design by Tiemen de Blanken

Design Wars: Episode I – The Petr Menace

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An entire academic year scaled down to a single week


by Tiemen de Blanken

The 42nd week of the schedule was somewhat empty for most graphic design master students at AKV|St.Joost. While some enjoyed their free time and the sightly scenery of the whatsoever, others went into hibernation to prepare themselves for the rough period up ahead: a one-week workshop by Petr van Blokland, seasoned graphic designer, and, up until last year, beloved teacher in our department.

So, an exciting time for all of us. The 1st years would get to meet the teacher they heard so much about from their upperclassmen, while the workshop would be a rematch for the 2nd years. Once more could they test their mettle against the difficulties Petr would toss at them.

Students formed pairs which would become their studio team for the remainder of the week, and then each studio picked a topic they liked to work on. In addition, each participant had to fulfill the role of a client for the other studios. The assignment was, as Petr described it, all about designing the design process and the skill of rapid prototyping, sketching, and decision making. And dear me, he wasn't joking about the rapid part.

Each day the studios had to work on their design, do research about their topic, and present the fruits of their labor to the clients. To make things even more interesting, Petr added some competition and the workshop turned into a contest to win over the client's hearts. From start to finish, the workshop contained several layers for us to think about, thus forcing us to think about how to design our process.

There most likely wasn't a participant for whom the workshop was smooth sailing. While some had to turn the ship around on how they approach a design assignment, others had trouble dividing their attention among the different layers within the workshop. Most of the 1st year padawans learned that asking Petr questions meant getting more questions back. The 2nd years relived some of the mistakes they made during the course a twelvemonth before.

All in all, the workshop was a positive experience, both in amusing and informative sense. If you’re interested and would like to know more about what Petr can teach you, check out his website Design Design Space. It's similar to what we did, and a tad more.

Photos by Claudia Mens