Design Bravery: Managing Fear and Facilitating Development through Collaboration

Lisa J. Maione, Art Director / Designer

Adjunct Lecturer, Queens College CUNY
Part-time Lecturer, Parsons The New School for Design

Finding one’s voice as a designer is a continuous process which calls upon our inner confidence. We hone a specific type of confidence — a ‘design bravery’ — that comes in many forms, at all scales, and with practice. At Queens College, Graphic Design 1 is the first course where we explore form, material, meaning, and context in 2D design. Even from early on in the semester, voice is practiced, challenged, and strengthened. With various rolls of colored of painter’s tape, the students in the class are asked, “As a collaborative group, design and produce the most interesting line connecting Point A and Point B.” Points A and B are marked as X’s on two far points. The students have made lines in classrooms, hallways, an outdoor sitting area, staircases, and a stretch of high-traffic hallway connecting two buildings. There are very few rules: “Nothing should inhibit anyone’s safe passing through the space; Everything must be within reach to be removed; Respect school property.” Armed with blue, pink, green, and yellow tape as their tools, the class begins to negotiate. Who begins? Where does the first mark go? Is there a unifying theme? Before long, an expansive, collaborative, visual vocabulary is built. Along the line, the students encounter texture, color, typography, overlap, transparency, contrast, movement, rhythm, time. As the group is working, a curious passerby asks a question; a student explains what they are doing. The line is interactive and public, both in-process and at its end. Without fail, every “basic design principle” naturally emerges from the line and is ripe for discussion. The line shows us that graphic design does is indeed not specialized nor unfamiliar. Graphic strategies rise up when we create the simplest gesture with a basic tool. From here, our semester adventure is able to begin.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 1.0: Inaugural Event at AIGA on Thursday, June 5, 2014.