Brief Assignments

I don’t recall an assignment from my undergraduate studies that successfully synthesized an exploration of form, process, and research methodology with content that truly enriched my depth and breadth of knowledge. In response, assignments went through a major overhaul once they reached my desk. I learned to set parameters and goals on my own, as well as seek out what I felt to be meaningful, engaging content.

Discovering an angle that will make for an engaging story is what should occur when the student designer receives the brief, but to what extent should the professor be defining both the depth and breadth of content and particulars of the context?

I thought I was doing a pretty good job by making the lame assignments I received into something with some weight, but how much further could these project have gone with some genuine forethought by the ones assigning them?

The type of forethought I am talking about goes beyond a general conception of complexity—the ‘branding’ assignment with multiple components or the layout and identity systems for a magazine. This sort of strategic planning is conscious of the oral, reading, and writing skills of the student designers and challenges them on these competencies. It is holistic in approach as it considers steps in the exploration of form, process, and research. It is also forward thinking not only in how a particular project will strengthen a competitive portfolio, but how it may change the students conception of the boundaries and application of graphic design and possibly have them skip the portfolio polishing and start their own enterprise.

My students are fortunate to be attending a university with a broad compliment of humanities and sciences. Some are double majors in design or are minoring in other fields, but all of them have exposure to diverse subjects through their general education requirements. In the most basic sense they can begin to draw parallels and analogies between multiple perspectives in a range of disciplines. A rich exposure such as this must be taken advantage of in design and fostered by the well-crafted experiences in and out of the design studio.

Within the context of this thread and the discussion begun by Dan Warner, what specific approaches do you use in defining project assignments? You are welcome to post specific project briefs.

posted by Tony Brock on February 1, 2005 | comments: 4 | post a comment

Dear Tony,

This site of yours needs to kick it into gear—many other things need kicking but we’ll leave it at that. I do agree with myself on this matter. Fine we agree. I will give you a break on one thing. Yes? Well, I can give you a break on that Crohn’s Disease thing. That has slowed we down a bit. Maybe, but you know we hate excuses of this color or any color for that matter. Yes, but it gives some context to the derelict nature of this endeavor. Yes, indeed. It does do that.

Thank you. You are welcome.

Best regards this time around,


Ps. Share this with the folks. OK.

Theories about what causes Crohn's disease abound, but none has been proven. The most popular theory is that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine. People with Crohn's disease tend to have abnormalities of the immune system, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or result of the disease. Crohn's disease is not caused by emotional distress. —National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)

Posted by Tony on May 7, 2005 09:54 PM

Dear Tony + Tony,

Cheer up. Have some sweet tea and sit in your hammock.

+ + +

Thanks Mr. JS. I will do just that.

Posted by Stimmel on May 26, 2005 12:19 PM

Mr. J. Stimmel

On the mend and back to this poor little blog.


Posted by tony on July 13, 2005 10:08 AM

What follows is a loose meandering of a mind past its due for sleep:

There's something to be said for built confidence rather than instilled confidence. I've had teachers in the past that simply threw names and jargon at me, and this was to no avail. Conversely, I've had teachers so obsessed with asserting their expectations of depth and scope within a project that I was sure they were just talking to assert their own vigor in their craft. The best studio I've ever had, though was taught by the worst teacher (in my opinion) at this school. He was the worst, because he gave us no other guideline than "finish something by the end of the semester." That left the decision up to each individual in the classroom to discover something they would love and thus decipher the necessity of a new design on their own terms.

Some students failed miserably. Some hated the semester. I spent the semester in my junky world of electronic bits and spandex and stainless steel and copper wire building one thing: not design. Confidence in my own ability to seek depth. From there, subsequent design has a path to follow.

I learned the most when nobody cared to teach.

+ + +

Josh—I had the same in undergrad. It is a strange truth. tb

Posted by Joshua Smith on August 24, 2005 09:22 PM