Tell ThemA graphic design thesis devoted to the theory, execution and enjoyment of design education.
Click here to read/hide an excerpt from my master's thesis
:: Excerpt from thesis ::
As an educator, you “must reconsider what it means to be a ‘professional’ and what we define as ‘professional education’”(Heller). Defining what this means to a design curriculum as well as the professional world will lay the path for what shall be learned while obtaining your ?bachelors degree in design. I’ve narrowed down my ?subject matter to the business of art and design, so now I need to figure out how I can implement a short workshop into a classroom, and still receive strong results. I started with a few guidelines; first, the workshop must show intrinsic value to the student. A very reliable and fail-safe method of receiving full engagement in a subject from a student is for them to feel that there is a personal benefit for doing so. If the student feels like they will never use what they’re trying to be taught ever again, their level of engagement will drop dramatically. Secondly, I really wanted the workshop to be something which was enjoyable to use as well as something that could help a student out in a real office environment. Lastly, I believe that “A very simple process can actually generate very complex products”(Cross) and this is what I used for the underpinning theme of the entire workshop. Using clean, understated and enjoyable design ideas to produce elaborate and positive results.
The workshop I decided to create aids a student, or even a practicing professional, in communicating his/her work with a client. As stated by Adrian Shaughnessy, “The way designers present ideas is as important as the ideas themselves.” Being able to talk clearly and coherently is a very important skill to have when pitching ideas to a client. Designers of all sorts tend to talk about their work while using the vernacular of the field. If the person you’re talking to isn’t very accustomed to or involved in the field, there may be a disconnect between what you’re trying to portray and what may be understood. “The goal is to talk about your work...in a coherent, convincing and objective way, without resorting to the language and idioms that you’d use with other designers. And since communication is a two-way street, it is also about listening”(Shaughnessy). Having a connection with your client is extremely important. It can have lasting effects on the project, and even on future projects with that client. We as designers have an obligation to the client to produce something that we believe solves the client’s problem. If we as designers don’t believe in the work, then our clients have no reason to believe in us. “The only way to do genuinely good work is for designer and client to form a partnership and explore all angles together in a mutually trusting and open way”(Shaughnessy).
Intended to be one of the missing links between the classroom and the office, the workshop is something that tries to give the student an edge, as well as insight, into the working professional world of graphic design. Art and design schools today are doing their best in preparing the students for the working world, however with the list of topics and subjects to cover in a course growing exponentially, it is only natural that some are left out. Steven Heller says that, “Once in specialized graphic design courses, most schools immediately focus students on applied projects that stimulate or imitate professional practice—a modern version of the apprentice system”(Heller). Interning at a company or small design shop is a great alternative to classroom teaching for many reasons. The student receives the exact office experience one would receive after graduation; it gives the student an insight into the everyday activities of that profession, and ideally lets them decide for themselves, without the implication of financial problems, if the path they’ve chosen is one that they’re passionate about. They also have the ability to converse directly, or indirectly, with clients and learn from those interactions. It gives them the opportunity to gain valuable experience and skills that they would have otherwise not have had until after graduation. Referring back to the amount of information needing to be covered in a single curriculum, adding an internship to the list proves another concern. The student’s education is now compromised based on the curriculum of the degree and the student either attends an internship and misses valuable classroom time, or they go without an internship and miss out on the vital experiences that can be had in the professional field. These problems have been subdued by programs like work-study which allows the students to do both, however I would like to solve this problem by implementing short, specific workshops into the curriculum.
As a series, these workshops are designed to encourage deep learning throughout all of the phases. The first workshop, Tell Them “Client Presentation”, is designed for “students (to) work collaboratively and in dialogue with others, both peers and teachers. Good dialogue elicits those activities that shape, elaborate, and deepen understanding”(Biggs). The idea is not to bombard and fill the student with copious amounts of information through lecture or presentation, but to rely on the interaction between students, as well as the teacher, underpinned by the guidelines of the workshop itself, resulting in a deeper, more enjoyable learning experience. Different techniques can be used to achieve a deeper learning outcome, but the the most important is the avoidance of any technique that can lend itself easily to surface approaches, like memorization. There are methods to encourage students to reach a deeper sense of learning and it starts with a statement I mentioned previous; “it must be important; it must have some value to the learner”(Biggs). The student must feel that after completing the workshop, they leave with knowledge that they deem to be of importance. It’s the brain’s selfish way of determining whether or not to engage fully in a required task. Secondly, the student must also “expect success when engaging (in) the learning task”(Biggs). If the task at hand seems too difficult, or there is minimal encouragement from the teacher, the odds of the student fully committing in the exercise becomes very low.