Starting from the very beginning my first experience of constellation was analysing a couple of different movie posters and deconstructing the meaning behind them. I have done similar stuff to this before at A Level on my previous subjects; Graphic Communication and Media Studies. So I found this process fairly natural but was useful to get back into the habit. This skill has always been very useful for my subject of Graphic Communication, it means I can quickly deconstruct and analyse pieces of work very thoroughly. What I found particularly useful about this first session was how it was structured and the method used on how to break down the images. This method is called ‘Cath’s Columns’. It is where you have three columns labelled ‘describe’ ‘analyse’ and ‘theory’, helping me break down the visual movie posters in a easier way to what I have been used to previously. The describe and analyse bits were fairly straight forward, but theory was a bit more difficult, which involves finding the suitable evidence to back up my claim. But to this day I still use this method and use it frequently in my own practice of work and subject area, probably one of the key skills I have gained from constellation.
My first term module was ‘Smells like Teens Spirit’ which was all about subcultures and how they function in society. This subject helped me with my image breakdown even further, so much so that I wasn’t looking at just designs of posters etc anymore and breaking them down, but just standard photographs as well.
During my time in ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ I took a particular liking to the punk subculture which I ended up doing both of my essays on. At first I found it difficult to connect constellation with graphic communications, trying to make links and similarities. A lot of the time I felt I couldn’t connect the two and although what I learned about subcultures was interesting I feel it hasn’t benefited me in terms of linking constellation and graphics. The one thing I did link though was during my assessments. For the first essay my question was “How does the God Save The Queen album design relate to punk?” This was good because it was relevant to what I was doing in graphics because I was focusing on a piece of design, but also got to learn about the context of the piece.
The most important bit of information I gathered from this part of constellation was how to structure my essay and reference correctly. When it came to the essay side of things I would make sure that my arguments were clear and sufficiently back up with specific referencing. As mentioned above I learnt how to use direct quotes and how to paraphrase to back up my arguments. Although this is not linked to my subject of graphic communications it was still a vital skill that constellation has taught me to use, and use correctly.
In my second term we focused a lot on critical thinking which is a process that you actively evaluate sources of information, and the reasoning and actions behind it. Similar to what we were doing in first term but focusing more on the origin of the source . I learned that as a critical thinker I should never accept anything as face value. You should always ask questions like; Who has written/said this, Why are they writing/saying and are they biased. If you take all of these into account you can analyse the source of a piece of information albeit a piece of text or image very well. Through all of this though it is important to keep an open mind and better to give your strong opinion, rather than sitting on the fence which helped me have a clearer understanding of the topics at hand.
Thinking about it I have used this critical thinking technique in my practice of graphic communication, most recently when analysing magazine double page spreads. I would often look at the spread and question why the designer has put the ‘headline’ where it is and why the image is the size it is and not another side, which is similar at looking at a piece of text and asking the same questions, why has it been written this way and who wrote and what are their motives etc. By doing things like this, sometimes without thinking about it is what would make me a successful designer in the future and that is partially down to the critical thinking methods I have picked up from constellation.
On the whole the two main things that I have taken from Constellation is the analysis technique, Cath’s columns and the critical thinking. I feel I use the columns analysis more consciously as I am physically drawing the three columns out and making sure I do each step correctly, where as with the critical thinking I am doing subconsciously all the time as a graphic designer.