19 August 2012
The mission of Parsons The New School for Design is to prepare students to be leaders in their professions and in society. The students are determined to acquire technical, conceptual, and visual knowledge. After 10 years of teaching, I can attest to the growing aptitude and thirst our students have for acquiring technical savvy and skill combined with a powerful conceptual foundation. I am continually impressed by their creativity and drive.
The tools we use are as varied as the students, starting with the "Adobe Trinity": Adobe® After Effects®, Photoshop®, and Illustrator®. We combine these with live action video, digital photography, drawings, paintings, illustration, Claymation, interactive design, sound design, scanning, and many other techniques.
The Adobe tools unlock creative possibilities in a profound way; students are limited only by their imagination. Here you can see how one of my students, Ray Masaki, combined hand-drawn art with Photoshop and After Effects in an early project in his freshman year.
Ray Masaki: "The Piper's Waltz"
I'm a freshman at Parsons School of Design, and I created this video for my motion graphics midterm project. The assignment was to take a fable and create a visual interpretation of it. So I took the story the Pied Piper and made it into a puppet show of sorts. We had about three weeks to complete the project, but of course I ended up doing most of the work in the last day. All of it was composited in After Effects, with the graphics made in Photoshop and the characters hand drawn. I hope you like it!
When I studied art and design in the early 1990s, there were distinct lines between fine artists, illustrators, filmmakers, and designers. Our media and methods kept us separate and, quite frankly, somewhat adversarial. Today, these lines are blurred and there is a powerful cross-pollination of disciplines. We often have students from illustration, design and technology, art, media and technology, communication design, integrated design curriculum, fine arts, architecture, and media studies working together in a single classroom.
Adam Scher: Still from "Quicksand"
Tools: Dance, ink, Illustrator, After Effects
I teach courses with deceptively simple names — Motion Graphics I and II — that belie the creativity and technical skill of my dedicated, imaginative students. I refer to my courses as Motion Graphics and Storytelling, as my students engage narrative in its many forms. We climb through the depth and breadth of Adobe After Effects while exploring archetypes, storyboarding, conceptual themes, abstraction, and storytelling.
Evan Turk: "Animal Planet" rebranding project, "What Makes Us Human"
Tools: Drawing, painting, collage, Photoshop, After Effects
Naomi Sundberg: "Elephant Elephant"
Animation of "Elephant Elephant: A Book of Opposites" by Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais
Tools: Collage, Photoshop, After Effects
My students work back and forth between physical and digital environments, literally unbounded by tools. Students may be filming, painting, scanning, working in Photoshop or After Effects, rendering out frames to print and then rescan — it's unlimited. It is my personal mission to see to it that artists, designers, and thinkers are not defined by these tools, but rather can learn and use any new tools to suit their creative and professional goals. Software updates happen swiftly, and keeping up with advanced technology is more about knowing how to figure it out than understanding its every function.
Evan Turk: Still frames from the haiku animation "One Step at a Time"
From the stork's one pace." — Shoha
Tools: Drawing, painting, Photoshop, After Effects
Social media has provided a powerful and far-reaching platform for artists to spread their work and ideas. Often we engage in outside projects that exemplify the potential power of these tools.
The central philosophy in my classroom is communication. We often ask, "What is it we are trying to say? Who are we trying to reach? Why would they care?"
I have found that leading with creativity — instead of the purely technical approach — allows my students to learn at a very fast clip. They are learning the tools to bring their visions to life. I encourage them to post their pieces, and many of them get paying work and begin their careers based on what they've created in the first-level class.
We now have the ability to reach millions via YouTube, Vimeo, and social media with powerful tools to craft messages that engage and stick.
In the classroom, I try to shake students out of their comfort zone by addressing current events. Most recently we put a thoughtful visual face on the Occupy Wall Street movement, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the Üba Foundation's Why Not Peace project. When faced with weighty topics, I often challenge my students to "seduce the audience visually" in order to engage our increasingly overstimulated, attention-deficient culture. This is where design and concept meet with Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects to create powerful work.
Here are some examples of student work with social messages.
The project: In the fall 2011 semester, we found ourselves in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street movement — a movement that initially had difficulty being “heard” by the general public because of the multitude of voices. While many understood the subtlety and complexity of the larger movement, it seemed the general American public was shutting its ears for lack of a focused message.
The process: Students were asked to find a sound bite they related to (on either side of the conversation) and give visual voice to its message. They were to use kinetic type and then post to Facebook to share with a wider audience.
Tools: Appropriated sound bites, sound design, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects
Minjung Huh: "Occupy Wall Street"
Sound bite excerpt from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”
Keith Olbermann reads first collective statement of Occupy Wall Street
Katrina Soo Hoo: "Occupy Wall Street"
Sound bite: Interview by Christopher Smith
The project: The Üba Foundation contacted me wanting to add videos to their Why Not Peace traveling exhibit and online presence. I thought this was the perfect project for my students.
The process: Students were asked to listen to poems recited by the young combat veterans (many of them the same age) and choose one with which they identify. Then they were to put images and type to the words.
Tools: Some artists used a combination of video and drawings, others scanned in drawings, and others created vector graphics in Illustrator. All of these were composited and/or animated in After Effects.
You can view the videos chosen to be featured by the Üba Foundation here:
Alec Donovan: "Why Not Peace/A Different Type of Fight"
Excerpts from interviews with peace soldiers Eddie (stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003-2005) and Logan (stationed in Iraq in 2004-2005)
Ana Mouyis: "You Are Not My Enemy"
Poem by peace soldier Drew 26, stationed in Iraq in 2003
Banu Asena: "You Are Not My Enemy/Beauty Reprise"
Poem by peace soldier Drew, 26 stationed in Iraq in 2003
The project: I created this project to raise awareness among my students, who were eating terribly and getting sick all the time. The idea was to encourage students to understand what GMOs are and then have them target their age group and demographic. These were not to be boring, old-fashioned PSAs but dynamic, engaging, and entertaining animations.
The process: Research genetically modified organisms. Consider where you stand on the topic. Express, teach, and communicate about this topic with your demographic using kinetic type as the style.
Tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects
Amin Roozitalab: "Say No To GMOs — GMO Nastiness"
The “Adobe Trinity” frees students to create compelling imagery for any audience. In a twist of poetic irony, these powerful tools allow students to use ones and zeros to explore humanity in all of its frailty, glory, confusion, complexity, and beauty.