Conditional Design is a design method created by a group of graphic designers and educators based in the Netherlands. It is a collaborative, rule-based creative process that generates (therefore it is generative) graphic outcomes. Written as ‘games’ Conditional Design activities focus on the act of making over the final outcome, the details of which are unpredictable when play begins. The rules of a game don’t change but each time one is played the outcome is unique because of the variables or conditions in the process. In this respect, Conditional Design refects contemporary digital processes such as programming.
In groups of four, we started to play some games by following a set of rules from the Conditional Design Workbook. These games were very simple and required only a large sheet of paper and some coloured pens. These are some of the pages from the book, showing the instructions.
Once we played these games we were challenged to create our very own conditional design game that produced varied outcomes that could be used in further designs. Having a strong liking for illustration, I wanted to create a game that enabled people to draw scenarios at random that they wouldn’t usually think of. I wanted to help illustrators be creative and spontaneous, in a way that would produce liberating outcomes, away from the feelings of perfectionism and comfort zones.
My game was simple. I handed people in my class a jar that was full of words. I instructed the players to pull out four strips of paper at random. Next, they were required to draw a scene that incorporated all the words, combining ideas together, to create a stand-alone signature drawing. The players were only given 10 minutes to create their masterpieces so time was of the essence. This enabled them to act quickly and through gut feelings rather than sitting and staring at a blank piece of paper, instead, they acted on instinct. These outcomes were all varied, it really showed off peoples’ imaginations. Some did better than others by managing to create drawings that really did incorporate all the words. Some people drew a selection of drawings side by side, some simply illustrated the words in their most basic form and some created drawings that mirrored the random styles of The Simpsons. Unlike the conditional designs, that produced geometric patterns, my game enabled people to become illustrators. By broadening their imaginations and allowing them to disregard their feelings of perfectionism, people acted on instinct which enabled them to create drawings they probably never would again. This practice is an ideal activity for aspiring illustrators who feel like they have nothing to draw. It gives creative people the chance to act as children again, allowing them to innocently draw for fun, being free to follow their creative visions instead of feeling burdened with the task of producing a knock out design.
This innocent and juvenile style of drawing is really popular right now, it’s seen all over social media platforms, people taking drawings down to their basic forms. I feel like this game produces work that could easily be developed into more professional designs. I took one drawing from my session, done by a player, and worked on it digitally in order to produce a piece of art that could be used on a variety of merchandise. When I went to Brighton recently, I went in to an independent clothing shop called Good Day Club where there were so many t-shirts for sale with this simple illustration aesthetic on them. I was really inspired by these designs and wanted to create some t-shirts that replicated this sort of style.
I created a collaged design, using only the basic tools I had in Photoshop, within a ten minute time frame. By duplicating the drawing and fiddling with blending modes, you can create random designs that are appealingly chaotic. This is also a random generation of design because there’s no reasoning behind it, but by going on your instincts and gut feelings, you react to the immediate art in front of you and make quick decisions that affect your overall outcome. I love this way of working because you are showing your creative flow, it’s not created for a set purpose, you are purely creating art that you think looks good. In this way, your art becomes rather personal and you are massively involved in the process. You start to see your style appearing right in front of you and by sticking to the basic tools, you produce work that is imaginative and beautifully random. At any other time, in any other mindset, you would produce something different so this design becomes unique to you, making it a one-off piece that is a brilliant, poetic, reflection of yourself.
I love this way of working because you are showing your creative flow, it’s not created for a set purpose, you are purely creating art that you think looks good. In this way, your art becomes rather personal and you are massively involved in the process. You start to see your style appearing right in front of you and by sticking to the basic tools, you produce work that is imaginative and beautifully random. At any other time, in any other mindset, you would produce something different so this design becomes unique to you, making it a one-off piece that is a brilliant, poetic, reflection of yourself.