Custom Product Aesthetic

Explore the parameters of prefabricated design templates to customize, just-in-time, a product which transposes form and content from the internet.

Reread the short excerpt from Sianne Ngai on the Cute, the Zany, and the Interesting, here. As you read, hone in on a particular sense of one of these aesthetic categories to develop in a custom product design. Pick a product to customize from sites like zazzle or (the wonderfully titled) discount mugs.

For your design, you will use/reuse content you’ve developed in an earlier project this semester. Think of the object as a new (half-digital, half-material) medium for this content. Also, think of the object as a prop for action, not just as a blank canvas to customize.

Because there’s not time left in the semester to actually order and receive the customized product, your “final” will be the virtual rendering the website gives you when you’ve uploaded or selected your design.

Conceptual Twitter

Create a new conceptual Twitter account. Find inspiration from a set of conceptual Twitter case studies, as well as, more broadly, the contemporary practice of “conceptual writing.” Develop a clear concept for your Twitter account and follow it through, developing it as you go. This is an experiment with serial language at the compressed and networked level of the Twitter platform. You’ll make at least 100 tweets over the course of two weeks.
Pick a conceptual Twitter account. Consider its formula, humor, and subversiveness. Read the tweets and find whatever you can on the internet that was written about it.
Pick one of the following to present:
Present it to class on Wed 14 Nov in 10 minutes or so.
Develop a concept for your own Twitter account. Consider the various things we observed in the case studies: periodicity (rate of posting), the relation of concept to execution, senses of narrative, performance, persona, relation to a source text, etc. Be prepared to elucidate your concept in class and present some first tweets.
Execute the concept in Twitter. Write your concept as a “bio” in your twitter account.

Youtube tutorial

Create a youtube tutorial. Tutorials have an interesting genealogy in the design discipline. Formulating clear instructions has long been part of the activity of design, as designers had to communicate their specifications to manufacturers and printers. Instruction manuals often accompany designed objects as well as software. And DIY cultural production has often published how-to production guides for a variety of subjects, from furniture to punk rock tours.

In the first part of the project, we will survey the youtube tutorial scene, trying to get a sense of the range of aesthetics which organize the instruction, as well as the sorts of things being taught. As you review the landscape of tutorials, think about the possibilities for graphics, voice, point of view, cutting/montage, music, etc. As you conceptualize your own tutorial, think about both content and form. What action will you teach? How will you teach it? Your tutorial should be new — make sure there isn’t already one on youtube.

Develop a strong graphic dimension for your video. Imagine the graphics as well as the soundtrack as neither ancilliary wallpaper nor side commentary but as equal audio / visual partners to the video content in the total cinematic experience you are constructing. Consider intros and finales.


Make a 2 minute long video which thematically curates and combines multiple found video clips. Think of the supercut as a hyper-condensed, fast-paced mash-up montage. What you montage is up to you. Supercuts typically show repetitions of cliched actions in films, but you’re not bound to this. It’s

a simple concept: a thematically unified video montage. Think of a theme and begin to compile clips. Use short clips so your video won’t get taken down for copyright infringement.

Your supercut could be about something you already know a lot about (many supercuts are compiled by superfans), but don’t feel limited by your own zone of geeky cultural knowledge. There a bunch of tools for finding specific content within movies and tv shows. The supercut should not just be a greatest hits sampler. It should make us see the cultural phenomenon in a new way. It should humorously, critically expose a cultural formula we may not have been aware of before.

Content: the theme you come up with.

Form: how you sequence and pace the clips.

research tools

a history and overview of the genre

an archive of media tropes

search movies and tv series for particular phrases

further reading

The blog post that supposedly came up with the name for this youtube genre (plus a list of many supercuts).

some supercuts

David Caruso’s one liners

Cage does Cage

phil collins, oh lord in the air tonight

mirror scares

make a supercut and upload it to youtube.

clip converter

online video editor (going away sept 20)

Into the Universe of Technical Images

Vilem Flusser

Read this excerpt from Vilem Flusser’s Into the Universe of Technical Images.
Flusser wrote this text well before the web arrived, and yet he seems to eerily describe many features, both aesthetic and economic, which we can recognize in the web today.
Write a 200 word response to this text which elaborates some single aspect or element of Flusser’s argument about images in relation to a contemporary creative phenomenon in the networked digital world. Post your response to your tumblr and be prepared to discuss your findings in class.
Due: Wednesday 3 October

Graphic Interchange Format 3: Practice / Writing

From the five GIFs you developed, pick two of your favorite/most interesting, and develop them one step further by adding an aesthetic category to each.

Additionally, write one paragraph for each of your two final GIFs, which explains (1) how you made the GIF, (2) what aesthetic categories you investigated with the GIF, and (3) what’s interesting about the GIF. 

Post the final GIFs to your tumblr, and your paragraphs (each paragraph in a different place) somewhere on the web. Post the link to your tumblr.

Aesthetic Vocabulary


























media archeological


























pop culture referential


Graphic Interchange Format 2: Practice

In the second part of this study you will create your own GIFS. Make 5 GIFS that variously explore the technique of an infinitely looping series of images. Push, play with, the logic of the format: speed, number of frames, etc. How intense, how mesmerizing can you make your GIF? What new things can you make it do? What new things can it be used to say?

Your GIFS should be engaging at the levels of form and content. Include text (subtitles) in some of them. Experiment with a range of styles, materials (text, video, backgrounds) and means of production. Utilize different online GIF creation applications (e.g.,, as well as Photoshop. Use at least 3 different tools for production. Post each GIF to your tumblr and tag with the aesthetic categories you’re investigating.

Each of your GIFS should experiment with at least one of the aesthetic keywords that we brainstormed together. Feel free to explore an aesthetic we didn’t discuss. In any case, be prepared to talk about how your GIF relates to these categories. Play within the established aesthetic conventions, and/or bend the aesthetic into another dimension.

Graphics Interchange Format 1: Research

Curate a set of 5 animated GIFs from the web and post them to your tumblr. Capture a range of styles and rhetorics. Aim to collect a varied set: each GIF should uniquely demonstrate a different aesthetic or technical feature of the image format. Bonus points for thematically unifying the set (they could all be Bowie, or cat, or abstract, or eye-roll, or architecture GIFS.) Find GIFs that reflect different stages in the history of the format — both contemporary and historic ones. At least one should have a text component.

Look in tumblr, giphy, google, imgur, reddit (, gifcities, etc. (Don’t just use giphy!) Also check the recommended reading links below for fascinating, historic GIFs.

Present your set to class with a brief (5 minute) explanation of why you chose your 5 — what aspect of each one is noteworthy. Indicate what is interesting and particular about GIF as an image format — what it can do that other image formats can’t — with reference to the particular GIFs you chose.

Hello world!

Begin with this content: the standard test message “Hello, world.”
Use Google Drawing. Experiment with every option in this minimal software for editing, distorting, illustrating etc. this generic salutation. By the end of this process, the real “content” of your image should be that of its technical medium, the software you used to produce it.
What does this mean? Aim to show the peculiar structuring mechanisms of the medium. See if you can explore all the possibilities for form in this particular tool.
Content must remain legible.
Each of the 5 images should be significantly different.
Say “nothing,” in order to explore and reveal the formal dimensions of a software.
Make a series of 5 images.
Export your images as a jpgs and post a slideshow to your tumblr.