Having a really simple idea as a starting point can make the whole project really sophisticated. It also helps when it is such a powerful issue like the search for water and water transportation. This project was produced by a fashion student called Olivia Overton, but there are many aspects and methods of learning that could be applied to any type of art, design or media project. This particular case study investigates what helped the student to develop sophisticated ideas to develop a fashion project and the clear strategies they employed to help explore and experiment creatively.
Complex or simple starting points for projects
The simplicity of idea that drove the project forward. Sometimes a student will produce a project proposal that seems really sophisticated and conceptual, but the breadth of it actually prevents the student from doing anything other than be superficial about the theme. Picking something like “Perception of Beauty” or “Dreams” might seem interesting to start off with in a personal project, but actually prove debilitating because there are almost too many options. Not only that, it is also important to question the motive behind investigating a topic or theme. If it is so broad, then ask whether its possible to be passionate or engaged with it emotionally. Sometimes even trying to think of a sophisticated topic can bring a delay in actually starting to experiment and be practical.
This project focused on a very simple theme, a simple image of woman carrying water. Yet it is deceptively simple. The image is very powerful and impacts on our interpretation and appreciation of things we take for granted every day.
The constraints this imposed on the student actually meant their responses were limited in the first instance. Yet Olivia realised how the response to a stimulus was the important aspect of any art and design project, not whether the topic was deep and meaningful.
The simplicity of the image meant Olivia’s responses were also simple to start with. If there was a bucket in the image, then the simplest option would be to see if clothes could be made out of buckets. This provided opportunities for research through materials exploration that became very sophisticated. More importantly, they gave Olivia a very instant practice to engage with and an easy way into the project that was rewarding and motivational from the word go rather than being exhausting.
Compare this with a much more complex starting point and where the student can’t actually find an easy way to begin responding visually, the long term potential impact of which is that the work stays superficial.
I now always say to students at the start of any self-directed project, that they can make anything interesting. That it is better not to delay and expect ideas and experiments to be highly sophisticated from the word go, that the art and design process is an exploratory one and the sophistication will develop as the project goes forward.
How planning ahead with foresight is so valuable
The other aspect that gave this project real strength, was the amount of foresight that took place. There is a real focus on the communication intentions. Olivia was clear in that she wanted to do more than just produce an outfit that was a response to a theme, she wanted to make a clear point and put this across in a considered way.
She wasn’t going to just stop at the finished garments, she wanted to find a way of presenting them to the audience in a way that would build on their strengths and also borrow from her learning of promotion and marketing.
The solution, which was considered very early on, was to create a photo-shoot with models, make-up and on location that would enhance the communication of the clothes themselves. There are many students that have done this for their fashion garments, but the reason this worked so well was the clear planning and preparation that went into it.
Olivia went through a defined set of preparation techniques that were clearly structured and eliminated as much risk as possible from which other students could really learn. These included:
- Spending time finding locations and comparing and contrasting these in relation to communication intentions.
- Visiting the location prior to the final shoot and doing a pre-shoot test.
- Evaluating pre-shoot test shots.
- Testing out make-up before final shoot.
- Considering environmental scenarios, such as when the high-tide would take place.
- Taking two cameras, two sets of batteries and two memory cards to the location as a contingency.
- Doing location and studio shoots as a contingency.