How do reflection, documentation and synthesis facilitate awareness?
Throughout the semester you will develop your own reflective process, running parallel to the other units. Nurturing a daily practice that notes your experience and insights (experiments, failures, interests, questions, methodologies) is a bridge to learning. In this unit you will give yourself a space to nurture this practice. In addition, a final Reflective Process Document will be prepared during your final 2 weeks of the semester.
— Nurture your reflective practice daily via written notes on your DS studio work and experiences.
— Even if only for a minute or so.
— Write spontaneously.
— Use any writing style that feels comfortable and natural to you.
— Feel free to add visual notes, as needed.
— Don’t belabor it! This is not an English class, not a thesis, not a test.
You will be asked to share your reflective process with your instructor at various times throughout the semester. This is not meant to “prove” anything but rather to show evidence of your attention to your work. There may be no response/critique.
Towards the end of the semester, you will be asked to synthesize your notes into a more finished process document that will be shared with your instructor, to be graded as Unit 18. We will spend time on this during the last two weeks of the semester. More details to come.
Often, we are called upon to respond to a design challenge with solutions. But deep insight into a design process begins with awareness, self-directed inquiry and questions, not answers. If we allow uncertainty and risk into our practice, even vulnerability, we might get closer to our own values and identity as a designer. Unintended consequences and surprise can be key ingredients in the search for our own position in the world of design. In this introductory unit we will practice a questioning stance as preparation for your last semester in the Design Studio sequence, and for the faculty to take note of your needs and interests.
— Begin by yourself. Using the index cards, generate a series of questions around your own interests in design. What is important to you? (30 minutes)
— There are no right or wrong questions, but try to ask questions that are open to flexible opinions and points of view (rather than yes/no questions). Open is good. Try to be as authentic as possible to your own identity as a designer.
— Now, pair up. Interview each other about your questions. Test them. . . how do they hold up to conversation? Try asking: why — what if — how — how might we? Which questions resonate? Which are most important? Choose three. (60 minutes)
— Double the groups and expand the conversation. Discuss your sets of questions. (30 minutes)
— Give form to one (or two but no more than three) of your questions with image, text and/or objects. (60 minutes)
— Install your expression in the GD Commons and be ready for a group discussion at 5pm.
I wanted to draw your attention to one recent example of the kind of back-and-forth collaboration that we’re encouraging in Unit 5, Layer Tennis:
Two competitors swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley” and then we post that to the site live. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action as it happens.
The players may be designers, animators, illustrators or anything else, and they can do pretty much as they like. There are no real rules, the matches are generally competitive andcollaborative. Things progress volley by volley.
A match lasts for ten volleys and when it’s complete, everybody sounds off and together we declare a winner. To see LYT in action, get lost in the archive of past matches.
Matches happen live, in real time on Fridays, with play-by-play commentary from a third designer, writer, etc. There’s also an extensive archive of previous matches.
The example above is from one of my favorite matches, which unfortunately I can only find in this single image, showing Frank Chimero‘s turns on the left and Kate Bingaman-Burt‘s on the right. (Each volley was an animated gif.) One thing that was nice about this particular match is that Kate and Frank are good friends, and they were actually working side-by-side in the same studio (as you can see from their shared methods, props, etc.
Some other fun past matches, showing a variety of approaches and results…
Continue your experiments. Refine and define your tool(s).
Please bring your final results to class.
Additionally, in the spirit of growing knowledge through the sharing of tools, please also provide a set of instructions for using your tool(s). Your instructions can be as simple or as complex as they need to be, to make your tool available and accessible to others. The method or form of your instructions is open, but you are encouraged to make something appropriate to the tool itself.
A few examples:
Simple, wordless diagrams from a chopsticks wrapper:
digital non-design/art— (ex: microsoft word, excel, google)
Explore both tools’ default behavior(s). Explore their most unorthodox potentials. Hack the tools, break the tools. (If they belong to RISD, please don’t actually break the tools.) For this week, experimentation is key. Process rather than final results.
“Tools make revolutions. ‘When we make a new tool, we see a new cosmos,’ says physicist Freeman Dyson. He was probably thinking of microscopes, telescopes, and atomic particle accelerators.
But even the workaday tools . . . can alter our perspective. A tool—any tool—is possibility at one end and a handle at the other. Because tools open up options, they remake us.”
—Kevin Kelly, 2000
You will each receive a common item—art supply or household item—sourced from RISD 2nd Life.
How can this object be utilized as a tool? For communication? For writing? For mark making? Experiment using your tool on letter-size paper. We will pin them your results for a brief discussion at the end of class.
Question: How do the tools we use influence the things we make? How can we subvert a tools’ intended use to create something unexpected?
Unit summary: The study and practice of graphic design is not simply a matter of mastering the latest digital tools. Each successive piece of software or physical tool we encounter has its own preferences and proclivities. As engaged critical designers, we must learn to recognize the assumptions that our tools make (and that they encourage us to make), and to see beyond them. At the same time, we should be nimble—able to adopt things which are not standard tools of our trade, and consider ways to adapt them to our own purposes.
Learning objectives: Master a tool (or two); understand where the tool came from; become critically aware of the relationship of tools to process and form.