Using What We Make

Students have been designing with the aid of a computer for over a decade and the shift from hot-press illustration board, pencil, and Rapidography has resulted in a disconnect from what is designed and how it came to be. This is not to cherish the good old days and bemoan the new but to underscore the need to reflect on what it means to drop this media on a student’s desk.

Design conducted with a computer can result with little or no residue explaining how one arrived at a conclusion. With students juggling more and increasingly complex data earlier in their studies—in part due to computers—the need to visually map and make sense of relationships in time and space has ever-increasing importance in the development of critical thinking skills.

Graphic design students are in a unique position to consider their process visualization as both a means to draw conclusion, and ultimately, as the final artifact. Shifting focus away from the end result and encouraging the production of concept mapping and story-boarding, collapses the divide between process work that assists understanding and the polished final comp. This is to take the value of process visualization one step further and consider the refinement of these intermediate artifacts as the primary goal.

Visually organizing an array of data during all stages of design encourages multiple perspectives, new connections, and clearer communication within collaborative teams. It can be an entry point for students to gain new understanding and new motivation to explore disparate fields of study and most importantly it can begin to define ‘interdisciplinarity’ to them as they design and use their graphic design artifacts as teaching tools.

posted by Tony Brock on February 3, 2007 | comments: 3 | post a comment

i found your post very interesting -
because when dealing with complexity, one must be aware of the interrelationships, the variables, the transitions... and i think mapping helps through that.
yet, as students, do we have time to research through making?
or do we worry about deadlines, staying on track within solution driven processes, and even when we let ourselves research, can we truly intuitively investigate without the need for objectives or closure?
or do we still worry not to be carving banana leaves on top of a moutain, and make sure something will come out of our time?
i think we tend to want to speed up time, our learning, to get there faster, because there's so much of it, right?

As design students, i think it is easy to let ourselves focus on the end product, instead of enjoying the process of it, and learn through it. What will it be, what does it need to do?
Instead of giving ourselves time to observe, collect, map... shutting off the ticking clock that is keeping track of our progress.

and like you said, just be.

so what does it all mean? is it the students? the school? our society?

Posted by valentina on February 4, 2007 11:15 AM

Agreed, agreed, agreed. It's about realizing you're farther along than you think. After the first two weeks of an assignment, you have piles of work behind you. In your sketchbook there are notes from class, observations in the coffee shop and quotes from your classmates. In your bookmarks folder you have a trail of links. In your mind you're referencing tons of images. On your desk there are scans, drawings and piles of books from the library.

Week three comes around and we designers sit in front of the screen, ready to create the assigned poster and website. Why do we feel like this is the real beginning of the project?

As mentioned, giving a structure to your research forces you to group, recombine and edit this content. It reveals those connections and juxtapositions that we love. But the best part is, it's the easiest way to develop the project's visual language. It forces you to establish hierarchy and assign color and scale. You have choose a typeface. You figure out when an image should be used instead of, or alongside, a description. Developing your ideas this way is a more seamless transition from research to project. You're moving to the computer while still in the content gathering phase, before your process is hindered by the final form.

So, see the corner with the big type, quote, and image? There's the poster! The categories you developed? Website navigation! Page groupings! Even better, when it's time to argue that this should not be a poster or a website at all, but a web-based've got your reasoning right there. Except its beautiful and simple and a lot easier to understand than whatever comes out of your mouth in a presentation.

Yes, we are designers. We aren't scientists or anthropologists, and we shouldn't claim to be. However, this DOES NOT decrease the importance of our research. Visualizing our process proves our skills in presenting complex information. It may be the best thing we can to do give others an understanding of our field.

Posted by c madigan on February 5, 2007 02:45 PM

Here is some current literature that is exploring our blog-minded discussion.

Everything Is Miscellaneous
The Power of the New Digital Disorder

Posted by ANNAW on May 2, 2007 09:00 PM