Mission: DS106 – Design assignment sprint 11

It’s great to be at camp during summer vacation.

This week I found another block of time through which to sprint after a number of ds106 design assignments. I had some trouble narrowing down which assignments to tackle until I began them; clearly, I do not yet have the patience or chops for some of the work, so it’s great that the ds106 community has shared so many different ideas for assignments. I hope to contribute some ideas this summer and fall as I try to implement a more ds106/MOOC feel in my middle school classroom.

Here are my basic hardware and software specs for the week: MacBook, OSX 10.6.8, 2.26 GHz Intel Core Duo 2, 2 GB of memory, Chrome, Wacom Bamboo tablet, SketchBook Pro (for drawing), Acorn (for fills and copy).

This week the work is not in any particular order. I made an animated comic book cover that looks pretty crummy next to all the awesome examples out there. I don’t yet have the animator’s patience to pull off a decent attempt, so I’ll pass on sharing for now. It was a simple snikt effect.

I’m becoming interested in how the community categorizes tasks. At times today, I definitely felt like a designer; at other times, I felt more like I was tweaking a pre-existing design for my own education (which seems more like a visual task to me), or mashing-up a number of designs. Some of the visual assignments feel like design tasks, too – like the album cover. I’d love to hear more about how contributors and organizers think of course- and task-design.

By week’s end I’d like to contribute a CC poster, as well.

Before I forget, everyone should watch Nishant Shah’s DML Ignite talk on remixes.

And away we go.

Postcards from Magical Places – 2 stars

I take a ton of screenshots in Minecraft. I love discovering new sights in Minecraft, as well as new perspectives on familiar places. I ask students to take a ton of screenshots, too, so I can share their work easily through blogging. (Teaching in a multi-age classroom in a middle school, I haven’t yet solved the riddle of whole-class social media use, so I try to collect and share as many digital photos and artifacts as possible.)

For this assignment, I looked through my ds106-server screenshots, found a picture I liked, cropped it some, and then appended a snappy postcard/bumper-sticker-ready punchline in Acorn. Lastly, I mocked up a simple back for the card and let it be.

Greetings from @chadsansing's

Greetings from @chadsansing's

Alternative Book Covers – 3 stars

Since I wrote about how much The Road terrified me when I posted my Liminal States story-shape, and since The Road showed up as the exemplar for this assignment, I went back to Liminal States and riffed on my fake album cover assignment; with Liminal States you really can’t go wrong with a boy and his dog.

However, I wanted to use a different image this time around, so I found a picture of a boy dressed as a cowboy riding a dog in The Commons on Flickr.

I brought the photo into Acorn and composed the rest of the cover there, darkening the bottom band to offer better contrast for the tagline.

The boy dressed up as a cowboy reminds me of my [privileged, white male] love for archetypes, even though many of those archetypes make horrible, horrifying decisions, like the genre-riffing characters of Liminal States. Moreover, in the book, youth – the eternal kind – is not all its cracked up to be. Considering the source material, it’s also significant that the boy and the dog clearly have different ideas about what’s going on and are, in fact, headed – or at least looking – in separate directions. The presence of grass is germane to the novel, as well.

I picked Trajan Pro for the font because it has that somber, elegiac, official feel like the title of a Tom Brokaw book.

The tag line is neither entirely true nor entirely false in its description of the book.

Alt Liminal States

Alt Liminal States

Cartoon You – 2 stars

I’ve cartooned myself many times – some examples can be found here, here, and here. There’s even a short comic I drew about the first year of our school out there in a filing cabinet somewhere.

I find using a cartoon alter ego to be very helpful in breaking up the monopoly that text holds over my blogging, and I like to use drawings in class materials, as well. Cartooning is a good way to and bring some humor to the engrimmening proceedings of American public education.

For this assignment I wanted to draw myself differently than I normally do, so I went online and searched after an image of Savoy from the comic Chew as drawn by series-artist Rob Guillory. (I have no idea why I’ve never cosplayed Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing Chris Farley playing Savoy, but I know I could rock it.) I like Guillory’s style – it’s cartoony, dynamic, busy; as with Jeffery Brown’s completely different work, it makes me think I could draw a comic. It gives me hope.

I tried to capture Guillory’s sense of Savoy’s form, but left much of the interior clean, as I tend to do in larger work; paradoxically (maybe)I detail little doodles like crazy. I also colored myself for a change since I usually work in black and white.

I drew myself in SketchBook Pro using a 2.5-sized brush rather than a 4.0-sized one so that I my line would look more like Guillory’s and less like mine. I began with a blue-line drawing and then added a layer for a black-line drawing to bring into Acorn. Then I deleted the blue-line layer, switched to Acorn, and colored myself.

Thumbs up, Tiger.

Cartoon Chad

Cartoon Chad

I Can Read Movies – 3 stars

What a cool assignment. I love spacesick’s book covers.

To make my own, I went for a popular, yet nerdy, property – The Lord of the Rings. In looking at spacesick’s use of patterns, I decided to use a ring motif to build Mount Doom and to perch Suaron’s eye atop it. I used a different color/material for each level of rings: silver for the Elves, bronze for the Dwarves, and iron for the humans. While that progression isn’t canonical, I used it to bring more color to the page and to communicate of how Middle Earth rank-orders its species. I could have made the other rings all white and left the one ring golden, but I am not at all unhappy with this design. I wonder also about linking the rings to show their interconnectedness in a chain-mail kind of way.

I used Acorn to compose the cover. I read up on spacesick’s fonts here. The projector is the only element I lifted directly from any of spacesick’s covers.

Finally, I opened the image in SketchBook Pro for some final touches with textured brushes to worry the cover.

I’m really eager to see more of these designs from the ds106 community.

spacesick-inspired LotR cover

spacesick-inspired LotR cover

Chilren’s Book Cover – 0 stars

I’m not sure why this assignment is worth zero stars; I think it should get two.

For this task, I decided to make a children’s book cover for a hard science fiction novel – House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. I love that book. It gives me hope.

My cover, however, gives me the giggles. It’s so profanely incongruous – and yet so weirdly apt – that it delights me.

House Of Suns for kids

House Of Suns for kids

I drew the cover in SketchBook Pro and then colored and lettered it in Acorn.

As I hunted down stray pixels in Acorn, I discovered that it’s much easier to draw and paint in that program while zoomed in a level or two (this is both an a-ha and a duh moment). I still prefer SketchBook Pro for drawing, but it was satisfying to find a way to draw and color productively in Acorn, as well. At the default zoom, even a medium-sized brush can disappear on-screen in Acorn because its reticle isn’t persistent. That means if you’re trying to paint stray pixels in Acorn without zooming in, you lose the tip of your brush if your brush color is the same color as your background. That frustrated me greatly, but now I know that it’s easier to keep track of your brush tip while zoomed.

I hope others will jam on the idea of making children’s book covers for novels meant for adults.

Minimalize Your Philosophy – 2 stars

Aude aliquid dignum: dare something worthy. I try to approach teaching and learning as if they were the most worthy things I could do and help others do. I think it’s important to ask kids to do worthy work. I think it’s important that teachers dare to resist the standardization of education. I think it’s important and worthy that we talk about how to subvert the status quo in our primary and secondary schools so that learning matters to kids, their families, and their communities. So here it is:

Aude aliquid dignum

Aude aliquid dignum

I made the image in Acorn. I tried to minimalize the sans-serif text’s presence on the page without making it illegible (I probably cut too much of the “g”). Then, while trying to stay away from the Dr. Manhattan symbol, I made a little hydrogen atom to frame the words, with the “e” inside the electron. Hydrogen is a pretty minimalist element, but the proton and electron are also the building blocks of everything else. Hydrogen can exist by itself, but atoms do great and terrible things together. We humans can do the same, inside and outside Minecraft, a game about building – and/or destroying – alone and/or in a community!

I put another atomic particle in the upper right-hand corner so that the eye would be drawn there in an attempt to connect the two white spaces with one another over distance, which made me think that maybe the electron (which wants to create a bond) is also little person or organism looking to the stars and wondering how to connect with another being over a vast distance. I think connecting is worth daring.

Minimalist TV/Movie Poster – 3 stars

I didn’t want to burn out on minimalism early this the week, so I picked this assignment and shelved the minimalist movie travel poster for now.

Richard Ayoade plays the character Moss on the British sitcom The IT Crowd. Moss’s hair is absolutely iconic.

I found a CC-licensed picture of a glorious, insanely detailed, embroidered Moss, brought it into SketchBook Pro, and traced over Moss’s hair and glasses. I used green in homage to the show’s pixelated, primitive CGI credit sequence. Then I went into Acorn to fill it in and clean-up white speckles left over in Moss’s hair and glasses.

Minimal Moss

Minimal Moss

DS106 Propaganda Posters – 3 stars

For this piece, I searched The Commons on Flickr for propaganda. I went into my search looking for an ad or poster about building a shelter. I wanted to make a visual pun on our Minecraft work. However, when I found this picture, I switched gears. I hate Creepers. I’m playing the ds106 server on survival mode right now, and the Creepers have not been kind. If you look at my stretch of the beach on the server (behind camp), you can see how much Creeper damage I’ve had to patch. Finding a way to rally against the Creepers was just what I needed to lift my spirits.

I grabbed a CC-licensed picture of some Creeper cosplay. I took a screen shot of the head and cut out the background in Acorn. Then I brought in the propaganda poster. I used the scale and perspective transformations to size, angle, and position the Creeper heads. Then I made the heads monochromatic and color-matched them to their bodies.

Beat the Creeper

Beat the Creeper

Now I’m ready to go back on the sever. I hope someone will put this poster into a ds106 texture pack for Minecraft!

DS106, The Movie – 3 stars

#DontBlogNow starring Martha Burtis and Alan Levine. Somehow featuring the Bava, Timmmyboy, and Slaughterhouse 4. I did a lot of cutting, filling, and smudging in Acorn. I grabbed the movie poster here. I found Martha here and I found Alan here. I sepia-toned their faces, shrunk their heads, and then altered their saturation and brightness to help their faces better fit the gestalt of the photo in the poster.



I love how different their expressions are, as if Martha has caught on to something that Alan is asking about again. “A serial killer in a red raincoat? Really? Was that a deliberate design decision? Where?” “Over-ay ere-thay, Alan-ay! Et’s-lay o-gay!”. Why someone snapped a photo of them at this moment I will never know.

I picked Don’t Look Now to avoid making a quick and easy visual pun about a movie I loved. I despise Don’t Look Now. I loathe that movie. I will never go to Venice. I refuse to look at myself passing on a boat. Forget it.

I will, however, spend hours remixing the film’s poster.

I just wish I was better at digital production – I really like the way the poster turned out, but I wanted it to be perfect, like my utter, unutterable, intangible, illogical contempt for this Don’t Look Now.

That’s it for today’s products. As I go further into the ds106 experience, I’m trying to stick with at least a few assignments per week that push me out of my comfort zone. I also want to balance the camp nature of camp with the profundity of the learning experience available to me here. I need to socialize more with my fellow campers, too.

I try to teach to what kids are doing in my classroom; in the same way, I’m learning to design what I discover instead of trying to design what I plan. It feels good.

11 thoughts on “Mission: DS106 – Design assignment sprint

  1. Reply kag0715 Jun 12, 2012 7:04 pm

    Love it! I thought I was on a roll, but you’re really doing work!
    I’m excited to get as efficient with these design programs as you are. A few years back in high school I was the design editor of my school newspaper (sounds lame, and it was, though we did win an award from Columbia which is sorta nifty), and I could really maneuver around Photoshop and InDesign and Illustrator pretty effectively. Nowadays I’m getting turned around with layers and the simplest things.
    But, I love your Ds106, the Movie! I may attempt that one after I get my 10 stars because I can’t guarantee I’d finish that one by Sunday.
    I’d like to tackle that Cartoon You and the Minimalize your Philosophy assignments. I feel like those may actually be possible for me to complete. Yours definitely gave me inspiration. Awesome post!

    • Reply Chad Jun 12, 2012 8:07 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I think we’re all on a roll; I tend to work in fits and starts of deep and weird focus. I blame high school (former yearbook copy editor here; congrats on your award!) during which I trained myself to write for hours while entranced by a ceaseless loop of August and Everything After.

      I just started using layers after a few of my kids and I spent a too many days in a row banging our heads against the table because we kept forgetting to separate backgrounds and sketches from one another for editing. Purpose is everything.

      Aude aliquid dignum in pursuit of those stars -

      All the best,

  2. Reply Jim Groom Jun 13, 2012 5:15 pm

    You are a genius. The Lord of the Rings I can read movies is brilliant. I also love the propaganda poster Beat the Creeper is also genius. man, this is amazing stuff. How did you do so many design assignments so quickly? You are a god amongst ds106ers. Truly #4life!

    • Reply Chad Jun 13, 2012 10:45 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment! For many years, I have admired your tweets from afar and wondered, “What is this ds106? What does ‘bava’ mean?”

      Here’s the madness and its methods:

      When I have the chance to work on something I love, my brain tends to flip a switch and filter out the noise of the world. I put my head down and go. Music helps. I enjoy visual work. From my project-based work with kids, I have relatively low anxieties regarding failure and technology. I’m a big fan of comics, comic book covers (which are sometimes better than the interior art), and the kinds of remixed media one finds at the heart of popular nerd sites and t-shirt operations. The exemplars for each project are very helpful in their clarity. I pick many assignments that I think I will enjoy and a few that I think will challenge me to learn something new. Typically, I go through all the assignments, pop open 20-30 tabs that interest me, and then get to work. Once I have a handful of assignments done, I reassess what I want to do next and lose some tabs so I can focus on others. I work a lot with SketchBook Pro for illustrating blog posts and the occasional presentation, so that environment is familiar to me. A tablet really helps me – I don’t like illustrating with a mouse. I want to do a bunch of these assignments so I can help kids do them next fall. I want to do a bunch of these assignments because I haven’t let myself do so much creatively for a long time. I enjoy the choice, personal meaning, community, and mentorship available in ds106. This is a good time and place to do this work.

      And I owe Jeff 25,000 stars. Then I get my own McClurken’s-brand star franchise.

      All the best,

  3. Reply Kathleen Johnson Jun 13, 2012 7:45 pm

    Prolific. I don’t think I ever seen so much work showcased in one blog post on DS106 ever in my life. Love the Martha CogDoggie poster. I also intend to shower my insights onto MS students – through their teachers – of course. So far we have set up social summer reading with badges for our outgoing 6th graders. Hope they enjoy it. Big experiment.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Reply Chad Jun 13, 2012 10:25 pm

      I think these design-thinking experiments are exactly what we need to help kids discover their own meanings in school and to help us see the kids in new ways. I really appreciate your comment here and your work with teachers and students! Do you have any favorite assignments you’ll be certain to share?

      Best regards,

      PS – I think I have to promise Alan to put each assignment into a separate post for the sake of grepping, though it’s been fun to present them all jumbled together if only to see where connections of process, product, and story occur.

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