Constellation Overview

During the course of my study in Constellation my understanding of the wider implications of my practice and the interconnected nature of all the topics I have covered. I have learned about the context in which views and attitudes change, allowing me to approach work from a more educated position. When I first understood that I would be learning what I saw as unrelated work as part of my studies I wasn’t overly keen. But it has taught me a lot. If nothing else, simply a uniform and fundamentally sound methodology for research and study.

During the course of the academic year I studied two distinct topics. My first course was Sustainable Practices. This was the study of the societal changes and technological advances of the past two centuries that have brought us to where we are today, the negative consequences of the systems that are now in place, and the methods and difficulties with trying to limit and reduce our impact on the world around us through technology and changing perceptions.

I really learned a lot from Sustainable Practices. I am very conscious of the impact my lifestyle may have on the world around me and do make the effort to limit it. And I’m sure everyone understands that we’re living in an unsustainable way. But this codified the issue in my mind. Let me understand each stage at which we dug ourselves a deeper hole from which we now have to emerge. I had understood that many constellation subjects were quite philosophical but this was factual and measurable which appealed to me.

I do think I took a lot on board during this first course, my blogging was reasonably consistent and I made a conscious effort to raise questions and start discussions about various topics raised during class. I don’t recall getting the finest mark on my formative assessment essay, this is simply due to my dislike of essay writing and lack of motivation. Given the opportunity to redo it I think I could improve it significantly.

In my second Constellation course of the year I learned about subcultural trends during the past century, largely from a fashion perspective this was Smells Like Teen Spirit. Learning the motivation behind various aspects of peoples dress. The significance of small details in terms of their perceived meanings and the fluidity of style which is an ever changing amorphous thing which is an expressive, symbolic method for instigating change on a cultural level.

Prior to this course I had never had much interest in fashion, in many ways I still don’t. But the significance of fashion as a tool is something that I had never before understood. Subcultures like goths, chavs and in particular punk had always seemed to be a form of tribalistic identity politics played by attention seeking idiots. I still feel that many of them are. But in particular the punk movements history, origins and accomplishments really surprised me. The liberalising of many Western cultures, Britain’s in particular, is a great feet and something from which I greatly benefit.

I enjoyed the process of analysing images of various people dressed up in strange ways and learning about the significance of small symbols and objects. The colour of clothing, the material, the level of ware, it’s previously held meanings. I do wish I had blogged more effectively about this topic. But it felt like repeating what I already knew for the benefit of others who most likely already knew it so I didn’t do as much as I should have.

My formative essay for Smells Like Teen Spirit was actually a pleasure to write. I found sourcing very difficult as finding the appropriate material to bolster my statements was a nightmare. Overall however, the whole experience was a positive one.

At the beginning of the academic year I really was skeptical of Constellation is general. I thought it would be a distraction from the job of creating pieces of visual work with which to fill my portfolio and I have to admit I was really happy to believe Graphic Communication would be very slim of written essays. However I have come to understand through the course of the year that I need to be aware of the wider picture to be the best designer I can be.



Constellation SLTS – 5/8

1970s British Punk

How you can represent anti-authoritarian rule breaking through the way you dress.

  • Sex Pistols analysis – God Save the Queen – Jamie Reid

Sex pistol God save the queen font?

Punk owes a lot of its style to 1920s Dadaism


(columns analysis goes here)

Style as bricolage

  • Conspicuously take random elements that aren’t seen as interconnected and construct something with them. (resignification of various styles and looks)
  • There is no limited extent to which these elements can be structured rendering the possibilities for new ensembles, infinite.
  • Coherence of attributes isn’t necessary to create a style as primitive thinking is the creator of said styles. They are not built strictly using logic.
  • Objects can be picked out for their connotations but their connotations can also be changed to fit.


Punk style

  • Entirely nihilistic style with no set grievance or cause, simply an anti-movement, the movement that symbolized a lack of symbolism
  • Shirts and coats adorned with offensive language, designed specifically to be shocking.
  • Wearing random items purely for the controversy, razor blades, clothes pegs, tampons etc.
  • Safety pins used as piercings through the nose, ear and even cheek
  • Cheap fabrics, PVC, plastic, lurex
  • Drain pipe jeans and miniskirts
  • Make up worn, not to enhance, but to be seen as makeup and used like face paint.
  • Bondage gear and stuff – leather masks etc.
  • Traditional notions of appearance and acting were trashed
  • Hair Dye


Style as homology

  • Punk was a style based on disorder, but this could only be achieved through a carefully ordered ideal look.
  • What you wear and how you dress becomes part of who you are
  • Anti- traditional values statement – beauty, attractiveness, desirability.
  • Key to punk style remains elusive
  • Chaos that gives a meaningful image of a whole
  • Punk questions what is normal by doing the exact opposite


What have we learned from the Punks that can inform our practice?


Checklist of concepts, approaches and theories

  • Outrage at the establishment
  • Causing discussion and debate by their actions and style
  • Challenging traditional notions of decency and proper behaviour
  • Reinventing the idea of style with an anti-style of their own
  • Question the accepted rules


What does this case study have in common with previous studies? What are we learning about subcultures?

  • All these subcultures have meanings
  • They seek to turn the status quo on its head
  • Using all sorts of things as jewelry, like hip-hop does
  • Every subculture makes use of objects – clothes and jewelry