New Meaning Collage Introduction For our next project we will create a 12″ x12″
New Meaning Collage
For our next project we will create a 12″
x12″ black and white collage exploring the
social theme of your choice (topics must
be non-controversial). The collages
must employ a variety of imagery and
build meaning by making unlikely image
combinations and/or scale shifts. That is
to say, instead of constructing collages
that illustrate our issue directly – we must
construct meaningful visual metaphors by
juxtaposing and/or combining unexpected
images in surprising ways.
For example, if you were to make a poster
about child prostitution, we wouldn’t find
pictures that illustrate the topic directly.
Instead, we would look for things that
represent childhood and innocence, and
then combine them with things that
represent sexuality and objectification –
and we might end up with a collage that
offers us an image of a teddy bear
wearing fish-net stockings with a price tag
on its ear, with a tag-line at the bottom
that says: “love for sale
If we wanted to make one about Child
Labor, we might find photos of children
working in factories or queuing up outside
business at the beginning of the day, and
overlay the hats the dwarves wore in
Snow White, and write: “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s
off to work we go!. Doing so not only
creates a more potent image – it does so
by closing the gap between the
experiences of your audience and the
experiences of the children. It forces the
audience to confront the disparity
between their idea of childhood and the
reality of childhood that’s experienced by
Choose a Topic
Your project should serve as a call to
action or public service announcement
surrounding the non-controversial social-ill
of your choice.
Controversial topics must be avoided, as
they simultaneously make the assignment
too difficult and too easy. With
controversial topics, it’s fairly easy to
excite your audience, but very difficult to
control the outcome. Controversial topics
also have a tendency to distract critics –
and people start arguing with you over
your topic – instead of helping you
enhance your argument and visuals. With
non-controversial topics, we will have to
work hard to help our audience see and
feel issues that they’ve been exposed to
day-in-and-day-out. We will have to
identify and subvert their defenses, and
make them “feel’ see the problem anew-
as if for the first time.
If you have a topic, and you worry that it is
too controversial, consider changing the
scale of the conversation. For example:
nobody is for police brutality, but people
may disagree about specific cases.
Consider speaking to the issue as a
whole, rather than a specific
instance. And, if you feel driven to speak
to a particular issue, but worry that it’s too
controversial – call me – and I will be
happy to talk through it with you.
If you can’t think of any non-
controversial topics, consider the
following: Racism, Bulying, Body Image,
Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse, Child
Labor, Famine, War, Human Trafficking.
Littering. Ecological lssues, Covid-19 and
Social Distancing, Drug Abuse, Exercise,
Poverty, Homelessness, Deforestation,
Pollution, and Clean VWater.
Once we have a topic
we want to do four
Due in our
1. Research the
There’s a good
on June 7th
chance that you’re
already familiar with
your topic (and that
familiarity drove your decision). but it’s still
worth taking a little time to explore the
issue a little deaper.
2. Mine our own Minds
Chances are, you already have feelings on
the topic. Take a minute (or an hour) to
develop a series of free-association lists.
These lists should contain hundreds of
words or short phrases, should be
completely uncensored, and allow you to
dig in to and examine your own thoughts
on the subject.
It’s often helpful to make multiple small
lists rather than one massive one.
Generally, I start by developing a short list
of “seed words that l’ll use to start off my
lists. For example, if I was working on a
collage surrounding child labor, I would
make free-association lists for, at least,
each of the following:
When you’re done making those lists,
would go back and circle the most
interesting, most surprising, best, and
whackiest ideas. You would then consider
making new lists based on them, but, if
you’re sick of free association or simply
exhausted, move on to step 3.
3. Symbol Lists
After you developed a series of free
association lists, look back through them,
find words/phrases that resonate with
you, and try to develop lists of things that
could symbolically represent those things.
Try to create symbols for at least one
word from each free association list. You
can choose any words you like, and it’s ok
if there’s some overlap between the
content of your free association lists and
your symbol lists.
4. Opposing Symbols
After you’ve developed at least 5 lists of
symbols, you’re ready to fight! Well, not
really, but we do need to challenge them
And, one way to do that, is to create lists
of opposing symbols. Opposing symbols
can not only help us round out our
understanding and challenge our
preconceptions – they can also help us
round out and focus our communication.
In much the same way, it’s difficult to
make our audience acutely aware of light
without including shadow, we often need
to engage with opposing symbolism to
direct our audience’s eye and control the
For exanmple, if I wanted to communicate
“Gentle,” I might develop a list of symbols
that includes things like: Pillow, feather,
soft blanket, balloon, a two finger touch, a
fluffy little puppy, or a baby’s hand.
But is that stuff gerntle? Or is it simply
incapable of doing harm?
Combining those things with opposing
symbols could help clarify the read. To
that end, I would make a symbol list for
Brute Force, and it would likely include:
Anvils, fists, grizzly bears,
sledgehammers, and clubs.
And, if we start combining elements from
both lists, some interesting things start to
happen: Feathers that combine to make
the silhouette ofa sledgehammer, a baby
holding the outstretched pinky of an
otherwise closed fist, or a grizzly bear on
his back playing with an inflated balloon.
All of those things begin to speak to the
idea of “gentle” more acutely and more
accurately than ANY of those on the first
list in isolation.
5. Gather Imagery
You may gather imagery from any source
for use in our collage. You can cut up
magazines, newspapers, or use images
that you print from the web.