2021_1 | Craft Studios

C2. Common People

Nicola St John & Benjamin Thomson


Studio Inquiry

The only certainty for designers right now is uncertainty, as more and more positions have become casual or freelance, redundancies almost feel like a rite of passage, and wealth distribution between bosses and workers has become less and less equal. In this studio we explore if there are ways to survive or even thrive outside of this model? As students, you are often sold a shiny version of 'working in design' and are provided with tips on 'how to make it in the industry' and 'how to be employable' based on personal branding, portfolios, and individual entrepreneurship. This kind of 'Professional Practice' often provides a single model of how to 'be professional' that does not provide any criticality, experimentation, collaboration, or practice alternatives. In this studio we aim to connect the political and critical with the practical. To support other modes of doing and working within design. We encourage you not to turn off your critical brains and collectivism as a cohort when figuring out how to make a living, but instead to develop a critical, mutually supportive, and co-operative practice.
In this studio we aim to offer ways to re-define the future of your working lives. We will draw on co-operative, commoning, and anti-capitalist practices in design settings and broader contexts to examine solutions to precarious work, and alternatives to working within corporate, capitalist, and consumeristic industries. In the studio we will undertake critical discussions on creative labour/learning and designs relationship to work and the economy. We will examine the relationship your design/creative practice has to earning a living and explore self-organisation, or co-operative practice as a counter-economic strategy.
Communication of knowledge
Common People will explore models of DIY, self-reliance and collectivism as an alternative to 'churn & burn' lifestyle of internships and junior roles in an agency. We will engage with a range of industry guest speakers, to learn from co-operatives such as community radio, employee-owned design agencies, student unions, and art communes. You will also learn to frame pathways into the profession through 'alternative internships' - places for learning and sharing that lie beyond the often dull, uninspiring and exploitative circuits that currently exist. Where are these spaces, groups or initiatives in which such learning might take place? How might you find out about them, visit them, support them, join them or create your own.
Over the course of the semester, you will investigate and present alternative ways of working in design, drawing on co-operative practices and sharing economies. You will be tasked with creating the framework, strategy, and branding for your own design collective and create your first project as that self-organised collective.
There will be three assessment tasks, which interrelate to the themes and design outcomes of this unit.

1. Co-Operatives presentation on alternative ways of working in design
2. Design Collective Proposal
3. SKO: Portfolio of developed collective proposal with applications. The form this may take will be discussed in studio
Communities of Practice
Designing for Social Change, Designing Identity, Designing Disobedience

About Nicola St John | About Benjamin Thomson

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