Week 11 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on May 11, 2011 in

Final project
May 18
Class critique for final project begins at 11:20 in our regular classroom. Complete project and bring any process materials that lead to a rich discussion. Consider how to talk about your project. What systems are at play? What did you learn by undertaking this project? This review is a precursor to your junior year review and your reflective essay.

May 25
Complete all of your work from this semester and bring to your junior year review. I encourage you to revisit projects where craft was not at a level that you wanted it to be.

May 27
Documentation of the following projects should be uploaded to the class website with the correct categories (below). Failure to upload your work will result in a loss of a letter grade.

Collected Book
Occupational Outlook
In-class generative systems (15 minutes of Litter, 15 minutes of Left-Pointed photographs, 11×17 Poster)
Generative System of Choice
Final Project (with reflective essay in post)


Week 9 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on April 27, 2011 in

* Lecture by Ernesto in auditorium
* Critique of ‘Generating System’ project
* Assign final project

Final project
Systems project of your choice
Define system as you wish: as a finite set of parts that form a whole, or as rules or instructions that generate a result. Or define it as both.

Suitable projects range from the familiar to the obscure. Some examples:
1. A set of postage stamps
2. A set of book cover jackets
3. Wayfinding systems or waylosing systems
4. Process Book
5. Software
6. Short film using system as method
7. Installation/Live Act/Walking Tour
8. Typographic system
9. A system for organizing live information

Your end-of-semester deliverable depends on the project. We can discuss deliverables based on the project next week. For unprinted works, a process book may be your deliverable.

Be sure to take on a project that interests you and for which you can justifiably say is a system. Avoid client projects because outside constraints often affect the direction your project takes. Take risks, stretch your work in these final weeks of your junior year.

Reflective Essay
Instead of a process book, I am asking you to write at least a page of text that will complement the online documentation of your final project.

This text should describe the end forms, communicate concepts both visible and not, and reflect upon the work post-facto. Consider also answering why you chose the system you did, and how your views of systems have evolved through the course.

This piece of writing will be graded. It is due the week after the last day of class. Please associate it to the Category “Reflective Essay” on the class blog.

For next week
Choose a project, research relevant aspects of it, and begin the work. For instance, if you are designing a series of stamps, research shapes and existing stamp designs from the U.S. and worldwide. For all of your projects, find precedents that inspire and give us an idea of what you’re making. Short of designing stamps, bring in images, type samples and the other material that will fuel your design.

We will meet in small groups and have individual meetings. The projects are to be completed by the week after our final class.

Next week’s class
We will meet in our classroom at 11:20am.
The lectures are over.


Week 8 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on April 20, 2011 in

* Lecture on “chance” in auditorium
* In-class activity
* Introduce assignment

The goal of this in-class assignment is to ‘eliminate the subjective viewpoint of the author’ by making work using the following generative system. The system should generate unexpected images.
Take a walk lasting one hour.
1. For the first 15 minutes:
With your lens fully zoomed, point your camera to your left every minute and take a picture. Hold the camera at your waist and do not look through the camera lens. Do not time your pictures exactly to a minute. Do stop the first step at the end of 15 minutes total. You may not end up with 15 pictures.
2. For the next 15 minutes:
Photograph every piece of litter or trash you come across. Do not touch the item (turn it over, etc.). You are all making simple documents of litter.
3. For the next 15 minutes:

Photograph any circle you see.
4. For your return trip of 15 minutes:
Photograph any solid color that you see that has not been printed and is larger than one foot squared.

Back at class, upload all images from steps 1 and 2. Using steps 3 and 4, create an 11×17 poster that combines the circles. Use your color swatch photographs if you like. You do not need to use all of your photographs.

For next week
Invent, script and execute a generative system. A successful system is one that prescribes elements, processes and/or form to produce an unpredictable result. Your system need not be complicated.
Consider the readings and examples when forming your system. Most relevant are themes of chance, indeterminacy, randomness, automation, order and serendipity.
Your end product may take any form. The end product is the result of the system you create. The format and size may or may not be dictated by your system. For example, your system may be one where you crop pages from library books into 6”x9” pages and rebind them. This system predetermines that a book will be made at those dimensions. If your system does not dictate a format, it is up to you to disseminate your findings in a clear and engaging form.

This is a one week project. Spend as much time as possible forming your system. It is essential that you have your system written down and are able to articulate it clearly. Initiate and complete the project by next class.

* To prioritize concept over end form
* To see what unexpected form results from rules, directions or constraints
* To create a finished work in a very short amount of time


Week 7 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on April 17, 2011 in

* Final critique for Occupational Outlook

Present your book making particular note of the systems at play and how they would expand to accommodate all of the occupations listed by The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For next class
You may revise your Occupational Outlook book to adapt to any feedback you feel is relevant. Photograph your project so it can be understood at a future date and upload to the class website. I expect to see no fewer than nine images and no more than twenty. Please do not upload images larger than 5mb. Assign the category “Occupational Outlook” to the post.

Within the same post on the site, write several paragraphs reflecting upon the project. Speak to the systems that you invented and how they best solve the problem at hand — or don’t. Also address your process of making the book and whether you would have taken a different approach to work on it.

Bring in your book next week to hand in.

Required Reading
There is 23-page pdf that can be downloaded right here the Week 7 Blue Sheet post on the website. Please read for next class. Note, I do not have access to the pdf, and am out of town until Tuesday evening. I will post Tuesday early evening. The reading can be done after class on Wednesday.

For next week
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for Tom Ockerse’s lecture about chance operations.
Bring a camera, you will get to work outside


Week 6 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on April 6, 2011 in

* Lecture by Tom Ockerse in auditorium
* Small-group critique + individual meetings

Present your project within a systems context.
Meaning, how do you imagine this design applied to all volumes and all occupations? Speak to how your finished piece manifests your intentions.

For next class
Expand the number of occupations included in your book to six. Create a cover and an index (if desired) for your volume. The assumption is all other volumes would carry your system. Since your volumes would likely sit on a shelf, consider type on the spine. Your front or back cover should include at minimum the following text:
* United States Department of Labor
* U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
* Occupational Outlook Handbook,
2010-11 Edition
* Address/Telephone/Web:
2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20212-0001
(202) 691-5200

We will have a final critique next week.

Next week’s class
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for *my*


Week 5 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on March 24, 2011 in

* Lecture in auditorium
* Small group meetings, individual meetings

Split up into three groups. Follow the below process for your in-group critique:

1. Present your work. Explain clearly what you made — both conceptually and formally.
2. Your group-mates ask you questions based on your presentation — only questions. For example: ‘what is this image?,’ or ‘how does color play into your project,’ or ‘how did you arrive at such and such conclusion.’ Your group-mates should draw out as much from you as possible.
3. Your group-mates talk about your project without your participation. Take notes as they discuss. The remaining three students should restate your intentions, the strengths and weaknesses of your approach, and possible directions. Do not correct what you feel to be inaccuracies. Their confusion is an indication of misexecuted intentions. Note when this occurs.
4. You have the final word. Address their questions and ask ‘clarifying’ questions. For example: ‘what did you mean by…’. Make sure you have enough to propel forward.

Group critiques and discussion are an important part of your final grade. The quality of your final project is a result of continual adjustments and critical thinking. I will check-in with everyone after your group work to offer
individual direction.

For next class (in two weeks)
Take the system you created for one occupation and extend it to include at least four occupations from those remaining in your letter. Apply your system as you see fit to the additional professions. Be sensitive to how your system affects the other occupations. Do the other occupations require a treatment that is inconsistent with your original design? If so, adjust your system so it fits with the others.

Although a cover for your volume is not required by this next class, be prepared to talk about possible solutions for how your system exists in its entirety.

Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for the lecture


Week 4 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on March 17, 2011 in

* Lecture by Tom Ockerse in auditorium
* Book models for Ira Rakatansky
* Discuss assignment as class
* Small group meetings, optional individual

Split up into groups to take a closer look at your findings. What are various organizational approaches to the material? What can be your point of emphasis? I will meet with students as needed afterwards.

For next week
Come into class with working designs. You may bring in several directions, loose designs for the whole volume, or more exact designs. Remember you are creating a system that may be applied to every single occupation and within any section (by letter) within the book. Your design is a proposal for how all occupations would ‘act’ within the book. Consider ways in which one occupation is similar or different than the others. How does your design create order, but allow for visual variety? You may print on any type of printer or paper you like, and you may bring either loose pages, or a bound booklet.

Not all aspects of your design need to be ironed out. Best to have a strong foundation and let the details fall into place later.

Next week’s class
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for the lecture


Week 3 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on March 9, 2011 in


  • Lecture by Nancy Skolos in auditorium
  • Review ‘Collected Book’ assignment as a large group

‘Collected Book’ presentation
Pass your book to the person on your right. Take thirty minutes to scrutinize your classmate’s book. As you did last week with the printed books, point out the discreet systems that appear within the work. How did the maker of the work connect the disparate parts? Find moments of intention and surprise.

Present your findings to the whole class. Be sure to point out specifics within the book. Allow the maker to chime in at the end of your presentation. Discuss as a group.

For next week
Begin Occupational Outlook Assignment
As you know, we are in dire economic times. The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is 11.3 percent. Particularly helpful to the unemployed is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. The directory provides descriptions and other essential information of every common profession. The format for the printed version (online as pdfs) appears much as it did in 1976 – at least ideologically. Take inspiration from the activities of the first two weeks and find a more dynamic way of designing the printed Occupational Outlook. Note the pdfs and Web page versions is at bls.gov/oco/ooh_index.htm

This four week project asks you to generate typographic, color and image systems that can be used for all of the 200 occupational entries. I will assign you a letter of the alphabet in class today. Begin by studying the occupations that begin with that letter. Study occupations that begin with other letters as well. Itemize the various content elements and come up with a hierarchy.

This first week you are tasked with understanding the content and finding your approach(es) about how to disseminate that content. What systems might be helpful in organizing the material in a clear but engaging way?

Consider the follow questions: are photographs or illustrations helpful? If so, what kind? And treated how? How can the shape, binding, paper and other object-like qualities be used to create order or variety.

Go as far as you can within this research phase. Bring in books or examples on your laptop that show similar projects. Find photographic and typographic styles that you feel fit this project. Make sketches, form questions.

The trim size is up to you.
The book is double sided, full color capable.

Document and describe ‘Collected Book’
If there is remaining time in class, use it to type up a summary of your book’s systems and your classmate’s feedback. Post either as a “post” in the category “Week 2”. Before next week, photograph the important aspects of your book and add it to your post.

Next week’s class
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for the lecture


Week 2 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on March 2, 2011 in

* Lecture by Tom Ockerse in auditorium
* Review pattern assignment in small groups
* In-class activity

Review Pattern assignment
Break into groups of five and present your patterns. What did you make? How did you make it? How did the single part produce an unexpected whole? As the viewer, respond to which of the patterns departed most from the single unit. What does the addition of color and the combination of patterns produce?


I have brought 12 examples of recently published books for you to study. I am asking you to spend an hour scrutinizing a single book in order to dissect its whole into its core visual parts. How do those parts relate to form systems? How do those systems connect to form a cohesive book design.

The systems used to organize content within a contemporary book may rely more on paper type, image use, and type families than on the repetitive placement of elements.

Note page size(s), text block size(s), running heads, folios, colors, and other organizational matter. What paper is used? How do the systems connect or fragment the work? What reasons might the designer have had for arriving at these choices? What system(s) does the book rely on to define its grammar? Is there an overall concept that produced the systems?

Present your findings to 1/2 or the whole class.

For next week
Collected Book
The activity today was meant to show how a book can hold together without relying on an overly repetitive structure. The books from today’s activity each interweave seemingly disparate elements (parts) to create a varied but cohesive whole (system).

Create a bound book of any size and page count using printouts of your own previous work, found magazines or newspapers, discarded paper and/or other material. Make an effort to collect a variety of material to sort through.

Although your sources will vary, the overall book should hold together as a single work. Consider the paper type, the trim size, the use of type and images.  Although there are factors you can control, the trimming of the book will produce unexpected internal proportions. Be open to retrimming and reordering sheets to create an engaging and unified system. Do not be concerned with the subject matter of the pages unless they are a part of a system.

Do not collage or add to the printouts. You are gathering, arranging, folding, rotating, trimming and binding only. Take risks within this small gamut. How can you make a book that others can make sense. Be prepared to present what systems are at play in your book next week.

Updated pattern compositions
Adjust your patterns and upload one from each of the three assignments to the class site. Upload 1000px wide jpgs and insert the three as thumbnails in one post and link to attachment URL. Place within category “week1”.

Pages 32–37 from the week one packet. Optional reading from Vignelli on grids.

Next week’s class
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for the lecture


Week 1 Blue Sheet

Posted by: on February 23, 2011 in

* Lecture by Tom Ockerse in auditorium
* Introductions, review syllabus
* Examples of systems

For next week
Pattern-making: Black and White
A pattern is the simplest example of a system.
It is a single form made the ordered combination of a single part. The below exercise has been a staple in Tom Ockerse’s class for years. It appears virtually unadapted below.

Begin by designing a module as the unit (part) for a pattern (whole). The module must be square module and divided (about equally) in black and white. Keep the design simple. The beauty will emerge from what you do with it! Repeat this module into a square grid of 6×6,to create a pattern.
Create at least 8 different patterns. Vary the systems to pattern the units in that grid (keep track of the system used). For example, rotation, inversion, and flipping. Consider and try as many variables as possible.

After working with this squared grid, you may experiment with (systemic) grid shifts (offsetting verticals, horizontals, or angles), but always retaining a solid field (to avoid introducing other shapes).

Bring at least 8 final compositions to class next week selected for their diversity, dynamic interest, and comparative uniqueness. For presentations print each pattern on a sheet no larger than 8.5×11, trimming out any extra white space. On the back, note how you arrived at the pattern.

Pattern-making: Color
Substitute black and white parts with colors in order to create new relationships. Do not change the module or base pattern, only how parts within that field coordinate. The intention of the exercise is for you to find new ways of organizing the same material – to alter the existing relationships to reveal others. Create 8 color pieces from any of the black and white patterns from part one.

Pattern-making: Combination/Subtraction
Working with either the black and white or color patterns, combine a complete pattern with another. Think of whole patterns as single parts, and your new composition as a new piece made from those parts. You may subtract one pattern from the other. You may find it is easier to work in Photoshop for this phase. Produce two pieces at whatever size you feel appropriate. Trim off excess white space.


Read the first 25 pages of the reading for unit one (pdf ). Pages 26–31 are optional, but interesting. Consider the definitions and examples offered for the word ‘system’. After completing the reading, observe your surroundings and find a system at work.

Try to answer these questions: What is the system? What are the parts of the system? Is the system at equilibrium? Can the system be expanded or contracted into other systems? How was the system generated and what keeps it going?

* To create a singular whole from a series of parts
* To better grasp how system is defined and is at work everywhere

Next week’s class
Meet in the auditorium at 11:20a for the lecture



Posted by: on in

Design Center, Rm 404

Wednesdays, 11:20a.m. – 4:20p.m

Instructor: John Caserta, jcaserta@risd.edu

Office Hours:  Fridays 10am-12pm

The Design Office, 204 Westminster Street 4th floor #14

Systems are present in virtually every design solution. A system is what describes or dictates relationships between elements within a defined limit. More specifically, ‘systems’ in design refer to one of two concepts: the wholeness of an existing set of elements, or as a methodology (rationale, rules, procedures).

The former refers to states of equilibrium and harmony – the ‘grammar’ that connects all components of a design. The latter refers to the creation of ‘rules’ and ‘programs’ – instructions that lead to form.

Christopher Alexander (Berkeley) defined the same two concepts in this way in the 1960s:

1: A system as a whole is not an object but a way of looking at an object. It focusses on some holistic property which can only be understood as a product of interaction among parts.    2: A generating system is not a view of a single thing. It is a kit of parts, with rules about the way these parts may be combined.

Systems are only as good as their effectiveness in responding to a need. Design, remember, is ‘a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose’ (C. Eames).

Just like a typeface, the appearance or action of a system affects the meaning of the work — even the meaning of the piece itself. Conceptual artists, including On Kawara, John Cage, and Sol LeWitt, are known not for their final forms, but the systems they create for generating the work.

Objectives and Expectations

* to develop an overview of the practical and theoretical nature of systems
* to be aware of aesthetic relationships
* to create unexpected designs using rules and formal structure
* to recognize, form and to apply systematic thinking to solve design problems
* to recognize systems in contemporary
design and art

Grades from A to F will be assigned at both the middle and end of the semesters. Only the end of semester grade is on record. The following criteria are used for assessment:
* Attendance (3rd absence fails the course)
* Participation
* Motivation/Attitude
* Craftsmanship
* Depth of investigation
* Risk taking
* End products: success in meeting objective, both formally and conceptually
* Individual growth

Course Schedule
Each week will include a variety of readings, discussions, assignments, lectures (11:20a) and presentations. Retain all of your work throughout the semester – every sheet of paper. It will be either collected or part of your final process document. The sequence of the semester is as follows:

UNIT 1: understanding the whole and its parts
Two weeks

UNIT 2: order and cohesion
Four weeks

UNIT 3: systems as methodology
Three weeks

Three weeks