There is a particularity about the education system which we take as given – that students, from infant school to university, are grouped together according to their age and experience. While this organisational rationale is understandable, there are benefits to doing things in a different way, if only occasionally. The Porto Design Summer School course attempts to be one such occasion.
Participants from around the world, aged between 20 and 50+, have gathered in Porto every year since 2013 to take part in a two-week course that focuses on editorial design. They bring with them different cultural perspectives, experience and skills. Some at the beginning of their design careers, want to expand their knowledge, while others, as professionals, want to break their routines and refresh. Whatever the reason, this coming together in new surroundings, establishes a group dynamic in which each participant is able to extract relevance and meaning while being guided through a common set of course tasks by a team of established international designers.
Despite the large range and variety of both visual and conceptual approaches that book design can offer, and the ways in which they oblige multiple and simultaneous considerations, books are nevertheless objects that have tangible limits. Beyond the possibilities of engaging in the structuring of content – itself a powerful attraction – there lies another reason that make books such an appealing and satisfying challenge for designers – their physicality.
A book is not an on-going project subject to change; its parameters are not in a state of flux. The decisions a designer makes about size, format, number of pages, layout and so on, are permanent. There is a beginning and an end. And in a world where so much is in a state of flux, perhaps there is a refuge of certainty in producing an object whose edges we are able to define. None of this makes editorial design static or without challenge. It offers the possibility of producing a self-contained, portable and rewarding expression of the act of transformation that lies at the heart of the design process.
The core tutor team at the inception of the summer school in 2013 consisted of Andrew Howard, founder of Studio Andrew Howard and course leader on the MA in Communication Design at ESAD, Porto; Hamish Muir, founding member of 8vo, partner of MuirMcNeil and former lecturer at London College of Communication; and from 2013 to 2016, Jessica Helfand, author, founding member of Design Observer, and former lecturer at Yale University (USA).
Andrew Howard and Hamish Muir were joined for edition five in 2017 by New Zealand designer Catherine Griffiths, and in editions six to eight (2018, 2019 & 2022) by Swiss designer Ronnie Fueglister. Sadly, the course was suspended in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid–19 pandemic. Happily, the 2022 edition went ahead successfully, and in the absence of Hamish Muir the principle tutors were Andrew Howard, Ronnie Fueglister and newly invited Portuguese designer Miguel Almeida.
Each year (except 2014) a forth guest tutor has joined the team – Jonathan Barnbrook (2013); George Hardie (2015); Adrian Shaughnessy (2016); David Pearson (2017): Sonya Dyakova (2018): Nikki Gonnissen (2019): Rejane Dal Bello (2022).
In the previous editions we have welcomed participants from all over the world – Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA.