Exploring abstraction and other life goals | A chat with Jose' Tiago Morgado Soares

Hello, I'm Jose', I'm 19 - apparently born when the Spice Girls first came out. I am from Portugal and I came to London to study Graphic Design. Back in Portugal I attended a specialised graphic design high school and I just wanted to keep going with it. So I came here and I wanted to explore the Foundation Course in a much more free way, because the way I used to work was heading too technical so I wanted to use the Foundation for myself in a much more free way.

And now that it's done I really think I did it. I explored abstraction, communication and legibility all throughout my Foundation and that is my final project as well

So did you come to foundation with a specific intention?

Mmmm, no. I just wanted to explore other things. I don't really know how to explain it, but I wanted to explore a more artistic approach and this course allowed that within reason. And now I am moving on to BA Graphic Design.

Cool! So why are you interested in 'abstraction'?

Mmm I don't know - I think it's because I really like graphic design because it communicates... but I also like to challenge that feature of graphic design. What's the difference between 'communication' and 'legibility'? And same about abstraction - if you think about typography, a letter is an abstract shape. An 'A' is just shapes, nothing else. But everybody reads it as a sign. And I feel it's really interesting to explore this - it's almost hard to think about text as 'not being text', as being 'only shape'. 

Well, there is a big conversation now around for example emojis, and how we are going to use increasingly more emojis than text because an emoji captures in a single type the nuances of a certain sentence...

I think emojis are images, not as much shapes, in that I think it's quite different from what I explore. I literally explore shapes as shapes, and text as shapes.

The idea for my final project came from a previous Foundation project, where we had to make a book from a sound. I had a recording of wifi waves - which is a bit contradictory as wifi doesn't make sounds, it's electromagnetic waves. But it made interference with a microphone, resulting in a very strange weird electric kind of sound... that came just form an email. I felt that transformation was really interesting and I tried to do the same thing: transform the sound into text, in a way that make them look somehow unrelated. I like to look at the final outcome. The sound that I am hearing... is it the email, or is it just the sound?

Interesting! So let's talk about your final project. A stack of 4000 sheets featuring an essay about abstraction printed on the side, all inserted in a clear perspex box. What were you trying to say with that project?

I would separate my project in three parts. The essay, the text as image, and the box as an object. The essay comes from a research I did during Foundation, where I was looking to find if other practitioners had explored abstraction in such a rational way, if someone tried to define abstraction as the purpose of their work. Obviously many artists produced abstract paintings, but was it as intentional as what I am trying to do? So I went on reading books and all... but in the middle of the process I realised I only had ideas and nothing tangible or physical. And that's where I thought that it would make sense to use those ideas, and that's why I used the essay itself. So I wrote the essay and right away forgot about its content and started to explore it as an image. Out of the experiments I carried out, printing on the side of the stack was really interesting.

How did you manage to do that by the way? 

I don't know, I had an idea, did not know if it would work, I tried it and it worked. Nobody believes it was my idea because it's looks really hard, but it's really easy! I just put the pages flat next to each other, then I simply stretched the essay all the way down, so when you put the stack together you can read it on the side. It's quite simple. And I thought this stack of paper was a really nice object! A really big stack of paper is even weird to our head, because we associate normally paper with lightness, but a big stack of paper, even taller than wider, is a confusing object. 

Yeah, it is almost supposed to feel like "there is a lot to read there". 

So I just tried to make the object itself as a really big book. 

And it worked beautifully! What do you think design is?

I honestly don't know. I think it depends on the intention of the practitioner. Take a poster: if an artist makes a poster, he says it's art. If a designer makes a poster, he says it's graphic design. One of my conclusion to this project is that it does not really matter. 

So you chose to be a designer or you don't know yet?

I don't know yet. But the lines that separate the different fields of study are so blurred that it does not matter. 

So what would you want from the BA? More technical skills or creative-thinking type of skills?

Mmm. There is 'art' as we imagine it - paintings and drawings and sculpture etc. And there's graphic design, the commercial and applied aspect. I would consider my final project as a sculpture, but as graphic design at the same time, however it's not commercially relevant. So I guess I would like to explore the commercial side of graphic design in the BA, with technical skills and an understanding of the industry. 

How do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Ha! I don't know... we'll see. I would love to continue artistic explorations but of course I need to engage with the commercial side too. I want to help people, and I think this way of working in my final project doesn't help anyone! :) I enjoy doing it and all, but it wouldn't lead anywhere. 

Why do you say you want to help people?

Not sure -  I think if someone has the possibility to help people, he should. I just think I am young and I have a lot of potential, like everybody here at CSM. So if I can help people, I want to. But I still need to find out how

This is gonna be a difficult question but I hope an interesting one. You BA will be done in 3 years, and you have your gut now telling you which direction you want to go - even if you don't know exactly how that is going to happen. But would you agree to saying that your ultimate goal as a person is to help someone?

YES! I imagine myself as having my own studio where I do my own projects but also other things. Well graphic design helps people. I think the power of the poster is really underrated, this is something I would like to work on. Simple graphic design would help in many ways, and also to spread knowledge, most of the people are too ignorant ahah!

But 'most of the people' have internet :) so why is that?

Internet is 10% knowledge (which is a lot) and 90% rubbish. You need to give it to people. The same way McDonalds sells burgers, you could sell knowledge and it's possible to do it and I would like to explore that as well. 

Great! Thank you so much!


Explore Jose's website here