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PHD-DESIGN  June 2010

PHD-DESIGN June 2010

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Subject:

Re: Design - the problem of Art

From:

Karel van der Waarde <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Karel van der Waarde <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 13 Jun 2010 17:23:19 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear G. Mauricio Mejía,

Thanks for your reaction.

>I completely agree with your comments. I wonder how to include these calls in graphic/visual design education. In the design studio I've included real design problems with aid of real 'commissioners/clients/organizations' with some succces.

The following four starting points are fairly easy to describe, but extremely hard to implement:

a. Start by observing interactions between people and visual information. There are problems in election systems (ballot forms, instructions, digital voting, representation of results), financial systems (bank statements, financial contracts, pay-slips, taxation), transport (maps, tickets, signs, parking), healthcare (nearly everything), education (relation between textbooks, digital aids and teaching), legal (contracts, laws), science (representation of research) to name just the first things that come to mind. Alternatively, commissioners can be approached to state their interests as a starting point.
... Graphic design students should be trained to observe and interview people.
In practice: leave the studio's and computers and look how real people struggle to make sense.

b. Formulate issues and present these to all stakeholders. After the observation and discussion with people, it is necessary to figure out what the root-causes of a situation are ("in order to turn it into a preferred one"). It is likely that there are several groups involved with 'unequal voices' (not all groups are equally powerful). A description of the situation makes a conscious decision possible which part of the issue needs to be tackled/ can be tackled within the contraints of time/money/interest/investment. This descripton also identifies suitable and appropriate criteria to evaluate a prototype.
... Graphic design students should be trained to present a convincing argument about any issue both in writing and in public speech.
In practice: practice writing and presentations in all sorts of formats.

c. Develop and test prototypes. At the moment 'development of prototypes' is central to graphic design education. Unfortunately, the first two steps are skipped, and testing is very rarely done. The problem is rarely clear (or it is self-initiated and therefore flexible) and the scope (area that is tackled within a sitation) is rarely identified.
... Graphic design students should test their prototypes to find out what the reactions are in relation to the issue.
In practice: Dedicate at least one afternoon every week to 'testing'. Either bring a busload of volunteers into the academy/school every week to make sure that students are confronted with 'real users', or make contacts outside the academy.

d. Write, present and publish results. At the moment, we don't learn much from eachother: every project will be tackled as if it is an absolutely new challenge that has never been tackled before. [In one sense, this is true: it's the first time that a specific commissioner and a specific designer work on a particular project.] There are however many comparable actions across projects.
... Graphic design students should make the results of their work publicly available. First on a small scale intranet, later on the web.
In practice: graphic design students should be able to critically review their work, put it into context and show that.

All four steps are in direct conflict with 'art based education' and it would require a fair change in any graphic design educational system. As far as I know - please prove me wrong - graphic design students rarely learn to observe, rarely learn how to write and present, rarely learn how to test, and rarely learn how to learn from eachother.


>While we want to see graphic/visual design objects considering needs of 'commissioners/clients/organizations' and 'users/beholders/people/viewers', for students/designers it is more tempting to be protagonist/stars creating their style without consideration of others.

This might be because graphic design is taught through art-based education. This denies students from learning to observe, to write, to test and to learn from eachother.


>Besides, it seems that society rewards better design aesthetics/style than communication/usability.

I disagree. Yes 'aesthetics/style' pays reasonable well, but effective graphic design easily doubles or triples that. But that might also be because there is not much competition at the moment ...

Kind regards,
Karel.
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