishing as ‘freezing’ method for preservation of language. This was an important consideration when approaching our material as the research is not only of its time contextually, but it also represents varied stages of research in practice –  for some MA participants the act of publication symbolised an end of a project, for others it was a prompt for continuation, or marker for establishing new design led inquiries. By approaching each submission individually, our intention was to acknowledge and uphold these qualities.

Prompted by the metaphor of a two-dimensional line moving through a 3-dimensional space, we used the act of mastering (in music) and splicing (in film) as direct methods for connecting differing contributions. As they are put together, moments of overlap happen in those short transitional spaces, and new links develop. We have used ‘splicing’ as a method to embrace the diversity of editorial material, thus consequently to ‘establish points of reference which we can consider simultaneously’ and to present design-led research in its complexity.

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Did any overarching themes or continuity emerge over the course of the book's development?

Carlos Romo-Melgar: The contributions showed the agency of graphic design research in different ways, touching various fields of study. Also, as the contributions were sourced in the two formats of the MA GMD course (part time and full time), they showed diversity in the cohort-specific research methods. This situation gave the opportunity to gather a wide variety of content, each of them foregrounding significant excerpts or extracts of their research projects. Nevertheless, the idea of a continuous flow of content was decided from the very beginning. It is shown in a more explicit way through the layout of the publication, prioritising continuity before authority. Design constitutes an understated voice that gives space and aligns that content diversity into a linear narration. 

The editorial continuous flow of content was facilitated by the idea of ‘splicing’. We tested two different paths that affected the overall hierarchy: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ splicing. The first one follows the hierarchy of a more traditional publication, making special emphasis in the role of the author on each of the contributions, and signposting beginnings, ends, quotes or changes sharply. This approach required a harder splicing device to connect each of the contents. Ultimately, after a lively discussion within the team, we concluded that soft splicing would be a more suitable strategy – the approach that negotiates more traditional hierarchy, allowing the splice to be part of the content. This way the breaks between each individual contribution are softened and the blurry limits are just signified by a glyph that was made for this purpose.

How did the external contributors and collaborators like Jack Self, Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey, Daly & Lyon and Eleanor Vonne Brown impact the project? 

Richard Ashton and Bec Worth: Each of the contributors was chosen specifically because of the impact they had had on students’ personal research projects, along with their experience within the realm of independent publishing. The written contributions for the publication from Jack Self, Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey and Eleanor Vonne Brown found within the publication, varied greatly to their contributions as speakers during the symposium. The diverse experiences presented and discussed at the event was valuable in highlighting the authority that student writing can have, along with the importance of not having hard lines around publishing, ensuring that projects fold into each other organically. This advice, while somewhat evident within our manifesto, highlighted the importance of such an event. It not only acted as a continuation of the publication, but has the potential to influence students ongoing practices. 

Within Jack’s written piece titled Hard Line, he describes a critical reader as ‘a cacophony of simultaneous texts… limitless in their permutations, consequences and possibilities.’ This concept was evident within ALWFAV and mirrored during the symposium. Each of the three guest speakers stood alongside participant speakers, Cate Rickards and Aldo Caprini. The interactions and conversations that took place, enhanced by the video splices from designer and course tutor Sophie Demay, lead to an incredibly rich discourse taking place which we hope will continue to influence future editions of ALWFAV. 

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Carlos Romo-Melgar: Wayne Daly and Claire Lyon offered their guidance throughout the process based on their experience in publishing and book design. They encouraged us to take the publication project as an opportunity to develop a network of supports from the different areas involved: from the typeface, Tactic Regular by Antoine Elsensohn, to the paper or the printing method. This network was particularly interesting when deciding how to edit the colophon, as all of the supporters appeared to us part of the team rather than one-off helping hands. From the very beginning of the project Daly+Lyon and Bryony Quinn were a guiding presence in the team meetings, and foregrounded the importance of trust as the core of the functioning for a project with such short schedule. This was later covered in Daly+Lyon contribution in the notes to the colophon: ‘in such tightly-formed relationships, there is a collapsing and sharing of roles, a reality which counteracts the necessary orderliness of a credits list; a feedback channel in which the continuity of production is responsive and elastic’. 

What were some of the considerations behind the design?

Aldo Caprini: As previously mentioned, the design is based from a common conceptual ground—Butor’s text and splicing—which were defined and shared by editors to designers and vice-versa. Borrowed from the cinema industry, ‘splicing’ is the physical junction of photographic film. This concept translated into a continuous line of text, which uses the ‘splicing device’ or glyph, to connect one strand of design research to the next, into a new whole or a Volume precisely.

The design of the publication has been intended as understated, supportive, and open/flexible. The absence of a cover democratises the nature of the book, while leading the reader into the continuous flow of information created by the initial splicing device. Here the reader enters the volume's space. In this indexed cover, the splicing device formats and links every contributor of the volume. The glyph also concludes the publication on the back cover, an open connection, which handovers to the next team. 

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Carlos Romo-Melgar: Yes, the unifying approach in the contents treatment facilitated a less-authoritative approach in the display of other elements such as the cover. The role of the author of each of the contents was deemed as secondary regarding the importance of the editorial ‘line’. In this way, the cover reveals initials and titles of all the elements that form that line. 

The quantitative conditions (budget, production methods and time allowance) were extremely relevant in the decision-making process. Instead of looking at them as limitations, they were seen as tools that informed the different choices to be made. The small format of the publication is an example of such scenario: we prepared something that could eventually be produced by hand at LCC, and that was simultaneously showing the physicality we were looking for. The book, as a result, as a volume, condenses a network of decisions that influence each other.

Why produce a printed book in a digital age? 

Gabriela Matuszyk: The concept of a book form traditionally legitimises ideas and deems them as worthy of attention – this is possibly an outdated notion in the age when anyone can be a publisher. The value of printed format in the case of ALWFAV however, was that of forming connections; Volume 1 is a physical object that transcends its format and establishes a digital medium to carry concepts and ideas in-flux.

Carlos Romo-Melgar: At the ideation stage, we started calling ALWFAV a ‘critical reader’, ‘magazine’, ‘publication’, then a ‘device’, and finally a ‘book’. The idea of the printed book wasn’t following intentions like a catalogue, or a showcase of student work. Although it wasn’t in the debate a choice between digital or printed publication, the physicality of ALWFAV was one of the first negotiations that we made as a team. While the digital version extends the reach of the publication, the physical one establishes an interaction between the MA GMD research projects and their different audiences. The publication is not only a way of socialising the research insights, but a moment in time and a testimony of a symposium, that is ready to be revisited afterwards. Nevertheless, the intention of producing a printed publication wasn’t gratuitous at all; its post-digital nature required a much more studied/measured strategy for its production, which affected the way in which it was edited and designed. 

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Do you see the publication as the first of a series? 

Aldo Caprini: The idea of Line has been used since the beginning of the project, as a way of expressing the desire to create flow, continuation, and connection between the concept of research and the concept of publication. The Volume—which etymologically comes from the latin ‘Volure’ meaning ‘to roll’—by contrast refers to a system of connected entities. A Line Which Forms a Volume is a segment of a research flow that is both heterogeneous and coherent, thus this issue cannot be considered as a start, nor as a one-off, but as a part. The value of the publication is not its ‘inner design value’ but, in some way, it will be represented by both the ability to create connections and be a starting point for the future issues.

Katie Evans: Throughout this project we were aware that our roles were for one issue, but would continue and morph with the next issue as advisors, as such, the documentation and development of systems was a key part of the process. Since ALWFAV is not a one-off publication, we needed to have editorial and design strategies in place which did not restrict the next team, but help to guide and allow for development as it continues to evolve. We are in the planning stages for next issue, where we hope to explore this rolling notion further by publishing emerging content regularly, before the next publication. We are all excited to advise on the next issue and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next team will do, whether they will follow and build on existing frameworks or if they will question and reshape them. 

Gabriela Matuszyk: We are currently in the planning stages for the next annual printed issue which will be published December 2018. In the meantime we’d like to continually explore and experiment with different routes of dissemination, by publishing subsequent segments online. In doing so, our aim is to present current design-led research as it emerges, at its different stages of development. Using a digital platform is an opportunity to reach new audiences without the bounds and limitations of a printed matter, and therefore remaining in-flux, presenting topics simultaneously as they derive.

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How does the book fit into the wider aims of the MA

Paul Bailey: In many ways, A Line Which Forms a Volume has emerged quite naturally as a space to socialise the current concerns, perspectives and intentions of the MA GMD participants – to open an exchange between publication and public (as articulated by Matthew Stadler of Publication Studio).

When developing the course design (launched in October 2015 at London College of Communication), we saw an opportunity to position writing as a critical visual research tool that operates as an interface between thought and action, theory and practice, the individual and the public. The course invites the participants to explore forms, modes and contexts of writing that adhere to the priorities of their design-oriented research provoking outputs as varied as visual essays, critical texts, poems, articles, biographies, scripts, games, etc. We’ve been impressed with the participants' engagement and it felt like the right time to establish a space to collectively publish their writing, as we had been doing with their practical design outputs. It was through discussions with course tutor, Bryony Quinn, we came to the decision to explore strategies to make design research public—to make it voluble—to make a volume.

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A Line Which Forms a Volume builds upon insights the course team and participants have collectively established through a series of events and activities exploring the role of writing in/across/through design education and practice. At the invitation of the Graphic Design Educators’ Network (GDEN), the MAGMD course curated and hosted With a Shift Simultaneous Realities Collide in March 2017. The afternoon incorporated talks from Bryony Quinn, James Langdon and Professor John Wood; a series of workshops designed and delivered by MAGMD participants; a special screening of a graphic design opera ‘No Exit’ from the Design Displacement Group; and a curated presentation of artefacts from the Archives and Special Collections at the London College of Communication, UAL. Key ideas encountered and points for further inquiry are sharply articulated by MAGMD participants, Katie Evans and Gabriela Matuszyk, in a review for Design Observer.

A Line Which Forms a Volume operates as one strand in a larger graphic design research narrative that has been drawn from the MAGMD course. The drive to author, edit, publish and disseminate; to establish a correspondence with a specific public; is evident in the work of our recent graduates - Richard Ashton’s publication, Leisure This Way, self-authored work explores how the boundaries of work and leisure time are continually shifting due to the expectations associated with both terms and their environments. Aldo Caprini’s project Damned Green, presenting collected texts and interviews is intended as a think tank for ideas about power and leadership, the status quo and subversion, representation and reproduction. The key inquiry of the research is to establish the original network behind the production and diffusion of The Green Book, the ideological frame of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Carlos Romo-Melgar’s research examines the nature of architectural publishing itself by gathering diverse practices about the discipline that push forward its boundaries and establish discussions with transversal fields of practice. The project establishes a methodology in which the speculative publication is the source for discussions, research and conversations. Eugenia Luchetta’s project, Here be Dragon’s, creates a parallelism between the fascination and terror of remote lands in the past, and the spread of exaggerated fantasies and fears around the darknet today. It is a self-authored work that is describes Terra Ignota, a mysterious island, autonomous from the rest of the world – ‘Mainland’ – and alien to the notions of law and government. Louise Evans’ examination of the tilde through the written word and visual practice, explores cross-signification, shifting meaning & punctuational appropriation in a digital age. Finally, Rebecca Worth’s project A Common Practice presents an intention, a methodology and a terrain. She asks ‘how might the literary strategies of digression and association (rooted in the act of walking) be adopted in design practice to examine contemporary attitudes toward individual reflection, labour and common space?

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