Time Management

Our ability as designers and teachers to understand and manipulate time has never been more important. [insert giga superlative, angst-ridden examples of ‘our day and age’] This is not the sense of time we find working in AfterEffects or Final Cut, but the sense of punching in and out of a time clock—the sense which demands a student get it figured out in a duration defined in a multi-week assignment, semester, or 4 years. Graphic design education is at a point where the bubble is going to burst unless curricular efficiency and management of set durations becomes a priority. Oh yes, it has been hissing and leaking and popping and boiling, but I’m talking full-on rupture where whole new disciplines emerge out of evolutionary necessity. More about this soon, but first, back to issues of efficiency, clarity, and time management with our own discipline.

Should a professional degree in graphic design be a 5-year degree instead of a 4-year degree? Yes, or graphic design should make a choice to NOT be all things, or better, be explicit in what it means to be a generalist in some areas and a specialist in one. Pomposity and arrogance are the traits of one who thinks they can do it all while remaining a generalist—not everything is transferable nor analogous. I’ve been fond of using the terms ‘strategic generalists’ and ‘multi-specialists’ and their use gets at the notion of breadth and how one must work-it these days, but it is deceiving when we separate these terms from discussions of good ol time management and the rotation of the planet. The fundamental issue is the seemingly wholesale acceptance of a generalist model while not responding to what it means to graphic design education, practice, and our physical universe.

When the computer arrived, the world that designers interacted with and responded to doubled—everything ‘real’ now has a counterpart in the virtual. Doubled is not entirely right because many things in the virtual do not have a counterpart in the real. In addition, the fallacy of the computer as a time-saver has not been well-met in much of graphic design discourse. These are simplistic and seemingly obvious statements, but they highlight the problem. A BFA in Graphic Design is still generally a 4-year degree, but the demands and expectations have more than doubled while the duration to earn the degree has remained constant.

In these current circumstances, any viable depth, degree of sensitivity, and understanding in graphic design is diminished greatly. This is not to say that with new ways of working, new questions, and the hyperness of it all doesn’t generate its own transferable experiences and knowledge, but in most cases these sensibilities are rarely recognized, let alone valued. There has not been a curricular or pedagogical realignment to meet the scale of change caused by the introduction of the computer. The range of artifacts and events that emerged with the computer are now vying for understanding, creativity, and vision while graphic design education has yet to decide how to teach software or if it even should.

What happens after a 4-year degree? What should graduate study mean now? Should graduate study supplant the need for a 5th year? It can’t unless we accept the role of PhD programs with the tradition they have fulfilled in academia and practice for other disciplines. Far too many do not see the need nor purpose of PhD studies in design. Even some who champion this level of study are slow to draw parallels to the role these studies have played in the maturation of other disciplines. Undergraduate, graduate, and PhD studies must be defined in how they present a continuum of appropriate depth and breadth both for the individual learner and discipline.

Graphic designers are versed in working backwards from a deadline. We should apply such skills as we consider both the breadth and depth of our ever-expanding discipline enterprise and what it means for durations that no longer effectively respond to specialization and the learner.

posted by Tony Brock on November 27, 2005 | comments: 0 | post a comment