Place Into Words: An Unconventional Approach To Communicating The Story of Human Space Flight

Alan Walker
MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Alex Catanese
MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Jordan Kauffman
MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Many of us have experienced moments where we can’t help but stop. We slow down to take in our surroundings; the single sliver of orange hanging onto the end of a sunset, or the subtle shift in colors on a lush rolling countryside. It’s hard to describe or identify why these locations express beauty, but they move us all the same. Place Into Words challenges viewers to imagine Mars, a planet often characterized as desolate and barren, as beautiful terrain. One day future generations may know nothing other than Mars’s vast canyons or sheer volcanos. Could a distant planet offer their most beautiful place?

Place Into Words was originally produced as a part of Kent State University’s School of Visual Communication Design MFA exhi bit, inspired by NASA’s O rion program, titled Survey’s: A Design Exhibition Immersed In The Journey Between Earth and Mars. The exhibit was backed by a semester long research process of secondary and primary methods, including interviews with NASA personnel and a visit to The Glenn Research Center.

Visitors to the exhibit were met with a 20ft projection collaging archival NASA footage and landscape photography of Earth and Mars, combined with documentary style audio of ordinary people’s responses to what they consider their most beautiful place. Visitors were also encouraged to participate by typing a response into the projection display. The installation created a distinct space in hopes to provoke and stir a sense of curiosity and wonder surrounding space travel.

This presentation will include insights gained through the process of research and creation. In addition, designers will present the companion Place Into Words online interface and screen a preview of the video component. Attendees will gain a broader understanding of how speculative design might be applied to experimental installations.

Link To Video/Live Site:
http://weareletters.co/mars/

Critical Practices as Design Scholarship: Strategies and Opportunities

Jessica Barness
Assistant Professor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Steven McCarthy
Professor
College of Design
University of Minnesota

Conventional academic scholarship typically involves publishing one’s research findings in journals and books, or in the arts, performing or exhibiting creative work. Design straddles these worlds and adds its own cultural norms, such as industry competitions that seek the commercial work of professional practitioners, or the fine arts tradition with its emphasis on gallery shows. Design scholarship, whether written or visual, does not always fit these models: How might design faculty approach the dissemination of creative work that is neither client-based nor fine art?

Over the past decade, another path to knowledge formation and scholarly productivity has emerged: critical making. Involving a speculative approach to design (experimental, future-oriented, expressive), critical making combines an authorial point-of-view with the tangible aspects of media, technology, materials and process. Critical making is experiential and uses design to create knowledge across disciplines.

Through critical making, some design faculty have found diverse scholarly venues to share their creative and intellectual work. These dissemination venues often take their cues from other disciplinary cultures like the humanities, the arts, science, engineering and business, and can include publications, exhibitions, performances, and conferences. These venues can be an advantage to design scholars as they are already generally recognized and legitimized by academic culture. However, faculty may not fully understand the opportunities for an enhanced, rigorous approach to scholarship – a strategic integration of making and writing – that moves beyond industry practice and fine arts traditions yet remains distinctly relevant to the design discipline.

Considerations of this presentation will include faculty effort, the scholarly product, the selection process, dissemination venues, scope (local, regional, national, international), and the resulting impact. The challenges in assessing interdisciplinary work and the roles in collaborative projects will be discussed, as will the implications for tenure and promotion.