Formstorming: Alex Gutzwiller


Page 17 from Lynda Barry’s book “What It Is.”

In the graphic novel, What It Is, Lynda Barry explores the ideas of what are images and how are they created. Throughout the novel, Barry seems to illustrate the difficulties a designer faces while developing the concepts for an image. Barry asks questions that are repeated throughout the novel such as “What is an idea” and “Where do they come from”, which seems to reflect the dilemma of how to assemble all the thoughts together for a design image. Barry responds with looking into the “past” or the “imagination” to gather ideas for the completion of an image.  The illustrations and ideas used by Barry describe several processes of formstorming as discussed by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole in Graphic Design: The New Basics. Formstorming is the use of visual exercises by designers to promote creativity and develop richer feelings for the subject matter.  Through the use of formstorming tools such as repetition, revising and analyzing, as described by Lupton and Cole often leads the designer to the unexpected creative discovery for their design. One of the tools used in formstorming is alterego, which calls for the designers to explore themselves by creating himself or herself into a different person and looking through the eyes of that character to develop new and fresh design concepts. On page 15 from What It Is, I feel is an example of alterego as Barry asks questions such as “Hi, do you know me?” as if she is a different person.  Barry further states, “Children will often manufacture a language of their own . . .” however, crossing out the word children and replacing it with images.  This seems to me that Barry is reflecting on thinking about the thoughts of a child and not of an adult, allowing for new images to appear. This illustrates the formstorming idea of looking into the ideas of another character, in this case a child’s mind. Additionally, this alterego tool seems to be highlighted with the image of a bird within what appears to be an eye chart with the letter O for the bird’s eye. Further emphasizing the idea of looking through the eyes of a different character to experiment for new forms of creativity. Lastly, the images within this page also reflect the senses, as seen with the hand and touch, musical notes and sound, and with the monkeys that represent hearing, seeing and speaking.  It seems to me that Barry’s use of sensory images also reflects the concept of the alterego tool of formstorming because one can gain creativity through feeling the senses of a “fictitious” person the designer develops to rediscover new and different concepts for a design.


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