Fusing Hand and Hi-Tech for Hi-Touch

Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

Edward Johnston
Assistant Professor
Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

Graphic design academic programs must respond to contemporary society’s relentlessly growing need for digitally designed solutions.  According to the Creative Group’s 2017 Salary Guide, starting salaries will increase this year by more than 5% for visual designers and more than 6% for mobile and UX designers.  This poses a challenge to design educators, whose students necessarily embrace an ever-changing array of technical solutions, which can lead to distraction, stress, and loss of creativity.  Surrounded by multiple devices that inhibit their creative workflow, students are relentlessly tempted to multitask, which can decrease productivity and increase stress, according to recent studies.   “Highly physiologically arousing emotions associated with stress” rouse our instinct “to stay away from excitement and seek comfort instead,” depressing, rather than fostering, creative thinking.

Two ways to provide much-needed relief are drawing and listening to music.  As discussed by Robin Landa in a recent HOW article, “Drawing allows you to disappear into the act of creation,” and “sustained focus while drawing acts to quiet any internal noise.”  Dedicated sketching sessions can enable a designer to focus on growing a concept without the noise of multitasking.  The second, listening to music—especially beloved music—is a proven and well-documented way to relax mind and body, slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormone levels.

Student Marc Rosario has created a mobile app experience (currently at the designed prototyping phase) that aims to combine these two stress-releasing options to increase creativity.  “Sharpen” boosts creativity through drawing, sketching, and listening to music.  Brainstorming an idea within the timeframe of a song, users can take pictures of their process, upload the work to Sharpen or other social media channels, and share or solicit feedback of their work.

This presentation provides a two-pronged approach to this challenge of fostering creativity while responding to industry needs.  It focuses on the curricular value of fusing “hand” skills outside 
of the computer (focused sketching, research, user testing, surveys, written reflections, and 
brand development) with “hi-tech” digital design (brand identity, mobile design, and prototyping).

Also, it explores, through example, the “hi-touch” results of that fusion, using Marc’s app prototyping project, which celebrates hand skills and entices young people to draw and sketch more frequently.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.2: Parsons Integrated Design on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017.

A Selfish Communication

Brian Dougan
Associate Professor of Architecture
American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

From within the hasty pace of academic change, the absence of certain platitudinous expertise in design education together with an emphasis in nascent design technologies has resulted in an unavoidable deficit in terms of how students work. The contemporary attack is often cold, hurried and lackluster. I am impressed by student’s many technological and sociological advantages and their fluencies in calculation and fabrication methods, but disappointed with their abilities to negotiate their own human sensitivities. My default role in most every creative academic endeavor is to teach students how-to-do whatever it is that requires doing. How-to work might be a better way to describe the role or even, how-to communicate – communicate to the immediate community, the professor and most importantly, to themselves. How to speak well about what it is they are trying to say. My role is to teach them that how they say something fundamentally effects what that something is.

I am developing an approach for teaching design students how to be drawers. It is about learning to draw and drawing to learn. In a first year drawing studio, I orchestrated a series of lessons about “seeing” in relation to coordination; a craft based approach emphasizing how one cooperates and coordinates with tools. The lessons are concerned with hand/tool coordination and with hand/eye coordination. I initially rely on blind contour exercises stressing an honest relationship between the seer and the seen. Eventually the seers are liberated from exclusive blindness to varying degrees of judgment. I have been calling this process, ‘the spectrum of judication’. Through the student’s virgin eyes, the poles of the spectrum are in diametrical opposition – immeasurable quality and calculated recognition. The intentionally gradated engagement has produced a generally high quality of product and a rather large collection of seemingly confident young drawers.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.1: Kean University on Saturday, Oct 22, 2016.

Thinking Through The Pencil: The Primacy Of Drawing In The Design Thinking Process

Pattie Belle Hastings
Chair of Interactive Media + Design
School of Communications
Quinnipiac University

The research and ideation phases of the Design Thinking process typically incorporate forms of drawing, which can include thumbnails, sketches, comprehensives, wire frames, mind maps, storyboards, paper prototypes, and collaborative methods. It is from this collection of visualized ideas that a design project moves forward toward implementation. The basic purposes of design drawing can be summarized as generating, visualizing, documenting, collaborating, and analyzing. I’ve broken this down into three main drawing and thinking practices:

  1. thinking of and through ideas

This includes visualizing and recording ideas to externalize and convey the process of thinking. The goal for this kind of drawing is for idea generation and exploration. The best approach is to start with deep research and then freeform brainstorming of ideas on paper in which quantity is pursued in order to reach quality.

  1. thinking to improve ideas

Once the flow of ideas begins to form on the page, the processes of analysis, comparison, iteration, elaboration, reflection, and development can begin. Sometimes generation and analysis occurs simultaneously and sometimes it is successive. Reflection on the drawings reveals relationships, strengths and weaknesses that allow for refinement, reduction, and reiteration.

  1. thinking about ideas with others

Design drawings are often created for the purpose of collaboration, communication, and conversation. They are used to explain ideas to others and to engage discussion around the project or problem. Through their ephemeral nature, design drawings convey an idea that is in process not completion, which invites reflection, responses, criticisms, and alternatives.

This framing of “design drawing,” grounded in ideation, iteration and development, will be the foundation used to gather case studies, best practices, in addition to visual libraries of examples and methods. Another broad and hopeful goal of this research is the creation of a drawing curriculum and handbook for introducing and integrating “design drawing” methods into interaction design programs.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.0: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on Saturday, Sept 24, 2016.