Unforeseen Structures: Chaos, Materials, and Emergent Process

Mitch Goldstein
Assistant Professor
School of Design

Rochester Institute of Technology 

My research focuses on the examination of form and methodology using darkroom photography techniques, specifically the photogram. Photograms use no cameras or lenses — instead, objects are placed on or near unexposed photographic paper and briefly exposed to light. This process results in abstract black and white compositions, which emerge unpredictably from the physical materials used in their creation. Control is relinquished, and instead intuition and chance allow form and structure to develop from the process.

This work closely parallels my visual design practice working in publication design, as well as my applied pedagogy teaching art and design students. My talk focuses on three concepts that this research explores: how to work with chaos and unpredictability, the usage and synthesis of materials and methods, and the exploitation of emergent process. My photogram work, my publication design work, and some of my classroom projects will be shown as examples of these ideas and how they manifest across different contexts.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.0: SUNY New Paltz on September 9, 2017.

Two Implications of Action-Centric Interaction Design

Ian Bellomy
Assistant Professor Communication Design
Myron E. Ullman, Jr. School of Design
University of Cincinnati

This presentation covers two implications for visual communication design education that stem from an action-centric view of screen-based interaction design. Brief excerpts of two student projects will be presented in support of the main theoretical argument. The premise, which will be taken for granted here, is that interaction can be accurately described in terms of action on malleable form. It follows from this that visual designers are well served by approaching screen based interaction design through the lens of information navigation, and that instructors can effectively constrain specific projects through action related variables.

The design of malleable screen form is predicated on basic human needs and entails unique but reoccurring communication design challenges. First, malleable form is not just an opportunity, it is a technical and human necessity—because digital devices can carry more information than they can display at once, their forms must be malleable. This also applies to screen-based control surfaces (e.g. a car dashboard) that have more functions than fit into a given rectangle. Second, malleable form entails the need to communicate the form’s malleability; as all screen form is malleable in some way, this communication need, or information navigation design problem, is very common. This makes it an appropriate foundation for studying interactivity in a visual design curriculum.

The action centric perspective also clarifies opportunities for defining project level constraints. An instructor can limit the kinds of forms allowed (type, photo, graphics, etc.), their capacity for transformation, and the kinds of input that affect these changes (clicks, swipes, drags, etc.). Such constraints can guide students into novel situations requiring thoughtful problem solving as opposed to interface convention regurgitation. Constraints can also be tailored to fit different prototyping technologies so that students can explore the limits of their materials while simultaneously engaging in human-centered problem solving.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Teaching Design in the Age of Convergence

Robin Landa  
Distinguished Professor
Michael Graves College, Kean University  

To help people master Canon’s capabilities, 360i in partnership with Canon “set out to create a classroom experience in the field.” With Canon Photo Coach, 360i helped photo enthusiasts take the kind of photos they hoped for. 360i “used social listening to find New York City’s most photographed areas and then placed billboards right where people were taking those photos.” They created smart billboards—digital screens and trucks equipped with giant monitors that tapped into API data such as light, weather, time, traffic, location and events—giving real-time tips to photographers right when they needed them. This solution is neither conventional advertising nor graphic design.

Interactive public screens. Mobile design. Social media design. Environmental experiences. From any consumer’s point of view, brand experiences have been converging. However some design courses remain in pre-digital era silos.

Moira Cullen, Coca-Cola’s former design director, once said our profession could no longer tolerate thinking in silos. Yet we’re still divided in departments, in the classroom, and in our own brains. Contemporary visual communication problems demand new types of pedagogy.

To effectively address dealing with this convergence, I have been abolishing graphic design and advertising categories (and some conventions) in the classroom. Getting my students to think of visual communication as value-added experiences is my approach. I do this by asking students to consider the following questions when critiquing their own concepts.

  • What benefit does your concept offer people?
  • Is there any social good you can promote while promoting a brand?
  • Can a design or advertising solution be in the form of entertainment, a product, service, or utility?

As a result, my students have secured coveted internships and jobs with New York City agencies and studios. It’s time to embrace integrated ways to teach in the age of convergence.

 

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

How Hard Is It To Navigate A Rectangle? Harder Than You Think

Neil Ward
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Drake University

Wayfinding and signage are important pieces of a buildings structure and interior space, especially on college/university campuses. They provide a visual blueprint that informs students, administrators, faculty, and public visitors where they are and attempts to direct them to classrooms, galleries, labs, performance spaces, and offices. When the signage is missing, incomplete, or inconsistent, all who enter the space are left confused and quite possibly frustrated as they wander around. A missing/poor wayfinding system can intensify these feelings when an individual is mobility challenged and unable to use the stairs. Especially when the building in question is rectangular in shape.

This is a particular problem senior level graphic design students encountered during a Research and Application class in the Fall semester of 2016. Using photo ethnography, observational research, and visual anthropology, students learned and observed how and why visitors entered, moved through, and exited the Fine Arts Building (A building that is rectangular in shape). Based on their findings, students designed a wayfinding system for the building that heavily considered those who are mobility challenged.

An individual (we will call her Jane) from the Office of Student Disabilities, who is mobility challenged, volunteered to test the wayfinding systems. During the user test, dialogue ensued between both parties about what was missing, what could be done better, and what to think about for future iterations. Upon debriefing, students passionately discussed their systems and the building as a whole through Jane’s point of view. Experiencing movement through the building with Jane they unanimously decided the current systems are unacceptable for a campus deemed accessible. Furthermore, they were inspired by Jane’s encouragement and the notion of how their wayfinding could continually and positively impact a large audience.

“How hard is it to navigate a rectangle? Harder than you think” will feature project visuals, the unexpected drive to design for social good, and the issue of accessibility to inspire empathy through wayfinding.

 

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