6 weeks away

During this past week, I have been doing more book tests and trying to finish up all of my research. The book tests are going slowly as I have yet to finish writing my continuing thread for the book. In a recent meeting with my professor, he made note (again) of the fact that I am doing far more work for this book than a designer typically would. Designers are normally handed all of the information (in this case: interviews, photos, and final book copy) fully edited and ready to be assembled. In this case, I couldn’t proceed this way. I wanted to make the contents of this book reflect my journey both as an artist and through my investigation. It may not have been the smartest idea to take on all of this additional work in an academic setting (where it is necessary to adhere to a strict timeline for due dates), but I wanted the contents of my thesis project to reflect my passion for learning as much as possible. 
     This week I conducted a second interview with Greta in the ceramics department as the direction of my book changed from when I first met with her. No longer being about the spaces artist’s work in, I needed to further investigate what she has been able to learn about herself through her art making practices. Through her interviews, I have begun to understand her need to express how nostalgic she is about her childhood memories through the ceramic works she is making, and how I can apply the same thought process to my own work. 
     While I am still writing and collecting data, I am using dummy text to create a formula for how I want my book to be formatted. Classmates such as Mollie Ennis have been helpful in my investigation of type. I got a subscription to Adobe’s Typekit last semester and have barely used it. I have a plethora of typefaces available to me on my MacBook, and have been reluctant to seek out new typefaces due to technical issues with packaging files, and used that as my excuse when deciding to let my subscription go to waste. However, Mollie has been an incredible resource in showing me some of her favorite typefaces, and how to easily find various font families. One type family I have taken a particular liking to is Museo Slab. I know this may sound a trivial thing for a designer to be realizing in their final semester of their senior year in an art school design program, but it was an important step for me to take into a world of letterforms that seem almost too numerous.
     Next week I will be finalizing my interviews and getting some of the last shots I need. For now—back to work!

Art As Therapy?

Over the course of the past two weeks, my thesis has begun to take new shape. The interviews are coming along nicely, as are the images I am taking, and with each interview, the book evolves a little more. I feel I now have a clear idea as to what my thesis will be about. My thesis book is an investigation into what artists learn about themselves from their art and art-making practices and processes—how visualizing and re-contextualizing internal processes and moments of self-discovery aids in resolving internal conflict and emotional baggage. This will be realized through the juxtaposition of image and text in a book I am designing filled with interviews I have conducted with artists here at Maine College of Art.
    One thing that helped to clear my head a bit was the trip to Mass MoCA with the curatorial team. We spent the weekend in Northern Massachusetts, which is a good four hours away. I usually hate long car trips, but I felt this trip was quite worth the distance. While at Mass MoCA, I got to see the show of one of my mentors from the early 2000s: Are You Really my Friend? Not only did I recognize a number of people in her images, but my wife and I were in one as well. It was an amazing sight to behold—a project which took Tanja six years to photograph more than 600 of her Facebook friends from around the world. After photographing us in our apartment, she was able to spend a little bit of time catching up with us, and talking about art (both mine and hers) before moving onto her next subjects. Seeing her show in person reminded me of the days I spent working in the darkroom where we met, and having the opportunity to speak with artists on a regular basis about what their artwork meant to them.
     After a weekend away, I felt reenergized and was ready to dive deeper into the next set of interviews. One of the most exciting interviews was with MaKenna Pope in the photography department. While I have spent the last four years working towards a degree in graphic design, I have never forgotten my routes as a photographer. Telling a story through images has always been quite important to me, and I was quite delighted to spend an hour talking in depth with MaKenna about how were had changed her.
     I was also lucky enough to be able to find time to interview three more people later in the week: Hannah Howard, in the printmaking department, Christine Colatosti in the painting department, and Justin Desper in fashion and textiles. With each of these additional interviews, I found myself more and more excited to learn about their processes and how their art impacts them. By now I have shot more than 500 photographs, and recorded about seven hours worth of audio. It has been recommended to me that I find a way to incorporate some of the audio I have collected, which may be realized by having an iPad with headphones as a part of my installation, displaying images of the artists as they speak in their own words about how their art has impacted them. Provided I have time, this is something I would like to develop, but as I had to start over about a month in, I need to prioritize. The audio component is something that can come later. For now—more work.

What if my thesis informs who I am?

I have made some significant progress over the past week, but now I need to change the title of my thesis. I knew that I would be able to still use a part of my previous idea, but I didn’t know how to execute it until I reframed my question.
    I have always enjoyed the process of getting to know people—I’m a listener, not a talker. I figured this would be a good place to start and include the context of being in an art school. As I wish I had the opportunity and time to take more classes in other majors, I wanted to frame my thesis project as a venue for learning more about other artist’s processes. I will still be conducting interviews with students to make a book, but I will no longer be interviewing the entire graduating class. By selecting no more than one person from each major, I will be able to get more in-depth information about each medium, and how each student uses it to communicate their particular ideas. Further, I will no longer be interviewing artists about what their space says about them, but investigating what artists are able to learn about themselves through their own art-making practices and processes.
     I started off by interviewing Jackie King, who is majoring in sculpture, and has been a close friend of mine since the beginning of my freshman year. Her hour-long interview gave me a lot of information to comb through, and by the time I got home I had already come up with a series of follow-up questions for her as well as new questions i wanted to ask the next people I would interview.
     I wanted to find other artists at MECA who not only do amazing work, but are able to speak well about it, so the following day I asked a number of my classmates for advice on whom they thought would be the best people to interview. By the end of the week I had interviewed Greta Wilsterman in ceramics, and Heidi Hayden in illustration, and had gotten five more people from other departments to agree to be a part of my book. 

What if our spaces inform who we are?

This week, my thesis changed. I was able to meet one-on-one with both my department mentor, as well as with my thesis projects supervisor, and while they both believe that I can do this catalogue, they don't believe I can do it in the short timeframe we have to work on thesis here at MECA. I agree with them both.
    They both noted that they think it is good that I push myself to learn more by taking assignments further, making them more complicated than the original idea. However, they had each done work on catalogues for museums and galleries, and each time they had a team of people with more than a year for production. When we tried to line up dates for deliverables from the students, we realized that it is unreasonable to rely on students (who are already stressed out working on their thesis) to get images and text of their work in early enough so that I could combine them into the pages with the interviews I have been conducting, in a timely enough fashion that I could have the book ready for press by the end of April. Now what?…
    I've spent the past few days trying to figure out how to adjust my thesis. The initial suggestion was to continue on with the exact same idea, but not in use information from each of the students thesis work. I felt that losing out on the thesis work made the catalogue have no purpose. Not to be punny, but it really bookended the idea. Without seeing how their studio spaces informed on their final product, if felt as though the catalogue would be missing out on something. I finally reached the decision to scaled-down everything, and focus on one person per major. This would allow me to spend more time with each student, and get more information about them and their work. I have contacted a handful of students to gauge their interest, As well as ask advice from other students who they think I should interview. My hope is that I will have made some sort of progress by my next blog post.

What if our spaces inform who we are?

Since the last post a lot has happened. I conducted the first series of interviews—about 30 students from both Graphic Design and Illustration. I’m realizing that this is a crazy idea to do as, not only do I need to be part of the interview process for the more than 100 graduating seniors with the curatorial team, but I will also need to meet with every one of these same students to interview them on my own for this catalog. I am gathering a lot of information, taking a lot of photographs, and hoping I can do everything by the deadline.
    This week I also got some help with potential funding; MECA has an incredible resource called, Artists at Work, run by Jessica Tomlinson. The main directive for Artists at Work is to help students better themselves, their work, and help prepare them for "the real world.” Jessica also happens to be the incredible human being who helped me to get my first solo exhibition for my Colorforms series in 2015. Artists at Work helps seniors greatly by providing the Professional Development Series, which provides weekly lectures on subjects such as how to market yourself as an artist, how to talk to galleries or museums, how to write a good resume, and much more. A gracious, anonymous donor helps to provide funding for this series—funds which may only be used to enhance the experience towards professional development for students. This is where funds may be able to come from, as this will be a professional experience for students, being interviewed about their work and working with a designer on how to inform others about the work they are doing, as well as having the experience of there work being published in a book. The best part is that each student will be able to leave with their own copy of this book at no cost to them. The proposal to use these funds for the book needs to be approved, and we should find out by the 22nd of February if we have a green light were not.

What if our spaces inform who we are?

There was a snow day yesterday which precluded me from being able to interview my anyone this week. I am rescheduling the interviews with graphic design for next week on Tuesday. In the meantime I am doing more research on costs of books and where I could potentially print them. Right now it looks as though I will be doing small publishing through Blurb, where I had a book printed for my Advanced Typography class, the second semester of my junior year. I was quite pleased with the quality of their printing. I believe this is when I fell head over heels in love with the idea of making a book for my thesis.
    I love to cook, and at the end of my sophomore year I began compiling the many recipes I have come up with through the years. At age 16, I made the major life-choice to become vegetarian—and with little support from my family at the time, I had to begin to prepare either part of, or all of my own meals. At that age, what little I knew about cooking came from working at a local sandwich/pizza shop, and searching the frozen food section for vegetarian protein patties which I could use to supplement the “meat” portions of my meals. It wasn't until I was in my early to mid 20s that I began to teach myself how to actually cook, Learning from cooking with friends and watching a lot of Gordon Ramsay or the Food Network. When my wife and I went vegan (meaning that we neither wear or ingest the flesh, ovum, or breastmilk of any animal) in 2010, we spent even more time making our own home-cooked meals from recipes we had either converted from old meat-based, or vegetarian (using eggs and dairy) recipes. Between 2010 and now, my wife and I have created for modified dozens of recipes, and I figured one of the more interesting tasks I could use my thesis for was to make my own cookbook.
    The reason I'm not doing a cookbook is because of what I want to find a job doing once I graduate. I am far more interested in editorial design and exhibition design as a career path, rather than working solely as a book designer. As I was selected to be a part of MECA’s 2017 BFA Thesis Curatorial Team, I figured it would make more sense for me to take what I am learning from the curatorial team, and apply it to my thesis work, which is where I came up with the idea for making an exhibition catalog.
    That's all for now. I hope to have more interesting information next week.

What if our spaces inform who we are?

It’s been a busy week, but I don’t have much physical to show for it. The spaces I have been using to work on the thesis catalog have mostly been other people's offices. I have spent a lot of time talking to various professors, as well as the dean in hopes of figuring out the best way to accomplish my goal—this is the research phase.
    The majority of my week has been organizing information, refining ideas, talking to mentors and professors, trying to raise money to print the book, and trying to figure out the best format for the book. My initial numbers for the cost of the book we're quite prohibitive, as an order to due this book properly, I intend to give each student a two page spread, and with 101 students projected to participate in thesis that's already more than 200 pages. I now know that I will be contacting the dean and all of the department chairs to request that they each write a forward specific to their department, each of whom (12 people) will get one page. I will be writing the acknowledgements, as well as including an alphabetical index, the colophon and other front matter (half title, frontispiece, title, dedication, table of contents, etc.), which gives me an estimate of approximately 250 pages. 
    I made a 250 page process book last semester for my short film, Shifting Focus, so I know I can do this in one semester, but my one biggest fear now is that some people will not give me information I need in a timely manner. This is going to be great experience for me as a project manager for a large-scale editorial design—large scale by my definition, as I've never taken on a project of this size before. I'm in the process of figuring out all the deadlines for the pieces I already know I need, and with that I need to define the word count for each section so nobody goes over their allotted space.
    Now I just need to figure out who can help me to proof this monstrosity when I am nearing completion. I will be accepting writings from 113 people with varying levels of experience. I already know that I am not the best with grammar. I always try to annunciate and speak properly, but when it comes to writing—well, there's a reason I ask my wife to look at everything I right before I submit it.
    For now, I have a number of additional meetings already scheduled for next week, and I will begin interviewing my fellow graphic design majors and photographing their studios. It’s a lot to do, and I'm scared out of my mind, but I am also quite excited to see how this turns out.

Thesis Blog Post 01

In just a few months I’ll be graduating from Maine College of Art with a BFA in Graphic Design. For now, I'll be spending the next few months building my thesis and experimenting with ways in which to describe how I view design through the lens of an artist. I will be using my skills as a designer and a photographer to explore questions revolving around how personal spaces inform on who we are, and the art we make. This will work in tandem with my main thesis project: creating a catalogue of the 2017 BFA Thesis Exhibition. These will begin to be combined, explored, and tested through an ongoing blog I will be using as a part of my creative process. The idea is to explore how the spaces students at Maine College of Art use for art-making inform on them, the work they do, and teach us (the viewers) about them. I will be going around to the student’s various studios to talk to them about their spaces, the materials they use, and taking photographs of their spaces to include in the catalogue in hopes that viewers of the catalogue will interpret their spaces in their own way.

In Frank Chimero's talk The Shape of Design, he talks about how design is influenced and improved by external sources—but what about the influences of objects and spaces we keep closest to us? I have always been fascinated by learning about people through the objects they keep near them; whether it be objects they keep in their home, office, or artist studios. I will be posting weekly photographs of my personal spaces, talking about the meaning and use of the space, and some of the objects within the space. This will also be a way to show how some of my spaces change over time, such as the state of my desk and how it differs from the beginning of the semester to the final days before the thesis show goes up.

The desks in the graphic design studios are quite large—larger than any of the other majors’ desks I believe. This gives us a lot of room to work, but also a to of room to make a mess. This first photograph shows my main perspective when I'm sitting at my desk. I tend to use the right side of my L-shaped desk for meeting with students and professors, as it tends to be the only clear space I have. The objects on my desk are the following (l-r): electric kettle, earmuffs, lamp, laptop case, rolled up 2’x4’ black & white inkjet print, insulated water bottle, glass pyramid sea-scape, jade plant, Raptor Buddy Christ, 13” MacBook Pro, travel mug, mug, empty coffee grounds container, french press, Apple wireless mouse, a photograph of my cats, glasses, iPhone 6, various books and magazines about design, photography, art history, prints from last semester’s review, glasses case, Handlettering & Wordmarks final (skateboard), drawing pad, backpack, and a four-color pen. I need to clean up my desk a bit to better prepare it for the rest of the work I will be doing this semester.

This week I won't go into the meaning of every individual item, but rather hope that any readers would begin to think more about what the objects we surround ourselves say about us, or in the case of this blog post, what these items and this location says about me and the work I do here.

Making Woodblock Type — Part 2

NOTE: If you have not already, please read, Part 1: Leaving Wood Behind, before reading this post.


Although our class had finalized and uploaded the vector files during the last class before spring break, Steve, myself, and classmate Taylor McElhinny didn’t want to loose momentum. Knowing that the class was scheduled to move on a new project after the break, the three of us spent much of the next week making the type-high boards, organizing and preparing the typeface files to be cut, and learning how to use the school’s CNC router. 

    We spent a few days gluing together plywood sheets and planing down various wood boards in preparation for the CNC, to type height of 0.91 inches. Much of this process was new to me and Taylor as neither of us had spent much time working in a wood-shop. As designers, we spend most of our time in immaculate studios and we relished the opportunity to work with our hands. After we had an adequate amount of wood prepared, we created 3A font scheme boards from each of the vector files (click here for more info). 

    On the day we were scheduled to begin cutting, as luck would have it, we could not access the school’s CNC machine. Thankfully Steve has a smaller version at his home in New Hampshire, so Taylor and I drove down to meet him. The rest of the day was spent overcoming the learning curve of how close the letters needed to be in order to accommodate the size of the drill bits, figuring out how many passes we needed to do for the various thicknesses and densities of wood, and how fast the CNC should rout out the letters to achieve clean edges. At this point, we re-discovered thetime-lapse function on our iPhones and captured the lengthy process compressed into a few seconds. After returning from spring break, the class had moved on to a new project, but Steve, Taylor, and I continued to work on cutting the letters in our free time. We engaged a handful of classmates to help laminate four foot by six foot sheets of half-inch soft maple plywood together to cut the type out (clearly this is how our typeface family’s name - “Plywood” - was created). Even though plywood is a softer wood, some days we could only get one line of letters cut out (about 10 letters) due to time constraints with sharing use of the school’s CNC and drill bits dulling or breaking. Considering each typeface had more than one hundred characters, it was an incredibly long process. While waiting for the CNC to cut more letters the three of us sanded edges or prepared more files for cutting.

    The first completed typeface set was Plywood Bold. The class returned to the printing studio, where the project started, and we made comparison prints on watercolor paper of the original woodblock type to juxtapose it against the new type. It was an incredible achievement to take a broken, incomplete typeface and revive them to a useable resource for students for years to come.  Throughout the course of the project, a few of us gave up our free time to continue working on the typeface we had become sentimentally attached to and, after a three-hour long class spent printing the new letters, I asked if I could stay behind to make additional prints for myself. The prints are a part of my portfolio and hang on the walls of my home as a reminder not only of our arduous task, but also as a way of honoring a project that instilled in me great pride, ownership, and opportunity.

For more, please click to see the Plywood Type portfolio page.

Making Woodblock Type — Part 1

Leaving Wood Behind

The Printmaking Department at Maine College of Art (MECA) acquired a number of incomplete drawers of woodblock type in the summer of 2014. To increase the number of completed sets for student use, Mark Jamra, Associate Professor of Graphic Design and typeface designer, worked with fellow MECA professors Pilar Nadal and Steve Bowden to create a half-semester-long project in his Type Studies class. After having worked together to make typefaces from scratch at University of the Arts in Philadelphia andDartmouth, Mark and Steve used their combined skills to teach MECA students about the anatomy of typography while building typefaces which would eventually be translated into woodblock type. 

    This project began with students spending a day in the printmaking studio where Pilar taught everyone the nomenclature of physical type; how over time the names translated to digital formats, how to set and lock-up the type, how to use various letterpresses. We then chose four of the incomplete typefaces to print and use for the project, printing them on newsprint paper. The four faces would eventually become known as the Bold, Regular, Condensed, and Serif faces of the type family we were to create called “Plywood.”

    The class was divided into four groups, and I was in the group which would complete the Bold face. This faceis physically the largest at more than 4 inches tall. Our group began by scanning the prints, combining the various scans, and taking careful measurements of the type’s dimensions – translating these measurements into guides in Adobe Illustrator. The existing letters were then vectorized and the various anomalies (breaks, chips, and bends which came from decades of use) were corrected. The next step was the most difficult – creating new letters from scratch. The Serif typeface was the most complete and therefore had the smallest number of people working on it, but Bold was missing nearly half of its letters and required more people (the largest group at six students) and coordination to keep the new letters consistent. We spent weeks making, re-making, and tweaking the letters with direction from Mark and Steve. During each class period, we printed out the entire typeface and placed it on the wall so that Mark could meticulously review each letter, explaining the anatomy and rules of typefaces while instructing us on how to adjust parts such as overhang, x-height, stems, bars, loops, etc. The project led up to spring break - the semester’s halfway point. At that time, files were finalized and uploaded to a shared folder so they could later be used to cut the letters with the school’s Shopbot CNC programable router. More on this process in the next post.

For more, please click to read Part 2: Returning to Wood


I was given the open-ended task of communicating an idea - whether it was a social or environmental issue, scientific concept, or a solution to a challenging question - by creating a visually stimulating stickers campaign. I wanted to design a system with meaning and context, rather than simply producing a “pretty” product. Around the time of this assignment, I was reading a number of articles about declining bee populations, including stories about fruit farmers in parts of South Western China who use human pollinators because bees have been eradicated due to the excessive pesticide use in the area and the loss of the bees’ natural habitat (see more here). 

    Knowing that the majority of the American public lacks interest in general issues unless they can see a direct and immediate effect to their way of life, I decided to approach declining bee populations with humor to attract attention to the issue— people respond better to honey than vinegar. My initial concept was to introduce the idea of humans taking over bees’ jobs in a positive way, as if humans could do a better job, while inserting pop culture references and celebrity endorsements, such as comedian Dane Cook’s “Fuck Bees” joke from his stand up act. My first attempt fell short as they focused more on the comedic idea of humans as pollinators, rather than creating a cohesive system and language to communicate the issue. At the suggestion of another designer, I began to study propaganda posters used by Russia during the Second World War. Appropriating this style led to a recognizablecall to action, using simple shapes and minimal colors to convey the idea. This style, combined with language related to bees (i.e. black and yellow, hexagons, honeycombs, etc), allowed me to change overt humor to veiled satire.

    Editing information is key. Understanding how much information is necessary to effectively communicate an idea allowed me to pare down the information to the essentials. I wanted these stickers to insinuate a campaign that would only be understood by those in the know, causing others to want to research the message to understand why it was being disseminated. Someone suggested I watch Stephan Colbert’s “roast” at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner to better adjust the level of humor I wished to achieve (click here to watch). With these things in mind, I set out to redesign the images I had created and to make a strategic plan for where the stickers would be placed.

    The locations chosen for sticker placement informed the design of the stickers. I wanted to place them in high-traffic areas (i.e. buildings, windows, car bumpers), as well as on or near products which are directly impacted by bee pollination such as in a grocery store, directly affixed to fruit or packages of almonds. These locations lead to the design of three sizes of a hexagonal shape: 
• Large for viewing from a great distance, such as on the side of a building;
• Medium to view at close range, such as on telephone poles, or parking meters;
• Extra small to surprise a viewer when spotted, such as on food-items at a grocery store.

Then I visually and verbosely tied in propaganda and bee language andsimplified the color palate to three colors - black, white, and honey-yellow. Taking inspiration from the propaganda posters and using a Russian-looking typeface for the lettering, I knew I wanted to incorporate a simple cut-out/stencil look to my designs, centering on three main icons:
• Bee stencil with a strike through it (No to bees!);
• Fist in the air with the word “Pollinate” over it (Empower humans!);
• Hexagon with hexagonal rays and the text “Be the Bee” over it (Take what is ours!).
The original designs for each were more rounded and did not appear to have the same language and through the editing process I made the shapes simpler and angular; less like line-tracings. 

   I designed the medium and small size stickers to fit into interlocking hexagons to reflect the shapes of honeycombs and to imply that the designs were intended to be displayed near each other or together. Locations for the stickers included a boarded-up building, windows, power meters, and fruit (not in a grocery store, but rather photographed as a concept). Additionally, I made t-shirts with iron-on transfers as a way further to engage the public.

    After applying the stickers around town it became clear that the campaign's next natural step would be to introduce them into the world of social media, bringing the ideas to armchair activists.  I wanted to theorize how far this project could go so I made mock-ups of posts on various social media accounts postulating how this campaign could be evolve into a viral street-team campaign. Ideally, people who are in the know would make posts showing that they saw campaign stickers and people wearing related shirts, and others would ask what it was all about. In my mock up, I included mocked-up versions of how celebrities might show their support, using people such as President Barack Obama and Brad Pitt as examples and providing commentary on how American culture sources their political and environmental views.

    The major learning from the process of this piece was just how essential the editing is— determining what information is necessary and finding the simplest way to convey that information. I found it important to remind myself that there needs to be a limit to the amount of information I try to give to viewers at once and, when attempting to convey information across multiple designs, there must to be a set language to ensure that the message is clear and viewers are not confused by conflicting design elements.

To see the final designs for this process, please click here.

Endless Revelations

© Justin Lumiere, 2015

As it may have been noticed, I have more recently taken down most of the photographs from my Justin Lumiere, Photographer page (on Facebook), pertaining to work for I have done for hire.

I will no longer be offering my services as a photographer for hire.

This choice comes with a few small exceptions of people whom I have promised to work with as trade for using them as subjects in my personal work. The reason I have done this is because, over the last decade, I have done a lot of work for hire for various clients. While I am grateful for all of the clients I have worked with, and the fantastic work I've done for them, it was not something I was passionate about. Photography has always been a joy, and one of the most intense loves of my life, and I realized that the work I was doing for hire was causing me to view photography in general as work, rather than as a passionate way for me to express myself. I had lost my voice as an artist, and was only creating work based on what people asked me to do for them. This is not to say that other professional photographers who do work for hire don't have a voice — I have made many friends over the years who work in this area and who create astounding and beautiful imagery, but I realized that this is no longer the place where I want my work to live.

I have been meaning for some time now to get back to creating the kind of work which I am most passionate about — work which allows me to make social, emotional, and anthropological comments on my life, and the world. The past two years I have spent at Maine College of Art have reawakened and reinvigorated my passion and love for creating art through the camera, and over the summer it is my aim to begin rebuilding my body of work to show the same passion and vigor I had in the work I was creating nearly a decade ago — to once again find my voice as an artist.
I want to say, “Thank you," to everyone I have worked with over the years, the people whom I will continue to work with, and those whom I have yet to meet in my future. I look forward to creating new work in this direction inspired by cinema, scientific exploration, and the existential range of human emotion.