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Afyx: New Genres lecture series

Work / Graphic Design

Graphic designer Jacob Pardoe on collaborating with a neural network and the surprises it produces

Jacob Pardoe is a graphic designer, currently approaching the end of his time at the Royal College of Arts’ Visual Communication master’s. While preparing to show his final project at the degree show, Jacob has also launched Afyx, “a small flexible studio practice which is manifesting into something I’m really excited about,” he tells It’s Nice That. While his portfolio includes publications such as Propland, as well as typefaces and speculative letterforms, we caught up with the designer to find out about his work for a recent series of performative lectures at the RCA, produced in collaboration with a neural network.

“I have been working largely within the disintegration of image, and going quite deep into translating images into sound, which is now informing much of my work in the art-based fields of graphic design and typography,” he tells us of his wider practice. For this particular project, this took the form of a series of posters and an accompanying publication.

The posters were used to advertise the New Genres lecture series, an annual event for designers and illustrators to engage in “lecture performances” (aka Performance Lecture, Performative Lecture, Meta Lecture, Lecture 2.0). Jacob explains the notion of a lecture performance: “Emerging in the 1960s as a sub-genre of performance art, the ‘lecture performance’ is a hybrid method of communication that combines techniques from the fields of art, design, education and research in order to educate, entertain and/or examine.”

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Afyx: New Genres lecture series

A speculative, future-facing topic, it seems only suitable that the method of creation for the series’ promotional material should reflect this. Jacob, therefore, worked with a neural network to combine imagery of the work, thoughts and research of all participants into one entity; one image. “The creation of these posters rely on a process of time, compression and repetition,” he explains of this. “The outputs were created by the AI finding correlating patterns in images via algorithmic pareidolia, this process was repeated over and over again to create an archive of deliberately over-processed images. I consider these outputs as ‘compressions’, fusing many objects into one new image.”

Interestingly, Jacob describes this process as a collaboration with the open-source AI. “[When] I fed the programme with images, [I] had no idea what the outcome would be, and every time I received a file back, it felt like a commission or working with a free aware thinker with a genius mind. My role was to facilitate the layering and carefully construct a series of posters with the neural networked images, and also my grid system and typography.” In terms of the latter, Jacob opted for something neutral, “almost unconsidered” to “support the compressed typography coming out of the background imagery.”

The accompanying book, which was produced in collaboration with designer Iain Worgan, came out of a discussion from one of the lectures. In a similar vein to the performance-led nature of the lectures themselves, the book was born from a time-based event and collaboration between everyone involved. Using time as a limitation, the group utilised 30 reams of paper that were in the studio, printing each page on office printers and hand glue-binding each edition. The very act of producing the publications, which were wrapped in ream covers, therefore took on the notion of performance.

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx and Iain Worgan: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx: New Genres lecture series

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Afyx: New Genres lecture series