Yale School of Art
1156 Chapel Street, POB 208339
New Haven, Connecticut, 06520-8339
(203) 432-2600

GRAPHIC DESIGN, Art742, Sequence: Networks and Transactions

For first-year graphic design students. How can graphic design influence and be influenced by the unpredictable encounters between one group and another? Or between quantities of unknown users on one side, and vast webs of fluctuating information on the other? In this course students develop typographies, visual languages, and motion vocabularies appropriate for these pervasive conditions of the modern world, found in experiences as varied as Facebook, YouTube “supercuts,” the game of chess, automated stock trading, and the organization and speech patterns of political movements. The course posits that designed form may sometimes be visible, and at other times be relational or latent rather than directly seen. The class is primarily a studio course but also includes a programming lab in which fundamentals of coding are taught through hands-on work each week. No previous programming experience is assumed, and completed projects are expected to be technological in nature. Weekly reading discussions from a range of sources complete a triangle of design, practice, and theory. Prerequisite: ART 749a. Dan Michaelson

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Step 1. If you don’t know how to play chess, please learn how to.

Step 2. Combining your knowledge of chess – its rules and other aspects of the game’s strategies and poetics which you identify through research and personal practice – together with your own thesis, design a set of chess pieces.

Your chess pieces should be two-dimensional. If Calder’s or Ernst’s chess sets are about the nature of sculpture (through the lens their own artistic practices) in equal measure as they are about the game of chess (its rules, strategies, and poetics), then this is a project about the nature of graphic design/typography (through the lens of your own thesis) in equal measure as it is about the game of chess (its rules, strategies, and poetics).

You can take some liberties in that your pieces don’t have to comprise a usable game, a familiar vernacular, or a marketable product etc. – but they do have to obey the rules of chess (e.g. 16 pieces per side in 6 genres [king, queen, rook, bishop, knight, pawn], the bishop moves diagonally, etc. etc.).

Consider the relationship between the game’s visible aspects (game pieces) and invisible aspects (rules, stratagems, opposition). How does each uniquely reveal, influence, or engage the other?

You may wish to consider this brief from Duchamp:

The standard chess sets now in use, the FRENCH set and the STAUNTON, are both somewhat confusing in the similarity and intricacy of their forms. In the French Set for example, the Bishop is a little Queen and the pawn a little Bishop. Cannot a new set be designed, that is, without a too radical departure from the traditional figures, at once more harmonious and more agreeable to the touch and to the sight, and above all, more adequate to the role the figure has to play in the struggle? Thus, at any moment of the drama its optical aspect would represent (by the shape of the actors) a clear incisive image of its inner conflicts. In the complicated modern game the figures should inspire the player instead of confusing him. They should whisper to him at the right moment: “Move now to QB4. … Break through the center. … Pin the Knight. … Let me win a piece. … We can exchange Queens, the pawn will be metamorphosed into a new Queen. … to mate the King."
        they should never make a

It’s your choice whether you want to in any way consider existing vernaculars of chess sets. You could ignore the “Staunton” standard style of chess pieces altogether and focus only on the nature of the game (for example, what Duchamp calls the potential to reveal an “incisive image of its inner conflicts”), and your thesis, as design factors.

Last edited by: Dan Michaelson
Edit access: Sysop

Last edited by: Dan Michaelson

Duchamp as a network agent at the Imagery of Chess show, 1944–1945

Marcel Duchamp, cover for View, 1945



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Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, from A Pattern Language

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Italo Calvino, “Quickness”

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Dexter Sinister, “Letter & Spirit”

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Hans Ulrich Obrist, from Cedric Price

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Frederic Jameson, “Fear and Loathing in Globalization” (review of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition)

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Franco “Bifo” Berardi, from The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance

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Charles Stross, from Accelerando

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Jack Balkin, Dan Michaelson, “Sometimes it Looks Like a Duck, Sometimes it Looks like a Rabbit”

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Eric Foner, from The Story of American Freedom

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Yochai Benkler, from The Wealth of Networks

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Paul Covington, Jay Adams, Emre Sargin, “Deep Neural Networks for YouTube Recommendations”