I'm a big, big fan of collage as an art form. I love the energy that occurs when disparate things come together to create a whole new thing. There is an sense of randomness and magical clash in collage that sometimes is true and sometimes not. Great collage like any art form, can be the result of very deliberate thought and selection. I think Joseph Cornell's assemblages feel that way, so stunningly beautiful and considered in their organization, structure and story.
Collage can also be the result of some kind of "scientific" exercise the, like picking up all the stuff found on the way to work everyday and then cataloguing it. The artist Candy Jernigan subscribes to this school of thought, her book Evidence a testament to "objects lost and found". With self imposed restraints, the world is observed differently. And the collection of what you notice is the evidence of seeing through a particular filter. I love that.
I like collage as a thinking process too. I've used it as an art form, but I've also used it as a way to work through ideas and feelings. Its a great way to see the intuitive outside of ones own head. And it's a great tool to get others to do the same, if you're working with people or focus groups or teams. Pictures and stuff circumvent the intellect and the story becomes visual and visceral. Which is very immediate and pure. I love what is revealed in the process.
Well there's a new book out called Inspired by Dorte Nielsen and Kiki Hartmann which chronicals the collage process in a bit of a different way, by highlighting peoples creative journals and sketchbooks and notepads. Oh my god I love this book. They show a lot of different ways people approach the creative process and collaging in notebooks or on walls or on the desk, is universally a source of surprising ideas. The random clash inspires. The gathering of things that catch the attention and then the process of putting them in an order that "makes sense", is the core of inspiration to the designers and artists the authors meet. That's what I love best about collage. It's like letting the truth of the parts dictate what they should be together. So cool. So cool!