CO-LAB: Collaborative Design Studio
CO-LAB is a practice-based, non-profit social design studio handling client and personal research projects. (Here, social refers to both the collaborative process and a community-centered agenda.) Primarily engaged with the Underground Arts Scene in St. Pete, Florida, CO-LAB partners with local artists across a variety of disciplines to identify and address complex social problems through unexpected ideas and non-traditional, interdisciplinary means. CO-LAB welcomes all changemakers and subverts discontent with their culture to drop a line. CO-LAB = U + E
Wanna collaborate? Design needs more imps.
THE MAKER: Elizabeth Herrmann
Launching from the Graphic Design MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth studied under Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips while contributing as a writer and designer for Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming Photographer, type designer, installation guerrilla, arts promoter, printmaker, culture critic, writer, activist, and university faculty; she teaches design while slinging lo-fi messaging across the States. Some of her ongoing projects include: designing + letterpressing calling cards for local artists, guerrilla screening hand-drawn animations from a circa 1987 Radio Flyer wagon, medium-format camera collecting and analog photographing broken culture, writing articles supporting evolutions in design education, creating monospaced typefaces for physical environments, developing absurdist apps, installing unwanted missiles, and searching for a new punk design.
THE BOOK + BLOG
A blog for the people, by the people—actually, co-lab.us/blog is a companion to the book, CO-LAB: Collaborative Design Survey, by ras+e. While the book juggles interviews, illustrations, and essays, digital pixels are infinitely cheaper, allowing this database of relatively unedited research content. Some of the Q+As appear in print, heavily edited, but are provided unlimited space in this blog with only minor editing. CO-LAB’s content is entirely original, fleshing out perspectives represented in the book by offering a greater range of feedback. I hope those interested in researching collaborative design practitioners find helpful material, which will increase as more stories are collected.
As for why ras+e pursued documenting the interdisciplinary collaborative processes, they wanted an argument. CO-LAB is their thesis, dripping in ideology and dangled before clients/employers/peers; digital and physical pages mapping paths for invested parties to buy-in to themselves, their colleagues, their investments. But research into others’ processes strongly echoed their own ideas, so the interviews became the argument, which was rebroadcasted in their own red-worded book.
A book on interdisciplinary design collaboration should be written collaboratively. And be designed. And have a cover featuring drawings by UV laser on light-sensitive paper. It should be fun, otherwise it’s doing a day job as personal work. Mediums must collide in passion and shrapnel. It should slam together musicians, designers, artists, and theorists; it should highlight the beautiful brilliants who are all those things. And so, it does. CO-LAB explores why Jack White and Iggy Pop are essential collaboration gurus for designers, how J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion epitomizes holistic environments, and “Sandboxing” includes playgrounds, forced connections, and piped-in coffee shop noises. It begins with David Carson holding Michelangelo’s hand (Mikey is unaware).
Contemporary design firms are small, voice-heavy, interdisciplinary collaboratives who own culture and combine authorship. Those who think collaboration is cheating or unfreedom should read this book. This is how. This is why. CO-LAB is an argument for effective, socially-aware futures by designers who think thinking matters.
Collaboration Now = Design Punk.
On the website, one hundred diverse practitioner interviews support the argument that small interdisciplinary collaboratives can make anything, provided old world authorship is shelved with the Lost Ark. In addition to the Q+A case studies, the book (made possible by BIS Publishers) features ten essays that are contextual and equip young designers with a model for varying collaborative processes. The essays are accompanied by hundreds of graftedillustrationguffaws, Schizocourier (a bastard mashup of the famed monospace), and buckets of red that draw lines between black and white.
Book Contents: 240 pages, 10 chapters/essays, 400+ illustrations, 40+ Interviews