How is curriculum anticipating emerging practices?
This panel I found very interesting in terms of seeing which other programs are on the cutting edge of new formations of designing. The institutions highlighted: Art Center College of Design, Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, and USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy are really defining not so much new practices of design, but new forms of design + X hybrids. The fact that these are hybrids is very important. One of the slippages that kept happening in the conference was this celebration that designers can do writing, designers can do business strategy, designers can do anthropology, etc. Going back to Jen’s presentation, I kept wanting to say that designers can do X better with the help of people who have been doing X for the last 150 years. Who is your professional competitive set?
Presenter 1 and moderator: Anne Burdick, Art Center College of Design
Anne opens by addressing the themes of designing since AIGA 2003 Power of Design. Namely that design is not what it used to be because of social and technological changes. She states, “Designers need to be cognitive theorists, engineers, and MBAs.”
Again, my perspective is that designers need to be able to work with these others and gain an understanding and appreciation for their skills. If you become an MBA, then perhaps you are no longer a designer, but rather an MBA or a Desbiz hybrid.
To be fair, later in the talk Anne does say that there are no illusions that designers can do it all and they have to work with collaborators in other fields.
What was cool is her descriptions of the hybridized practices that the ACC graduate students are the leading with:
- Design cinema, being more than motion graphics.
- Design archaeology, use of archaeological methods to study contemporary artifact culture
- Mediatecture, the intersections of media and architecture
- Strange design, science fiction and design
- Speculative design
- Experiential prototyping
- Blank devices
- Open interfaces
- Life-sized design in support of human-sized interactions.
Even more impressive is that the student’s employers created new positions to accommodate the student’s unusual expertise.
Anne ends her talk with a set of questions, “What is design’s expertise? Where is work positioned in wider context?” She calls for Design to get Meta. She emphasizes how “Designers are knowledge makers and strategic thinkers.”
What I have always wondered in a design-as-universal-practice sense is whether the characterizations of design thinking are unique to designers or designing at all. Meaning, I am not a trained designer. Yet I can creatively frame and solve problems using tools of verbal communication as well as visualization. And have always done so, like other engineers, MBAs, and anthropologists I have known.
Before getting to the nuts and bolts of the program, she describes how “Design is propositional. What happens if designers are the change agents?” Her response is that design needs to call upon mixtures of theories, approaches, and expertise to be able to fufil those roles.
Nuts and bolts of the graduate design program at Art Center College of Design:
- Accepts 12 students per year.
- Students choose 2 design faculty members on their thesis teams and an additional 3 interdisciplinary members
- It works because they are able to draw from LA innovators
Presenter 2: Chris Vice, Herron School of Art and Design.
I used to take weekend art classes at Herron School for the Arts when I was in grade school and junior high, so I have a soft spot for the Indianapolis-based school.
Serving in a similar mode of ID at IIT or Parson’s Design Management at the undergraduate level, Herron has an MFA program in Design Leadership as part of its Visual Communications degree.
Chris describes that the emphasis of the program is on design thinking and design leadership. He defines leadership not as “positional leadership” about people being in charge, but rather relational leadership.
He uses what I have heard from Ric Grefé’s the definition of the experience design as “Designing across form, content, context, and time.”
Again what I find interesting is that the definitive work of an anthropologist is to understand and communicate meaning across contexts (cross-cultural comparison) and time (evolutionary approach). This again is part of the Yin Yang of anthropology and design as the both converge in the realm of meaning.
He describes the evolution of designing from the focus on artifacts to the position of leadership to engage problems and solutions. So Design 1.0 is craft and artifacts. Design 2.0 is akin to Herb Simon’s definition of design as problem solving as noted by Nigel Cross and his discussions of planning and framing. Design 3.0 is designing in the position of leadership to sit at the table and frame the agendas that affect culture and society. This is the table that everyone wants to be at. This is the table anthropology used to be at until the 1940s, and now wants to return to again.
Chris then shifts his discussion to one of citizenship as form of leadership. He cites Harry Boyte’s book Everyday Politics, which is one of the core texts I am using to frame design and governmentality. Actually, Chris and I have very similar reading lists.
He proposes that design’s role in the development of civic skills relates to its ability to enable collective decision-making, critical thinking, and broad and clear communication.
This leads Chris to ask, “What are boundaries of design? All students work across disciplines to define problems and solutions.”
The actual structure of the program is that the first year is spent mastering design thinking skills. S1 supports research skills, S2 emphasize synthesis, S3 focuses on design optimization, and S4 on design implementation.
For Chris, the example of design thinking and design leadership is Design for Democracy. It is strange how UIC does not get as much attention for being the model for new engagements of design thinking. The organization and the individuals get recognized, but not the institution. We definitely need better PR.
Presenter 3: Holly Willis, USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy
This program I found fascinating as well and wish I could expose the EV students to more. It seems to have started with a lunch of tuna fish sandwiches about 10 years ago between George Lucas and a Dean or President at UIC. The idea was that people don’t need just textual literacy but multimedia literacy as well. The approach was to create an Institute for Multimedia Literacy.
Holly starts by showing us a project from one of the students in the program. It used typography, sound, and moving image to convey the meaning of an Asian poem. It was a perfect example of how this is not your grandmother’s visual communication.
Holly addresses the uniqueness of the program from a critical studies and rhetoric perspective. The institute does not start from text or communications, but rather with cinema. Students do not produce textual interpretations or critiques. They only produce multimedia projects.
The program has expanded into part of the general education, where students have to make an argument using video, 3D graphics, as well as text and images. This would be great for the interactive media undergrads at UIC.
Holly rhapsodizes about the work. Its about “Pieces of moving image that situated on the web… the immediacy of the stream.” She talks about students engaging with delicious, Furl, Wikis, and Second Life. She describes how they introduce to the academy the idea of collective intelligence and networked scholarship. She states, “We cannot find names for what they do. There is no perfect term for multimedia scholarship. It borrows from many genres from rhetoric to music videos.” She waxes, “We create obstructions, but it’s computational work. Algorhythmic. Remix. Open source pedagogy.” What clearly is the shift in the Institute is that as she says, “Education less about hierarchy and more collaborative.”
This again is my experience of teaching students at UIC. They are my co-participants in the journey of learning, not my students. Perhaps that is the case with all emerging practices.