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Graphic Catalysis

In this course we will examine our personal creative practices and use a systems-based approach to explore, generate, and document new transformative procedures using Photoshop and web apps.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Course Description

Do unsolved problems keep you up at night? Does tedium stress you out? Has your creative bread been feeling stale?

In this we course will inspect our individual creative practices and the problems that arise as we work through the image-making process. We will explore transformative processes within Adobe Photoshop and browser-based tools, and use collaborative exercises and critical discussion to experiment, learn from one another, and critically examine how we approach the creative process as a system. We will use a simple systematic approach to record and test our experiments. Finally, we will convert our experimental procedures into pages within an interactive encyclopedia to be used by others.

Duration / Commitment

  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Class Time: 2 hours with flexible ending time on final session
  • Homework: 2+ hours of research, work, and documentation between sessions

Course-Specific Requirements


  • Photoshop Proficiency: Individuals are expected to use Photoshop without guidance. We will be doing fast-paced exercises and the use of hotkeys and interface familiarity are strongly recommended. Photoshop beginners may get their butts kicked, you have been warned.
  • Web & General Computer Proficiency: As we will be working between different programs and websites, comfortability with different graphic file types, file transfer services, screen capturing, etc, are recommended.


  • Adobe Photoshop, any version, though CS6 and newer is preferred
  • Discord for weekly communication and documentation. Does not require download.
  • Twine 2 to create our final project. Does not require download.

Artifacts & Learning Outcome

The course's final project will be an interactive encyclopedia built using Twine 2. This project will remain available after this course has ended.

In addition, we will focus on building the following experiences:

  • A deeper understanding of one's own creative process
  • Critical discussion about the creative process as a system
  • Networking with other experimentally-minded graphic artists
  • Provoking ingenuity and unorthodox problem solving through challenging games

Who Should Sign Up? šŸ¤”

This course is designed for 2D artists who are experiment-curious, socially motivated, and technologically inclined. It requires collaboration, group discussion, and fast-paced interaction. If you're an artist and a nerd, but also love a good jam session, please inquire within.

This course is...

Explorative and meant to prompt personal growth and exploration through shared curiosity. You will learn through immersion, discussion, and self guided research through provided prompts. Activities will be fast-paced and require you to improvise. Nothing will be precious.

This course is not...

Prescriptive. We will not focus on learning technically proficiencies. Individuals should not expect to come away with a mastery of any of the aforementioned tools or theory.

Week 1: Introductions and Systems


  • What is a system?
  • How is creativity a system?
  • How can you use metaphor to relate creativity to other systems?

Collaborative Activity

  • Individuals will try to describe their creative process and share what internal and/or external challenges they face as they create. What must you do that does not inspire you?


  • Perform a Process Breakdown to analyze your creative process using a Forest, Trees, & Roots metaphor.
  • Collect inspiration to share on Discord {Inspiration} for the next session.

Week 2: Visual Problem-Solving


  • How are values attributed to creative labor, and to taking shortcuts?
  • What is "visual problem solving", and how the creative process related to problem solving?
  • How is creativity motivated by challenges/problems?

Collaborative Activity

  • Using the inspiration gathered in Discord {Inspiration}, we will collectively try to "hack" the processes used in artwork to better understand the capabilities of digital tools.


  • Identify and research 5 transformative processes that you are unfamiliar with within Photoshop or in Browser-based apps. Try to understand how they work on a fundamental level.
  • Share your research in Discord {Research}.

Week 3: Curation v. Genesis


  • What is the roll that an artist plays when creating something new? Does this vary from artform to artform?
  • What role does transformation play in creating art? Curation? Genesis?
  • Facilitator Presentation on the Principles of Design. How do aesthetics instruct the creative process?

Collaborative Activity

  • We will play Photoshop Telephone. People will pair off into teams and be given two source images (one per individual) to redesign using only the existing graphics. Pairs will take turns working each piece, then swapping, in 5-minute intervals, for 30 minutes.


  • Manipulate a sketch using 5 different processes inspired by previous research. Use the same sketch for each experiment so we may compare the transformative effect. Draw inspiration from the "snags" in one's creative process that we have explored in previous sessions. Share your explorations in Discord {Experiments}.

Week 4: Procedural Approach


  • { Input < Process < Output }
  • How can we relate organic creativity (human) to synthetic creativity (artificial intelligence)?
  • What role does choice play in creativity?

Collaborative Activity

  • Everyone will be given the same image. You will have 3 "moves" in Photoshop to transform your image into something new. We will then analyze the processes used in a group and try to successfully guess the procedure used.


  • Refine 5 processes using the { Input < Process < Output } format using old or new experiments. Document your process to include before and after images, as well as any images that may help describe the process you used (as if you were creating a graphic tutorial).

Week 5: Choose your Own Adventure


  • Twine 2: Interface, markup language, class template, submissions, and collaborative capabilities.

Collaborative Activity

  • We will pair up to test and troubleshoot the functions we created during homework with the goal of making them useable by others with instruction.


  • Lay out 3 finalized functions using Twine 2, including step-by-step instructions, resource links, before and after images, and any necessary information to reproduce the effects of your function.
  • Submit HTML exports of your Twine 2 builds to the facilitator by the night prior to the final session.

Week 6: Final Showdown


  • Class review/critique of our Twine 2 encyclopedia.
  • Class review/feedback
  • Submit revisions if necessary.
6 Weeks, 2 hour sessionsUp to 12 learners

Basic Photoshop proficiency strongly recommended. Zoom needed for session meetings.

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