Monday, March 31, 2008

Design Issues Group

The Design Issues Group of the National Art Education Association recently had its name changed from the Built Environment Issues Group by the approval of the NAEA Board. Robin Vande Zande from Kent State is currently the Chair of DIG. We held a business meeting and several members had sessions on aspects of design education at the National Art Education Association annual convention in New Orleans in March.

Several proposals being considered by the Design Issues Group include:
1. Writing a Curriculum Guide for Design Education
2. Advocating for Design Education to legislators at the state and national level
3. Submitting a proposal for a name change from NAEA to NADEA - National Art and Design Education Association
4. Increasing new membership in NAEA by 50% by attracting more design educators
5. Having "DESIGN THINKING" be a theme for an upcoming NAEA Convention
6. Holding a Summer DIG meeting
7. Setting up a web presence on the website of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
8. Creating a Design Education newsletter/magazine - perhaps electronically
9. Planning for the NAEA conferences in Minneapolis (2009) and Washington D.C. (2010)
10. Working with other NAEA groups like Higher Ed and the Electronic Media Issues Group (EMIG).
11. Getting financial and promotional support for design education from design businesses and professional organizations
12. Contributing to the special design issues of SchoolArts magazine

What ideas do you have and how can you help?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

5 Basic Skills - Reading, Writing, Computing, Designing and Making

Reading, writing and mathematics are the most recent of the skills developed by humans so words and numbers have become the gold standard for basic tools in schools to the detriment of skills with tools like images, objects, places, movement and sounds which have much longer traditions in human development. We are now learning that the older skills are the most difficult for machines to learn and that reading, writing and mathematics are relatively easily done by machines. Schools emphasize skills that are better done by machines. Computers can do mathematical calculations and edit text much more quickly and accurately than most people but they have a hard time recognizing a familiar face or moving around a room. Computers can beat the best chess players in the world but they have a hard time finding an object and picking it up.

Look at any school's list of basic skills and see if there is anything that sounds like "Designing" or "Making" as basic skills. Schools are having a hard time showing relevance to the outside world because they favor reading and writing about things rather than making things or doing anything with them.

For schools to be relevant to the real world and America to survive in the global economy the list of basic skills for education should look something like:

5 Basic Skills: Reading, Writing, Computing, Designing, and Making

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Visual Communication - More Than Art

Students are being deprived of a complete education because many art teachers, students, parents, community members and administrators have been told that the goal of art education is "self-fulfillment and personal, creative self-expression". The effect of this limited view would be the same as if they thought the only purpose for learning to read and write is to read poetry and classical literature. If Reading and English teachers didn't acknowledge that words were one of the ways to learn, think and communicate about everything, their subject area wouldn't be one of only two subject areas consistently taught and tested in schools. They have done such a good job of promoting English and mathematics that people now believe that words and numbers are the ONLY important ways to learn about the world. Even many art teachers believe that reading and writing are more important than seeing and making.

"Art", which I believe is better served by being referred to as something broader like "Visual Learning", just like reading and mathematics, has four main applications. Visualization is the common core and aesthetics is only a component. Visualization helps us learn, think, and communicate with images, objects, places and experiences for the purposes of:

Exploration - Fine Art is an important way people explore who they are and what it means to be human. Here we explore who we are as individuals situated in our time and place. For Visual Educators this is comparable to poetry and great literature in English and Reading - not a funding priority and not required or tested in schools. As important as the arts are to making us fully human and providing venues for self-fulfillment and personal expression, when funding and time are considerations in schools, these are the areas that are the first to be cut.

Enculturation - Visual Culture includes all the festivals, folk arts, crafts, holidays, popular culture, mass media, traditions, rituals and vernacular items that make us part of cultural groups. Here we explore who we are as members of cultural groups and learn to be better citizens in our communities. For Visual Educators this is comparable to Social Studies and popular literature in English classes. As important as this area is, this still only puts Visual Learning on a par with Social Studies which is the least valued of the four traditional "core" subjects.

Application - Design is a term we could apply to visualization and innovation applied to making everyday experiences better for everyone. This purpose is closer to why science, reading and mathematics are required subjects in school. Images, objects, places and experiences, like words and numbers, have useful applications for learning, thinking, doing, understanding, making, and communicating about everything in the world. This puts us on a par with Science, which is traditionally the third most valuable of the four core subjects. As important as the area of application is, even Science is not yet regularly tested in schools.

Communication - Visual Communication skill development is the fundamental reason we have schools. Right now people believe that words and numbers are the most important ways we communicate important ideas in the world. We have failed to impress on people how images, objects, places and experiences are also important tools for learning, thinking, and communicating important ideas rather than only tools for self-exploration and self-expression. By emphasizing Visual Communication we can help people see that learning with our eyes, hands, and bodies through images, objects, places and experiences is as important as learning with words and numbers. Understanding the basic, fundamental value of making and using images, objects, places and experiences would put us on a par with reading and mathematics in schools. Basic communication is the only area of education in schools that is never cut when budgets and time are constricted.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest Issue of Journal of Media Literacy

What are the new conceptual tools for understanding the revolutionary changes occurring in the 21st Century?

Find out in
The New Literacy Renaissance:
Media Convergence and the Collective Community

Volume 54, Nos. 2&3 Winter 2007

Guest Editor, Dr. Martin Rayala looks at media literacy in the post-human universe, how new tools of technology allow people to leap into imaginary, virtual worlds of their own making, holding the potential and the power to transform the real world. In this issue, Rayala has pulled together some of today’s most advanced thinkers who can help us work through this new virtual world.

• Henry Jenkins and Alice Robison demonstrate how MIT’s New Media Literacy Project responds to today’s teen participatory culture.

• Eric Zimmerman, co-founder and Chief Design Officer of GameLab, proposes that game design is a paradigm for understanding the skills and competencies of what it means to be literate in the coming century.

• Aufderheide, Jaszi, and Hobbs are developing a model for fair use and intellectual property rights to clarify the role of media literacy educators in this new participatory culture.

• Rafi Santos, of Global Kids, shares best practices on how to use virtual environments like Second Life in educational settings and prepare students for a media saturated world.

• Also in this issue: articles on the world of fandom by Cynthia Walker, place-based augmented reality games in the classroom by Jim Mathews, media literacy in the digital age by Julie Frechette, an interview with Games, Learning & Society Conference Chair, Constance Steinkuehler, a review of Idit Harel Caperton and Worldwide Workshop Foundation’s new Globaloria program, and book reviews by Frank Baker and Barry Duncan.

The Journal of Media Literacy is available by subscription/member benefit. Individual copies may be ordered @ U.S.$20.00, postage included in the US. For destinations outside the U.S. , additional postage is required.

For more information, email

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

National K-12 Design Education Curriculum

Many people and groups believe we are reaching the critical mass where it is time to write a National Curriculum for K-12 Design Education. We are looking for people and organizations who would like to be part of that effort.

Let me know at what you think should be included and what area you feel you would like to work on - grade level, design area, history, production, criticism, aesthetics, design literacy, etc. It would be great to compile a completed draft for review by next year's NAEA national conference in Minneapolis.

I don't see this as an NAEA effort by art teachers alone but would include other participants such as the National Design Museum, National Building Museum, A+DEN, AIGA, AIA, AAF, IDSA, ITEA, ISTE, etc., etc. You can see from the long list below that there is plenty of room for lots of contributers. For example - who can provide input for the appropriate introduction of design education at the Pre-K level? What would fashion design education look like at the Elementary Level? What should middle schools students know about the history of design? What should high school students know and be able to do in design before they graduate?

The general conceptual framework might be something like:

Design Thinking - Integrating design-thinking across the curriculum (Here we might invite people from other disciplines - English, computer science, technology education, business education, etc.)

Articulating design education at Pre-K, Elementary, Middle and High School levels.

Approaching design education from the point of view of Design Production, History, Theory, Criticism and Literacy.

Information Design - graphic design production, print and web design, digital video and animation, history of graphic design, graphic design literacy, media literacy and critical thinking (Here we might invite people from other subject areas who teach graphic design).

Object Design - product design, industrial design (transportation, fashion, furniture, appliances, lighting, etc.), history of product design, product design literacy, material science, recycling. (Here we might invite people from technology education, etc. to contribute.)

Space and Place Design - architecture, landscape design, urban planning, interior design, exhibit and set design, school design, history of space and place design, critical theory in design of spaces and places. (Here we might invite architects, urban planners, etc. to contribute.)

Experience Design- interactive design, user-friendly design, participatory design, toys, video games, theme parks, children's museums, sustainability, eco-design, Universal design, etc. (Here we might invite people from a variety of disciplines and organizations to contribute.)

History of Design - Paul Rand, Raymond Loewy, Frederick Law Olmsted, Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid, Denise Scott Brown - who would be on your list of must-know designers who shaped design in America and the world? Who are influential designers among women, minorities, other cultures, etc.? What are some icons and exemplars of design with which everyone should be familiar - the Aeron chair, FallingWater, IBM logo, Helvetica, etc.?

Design Literacy - What should students know about media literacy, advertising design, sustainability, environmental concerns, social justice and equity, Universal Design, Design for the Real World, Design for the Other 90%, etc.

Evaluating Design - Improving evaluation methods such as portfolios, exhibition, demonstration, presentation, etc. What evaluation methods do designers use and how can those be adapted for K-12 assessments?

If you, or someone you know, can contribute to one or more of these topics (and suggest other topics and ideas) let me know at

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Design Destination Schools

Design Destination Schools are places where teachers love to work and students love to learn. They are rigorous, innovative, collaborative, dynamic, playful and fun. They are schools so physically and educationally inviting that people go out of their way to visit them and students find them more interesting than other alternatives for spending their time during the day. Design Destination Schools are a combination of K-12 Learning Centers, Professional Development Centers, Research Centers and Destinations for Public Engagement.

They are Constructivist Schools where students create meaning through the work they do and their interactions with each other. 

They are Project-Based Learning Schools where students do real-life hands-on work that is meaningful, relevant and authentic to the environment in which they would be used. 

They are Problem-Based Learning Schools were the learners' intellectual and practical goals are central in choosing what is learned. 

They are Design-Thinking Schools where students learn and apply the methods of creative and innovative problem-solving.

They are Interactive Learning Environments that appear to be more like children's museums and exploration laboratories. The school looks quite a bit like a museum with interactive exhibits throughout.

They are Collaborative Community Spaces where volunteers from businesses and the community come in to donate an hour here and there to provide students special adult attention.

They are rigorous and high achieving. Students are amazed that they learn more than they thought they could learn and enjoy working harder than they ever thought they could without even noticing.

They are School 2.0 Centers where students and teachers use technology in meaningful and appropriate ways to connect to the world. Students and teachers use social networking, distance learning, and media-oriented communication styles. A class presentation might also be a live TV or Internet broadcast being viewed by a class somewhere else in the world or being taped for distribution on YouTube.

They are Transparent Schools in which the classes, curriculum, assessments, management, and other operations of the school are visible and open to all. The principal's office door is open so teachers and students feel comfortable just hanging out there on occasion.

They are cost-effective schools because there is less vandalism, absenteeism, apathy, and remediation because of a higher level of student motivation and engagement causing students and teachers to have more ownership in their learning and environment. There are fewer expensive middle-management staff because of reduced disciplinary needs and fewer costly intervention programs, and an increase in volunteerism and fiscal support from businesses.

They have flattened hierarchies were ideas and decisions do not necessarily flow in a top-down direction but good ideas come from anyone in the school and decisions are made collectively. 

They are design centers where images, objects, and spaces are used to communicate information and ideas and to stimulate the imagination. They look a bit like a theme park, a TV studio or movie set - semi-permanent and flexible.

They have flattened hierarchies were ideas and decisions do not necessarily flow in a top-down direction but good ideas come from anyone in the school and decisions are made collectively. 

They are design centers where images, objects, and spaces are used to communicate information and ideas and to stimulate the imagination. They look a bit like a theme park, a TV studio or movie set - semi-permanent and flexible.

They are empowerment schools where the teachers and students feel they are responsible for the school and part "owners" because they aren't treated like "renters" just passing through.

Students work in collaborative groups, are actively engaged and free to move about, have some measure of learner choice and voice in curriculum, and engaged in high-interest activities that are based in personal relevance and autonomy. Design Destination Schools have high standards and expectations that use contextualized alternative assessments such as portfolios, projects, demonstrations, presentations, exhibits and assessment rubrics.

Design Destination Schools also provide job-embedded professional development for teachers that encourages collaboration with colleagues and self-reflection that helps them develop their practical skills and supports teacher learning. Teachers create the kind of environments where they and their students love to be.

Design Destination Schools are located in existing structures, new facilities, or remodeled buildings but they look more like interactive learning labs much like children's museums and innovation centers more than traditional schools. In Design Destination Schools the buildings, rooms and halls are part of the teaching methods and learning environment. Many parts of the school double as sets for TV and film interviews and productions.

Design Destination Schools are public destinations where community members, researchers, and educators from around the world travel to see innovative practices and rigorous, high-expectation learning in action.

Design Destination Schools are research centers where new knowledge and methods of learning are created. Students and teachers are creating new ideas and new ways to learn - educational videos, educational toys, games, publications, blogs, websites, and interactive exhibits.

Five Ways We Learn

Inheritance - Almost half (40%) of who we are is guided by our genetic inheritance. That genetic inheritance is over 99% the same as that of the chimpanzees, but that 1% change makes a huge difference. Among the approximately 23,000 genes found in human DNA, scientists currently estimate that there may be as few as 50 to 100 that have no counterparts in other species. Steven Pinker, for example, in "The Language Instinct" says that our ability to learn language is an inherited trait shared only by humans.
Once thought to be a fixed characteristic, science is now developing ways in which we can manipulate and make choices about our inheritance.

Accretion - Most of the rest of who we are (40%) is determined by acculturation and maturation - the stuff that happens to us just by growing up in a particular time and place - experience and the school of hard knocks. Variations in acculturation can be influenced by socio-economic factors, birth order, physical attractiveness, size, ethnicity, gender, etc. The process of accretion is so subtle that we often deny that we are shaped by the media, fashions, behaviors, morals, etc. of our peers and culture. Forgetting or being unaware of the learning that takes place everyday is called "cognitive agnosia". Cognitive Agnosia is the tendency for the brain to not know or remember when or how it learned something and therefore assume it knew it all along. Once something is in the brain circuits it seems like "common sense" rather than something learned (even if it is wrong)..

Acquisition - Another roughly 9% of who we are is the result of our own efforts when we set out to explore or learn something new. We acquire new ideas and knowledge by forcing ourselves to travel, explore the unknown, take on new jobs, read on our own, conduct research, etc. The is sometimes what we call Free Will. Because of cognitive agnosia many people over-estimate the degree to which they are who they are due to acquisition through free will. There are many people who benefit from social and cultural good fortune, schooling, life experiences provided by their families and social status who are nonetheless convinced they are "self-made".
The internet search engines, wikipedia and other digital information sources are tipping the balance toward acquisition over transmission as ways people get new information.

Transmission - We set up methods to systematically pass on knowledge to the next generation through formal systems of schooling, apprenticeships, training, parenting, etc. These efforts to transmit our culture and knowledge make up about 9% of who we are. While it seems like we go to school forever, over our lifetimes we spend proportionally little time in formal education settings. Considering this small influence, schools are often unfairly criticized for not having more of an impact on students. Schools are developing strategies to utilize other forms of learning like acquisition (project-based learning) and accretion (field trips, media literacy) to maximize the minimal time and effectiveness of transmission learning.

Emergence - There is about 2% of who we are that is not taught to us or gained through experience or enculturation but emerges out of the combination of our unique experiences, abilities, and interests. We generate new ideas and knowledge, sometimes by accident, sometimes by creative effort, but each of us can make a small contribution to the existing storehouse of knowledge and ideas. Edison said creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. That 1 (or 2)% may be the most important and is the goal of design education.

Seven Singularities

A Singularity is one of a kind - the occurrence of something that did not exist before. Seven singularities have occurred so far. Each singularity has spawned several knowledge disciplines that are the basis for the content of education - physics, biology, psychology, history and social studies, technology, computer science, and information theory.

1. The Universe - the universe was created around 13.73 billion years ago with what may have been a "Big Bang".
2. Our Solar System - our solar system formed some 4.59 billion years ago and our planet Earth formed shortly after at about 4.45 billion years ago.
3. Life - Solar systems formed for billions of years and then the first life formed on planet Earth about 3.8 million years ago.
4. Consciousness - our ancestors began developing modern conscious prefrontal cortexes during the Stone Age some 100,000 years ago.
5. Civilizaton - our ancestors learned to form communities and manage agriculture and live stock only about 10,000-6,000 years ago.
6. Technology - the effects of the technology revolution are coming into full bloom now but started only about 300 years ago with the Industrial Revolution from around 1750-1850.
7. Information - the Information Age, with the Internet and digital communication processing billions of bits of information, is forming right now and is only a few decades old generally identified as beginning around 1975 even though Claude Shannon, considered to be the father of the Information Age, laid the groundwork in his 1937 Master's thesis. 

We are lucky to be alive during the most exciting time in the history of humanity. There are more exciting discoveries in physics, genetics, nanotechnology, medicine, artificial intelligence, and many other fields happening right now than have ever occurred in history.

Bug List and Wow List

Noticing good design when you see it and noticing when there is a need for something to be designed better are the starting points for becoming a design thinker.

Start a "Bug List" for things that annoy you, don't work, or are poorly designed.
  • David Kelley from IDEO says that drink and snack machines that dispense the product at the level of your ankles is a good clue for the need for better design. Will vending machines be redesigned or will they be replaced by some other technology? What will it be?
  • In the future we won't walk or drive around holding a cell phone to our ears with our hands. Will cell phones be embedded in our clothing or bodies or will they become like elaborate jewelry that we wear for adornment as well as function?
  • How much time and aggravation do we endure searching for keys to everything? Some cars already have keyless entry and starting. What is the next step in security design?
Start a "Wow List" of things that are so well designed they just make you happy.
  • Apple seems to produce consistently good design and the iPhone is another example. Everyone is trying to figure out how they do good design so consistently.
  • OXO Good Grip kitchen tools were created for people with weak grips but work for everyone. What is the future of Universal Design?
  • The Segway is an ingenious personal transportation device that is fun to use. Will the future bring giant parking lots and perpetual traffic jams or will someone figure out a better system for getting around?

Seven Languages for Learning

The problem with student achievement is that schools use too few languages to communicate ideas and information. Words and numbers are currently the only languages taught and tested with any regularity.

Additional languages are not so much more to learn but more ways to learn things.
Words and numbers are the most recent of the languages and hardest for us to learn so they are emphasized in schools. People working in robotics and artificial intelligence understand that words and numbers are easy for machines to learn but that sounds, movement, images, objects and places (that we take for granted) are deceptively complex and difficult for machines to learn.
The world will be a much richer and rewarding place once schools understand that human brains require all of these languages for basic human development.

There are seven languages our brains use to perceive the world, process information and communicate our ideas:
Words (English and other languages)
Numbers (Mathematics - the language of science)
Sounds (Music, speech and acoustics)
Movement (Physical education, gesture and dance)
Images (Information design - drawings, photgraphs, video and graphics)
Objects (Everyday things - industrial design)
Places (Architecture, urban planning, landscapes, interiors)

These are all languages that communicate information, ideas, status, control, freedom, indivduality and innovation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Design Thinking

Design is not just another discipline or subject area. Design is a way of approaching the world that has, at its base, the optimistic view that the world can be transformed and we are the ones who need to do it.

Design Thinking is the application of design processes across disciplines to solve problems anywhere and anytime we encounter them.

Idea and Empathy
The first step in the design process is to identify and clarify the problem to be solved. Too often people spend a great deal of time and energy solving the wrong problem. Empathy is the key to identifying design challenges. What is it that frustrates our lives and keeps someone in the world from having the highest quality life possible? Buckminster Fuller, over 50 years ago, said that we have the technology needed to enable every person on the planet to live as if we were all millionaires. We only lack the empathy and will to make that happen.

Research and Inquiry
Solving any sufficiently challenging problem usually requires a bit of research. Design problems are often presented about things with which we are personally not well-informed. Someone asks us to design a method to help an elderly person get from their wheelchair to their bed. This requires us to do a bit of empathetic research. We need to think like sociologists, anthropologist, psychologists, kinesiologists, etc. for a while to more clearly understand the problem we are trying to solve. This is the beginning of the design brief.

In design it is OK to steal from, I mean study how others have tried to solve similar problems. Building on the ideas of others is expected. Biomimicry, for example, is the practice of stealing design ideas from nature by studying how plants, insects, animals, and forces of nature provide clues to solving design problems.

Developing Criteria
The goal of design research is to clarify the parameters, the specifications, the criteria that will need to exist in any successful design solution. What are the specifications for cost/benefit ratios, sustainability, materials, safety, maintenance, user-interaction, aesthetics, etc.? How will we know when we have found a viable solution? Well-developed criteria/specifications will help us select the appropriate solutions without being overly enticed by the ones that are most clever or amusing to the designer. There are many examples of clever ideas that resulted in unintended negative effects.

Generating Possibilities
Designers love ideas. They can generate 100 possible solutions to a problem. They aren't satisfied with stopping at their first idea even if, later, it turns out to be the best, because usually the first 10 ideas are the easiest but not necessarily the best. This step is usually done in quick drawings, thumbnails, napkin-drawings, rough sketches, rough prototypes. Visualization (drawing and prototyping) is the medium for much creativity and research in design. Generating possibilities and visualizing them through drawing is really the heart of design - much of the rest is turned over to craftspeople, engineers, contractors and manufacturers to carry the ideas out.

A charrette is a process used by designers in which many stakeholders work together with the designers to develop design solutions that go beyond power-plays, compromises or democratic rules to find solutions that exceed expectations for everyone involved. The goal of a good charrette is to come up with design solutions that don't result in someone not getting what they want but finding the solutions not previously envisioned which are better than anyone's originally expectations.

At some point a decision must be made to determine which, of many possibilities, is the most promising design solution to pursue. This is where designers need to go back to the criteria and specifications developed earlier to see which solution best meets the criteria. With every decision there is a down side and everyone is forced to consider whether they are willing to live with the down side, unintended or unavoidable, of the decision. The clients or stakeholdersare  usually the ones who have the most input on this choice based on a design presentation made by the design team.

At this point the production process can begin. Here is an interesting problem for traditional art teachers trained in fine arts and crafts traditions - design is more of a minds-on than a hands-on activity. Too often students enter the process at this point. The teacher has already decided what the project will be, has done the research and collected examples, has selected the best direction, and presents the solution for the students to produce. Design thinking lives mainly in the steps up to the point of production - often the designer hands the project off to someone else at this point. Frank Lloyd Wright did not build the buildings he designed. That was done by a contractor and the craftspeople. Design is a field of ideas, visualization, sketching, and prototyping - design exists primarily in the preproduction phase. Design thinking usually results in plans, drawings, and prototypes.

Implementation is another step that is not as big a part of traditional arts and crafts programs. Design is not finished after production. Design is only successful if it works for the end-users. Does it solve the problem it was intended to solve? We have all experienced buildings, products and services that are poorly designed and don't satisfy our needs despite how pleased the design team might be with their work. Design is an outward facing activity that is intended to make the world a better place rather than an inward facing activity for self-exploration and self-fulfillment. The whole point of design is to make the world a better place by developing high quality, sustainable, solutions for living, working, and playing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Four Domains of Design

Design can be conceptualized in four main domains - images, objects, places, and experiences.

Images include graphic or information design such as design for print (flyers, magazines, books, etc.), logo design, typography, websites, children's book illustrations, animation, storyboarding, graphic novels, branding, etc. A keyword search on any of these topics will yield a wealth of information to inspire lessons. Paul Rand is often considered the father of graphic design ( At the site there are also articles about other graphic designers such as the type designer Matthew Carter.

Steven Heller and Philip Meggs have written about graphic design for years and their articles and books provide a wealth of information. The main professional organization for graphic designers is the American Institute of Graphic Artists.

Object design is sometimes referred to as product design or industrial design. Raymond Loewy is often considered the father of industrial design. Object design includes design of transportation, clothing (fashion), costumes, shoes, furniture, appliances, etc. Common activities for product designers include making exploded view drawings and creating prototypes.

IDEO is one of the top design firms in the world and a video (on YouTube) about them designing a shopping cart is an excellent introduction to the design process they refer to as The Deep Dive. The Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) is the main professional organization for product designers.

The design of spaces and places includes architecture, interior design, landscape, urban planning, exhibit design, etc.  Urban planners often use a specific design process called a charrette and usually develop models to solve design problems and communicate possible solutions. Frank Lloyd Wright is often considered one of the world's most important architects and well as one of America's most important citizens. There are some important woman architects such as Zaha Hadid and Denise Scott Brown. Art Director is the name given to people who supervise the development of sets for movies and Oscars are awarded for this area of space and place design.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Architecture Foundation (AAF), and Amerian Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) are some of the professional organizations for designers of spaces and places.

Experience design is the newest of the design fields. It includes CHI (computer-human interface) design, user-friendly design, digital game design, theme parks, children's museum design, and the design of toys and games. Anything where someone is expected to interact with the design and become part of the design event is experience design.

Some important experience designers include Walt Disney, Will Wright (the Sims), and David Rockwell. Nathan Shedroff wrote an early, useful book called "Experience Design" ( and there have been many articles and books on the topic since.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What is design education?

Design education is more than the elements and principles of design. Good design is a crossover of sustainability, accessibility, aesthetics, and commercial viability.

Design includes:
Design of images like graphic design, typography, print and web design;
Design of objects like product design, fashion, auto design, furniture, appliances, etc.;
Design of spaces and places like architecture, urban planning and landscape design; and
Design of experiences like toy and video game design, theme park and children's museum design.

Design is usually intended for someone else to use. Unlike fine art, design is not done for personal self-expression but to meet the needs of others.

Exceptions can always be found but, unlike crafts, design does not necessarily focus on hand-made craftsmanship. Many designs are mass-produced by people other than the designer.

Designers often use tools such as rulers, T-squares, mechanical pencils and pens, tracing paper, computers, cameras, and other technology. If a project focuses primarily on a hand-made, organic, free-form look it is probably more of an art or craft project than a design project.

If a project is intended to result in a unique, one-of-a-kind image or object, it is probably more of an art or craft project than a design project. If it is intended to be reproduced for wide distribution it may be closer to being a design project.

Graphic designers carefully select appropriate papers for printing from thousands of possibilities. Understanding the characteristics of paper and how it influences the layout of type, graphics and illustrations is essential to graphic design for print. Making handmade paper or one-of-a-kind books is more of an art or craft project than a design project.

Typographers study thousands of typefaces and learn how to create and layout text appropriately for reproduction. Creating one-of-a-kind decorative word images is probably more of an art or craft activity than a design project.

Designing furniture begins with the structure, function and use others will make of it. Painting an existing chair is more of an art or craft project than a design project.

Architecture often focuses on the structure of a building, the materials and use. Designing a building or an interior can be a design project. Painting a mural on an existing wall is more of an art or craft project rather than a design project.

Drawing a picture of an existing building is usually more of an art or craft project than a design project. Creating a fantasy building without attention to materials, use, or construction is probably more of an art or craft activity than a design project.

Color theory in art and crafts is usually the traditional subtractive color system with red, yellow and blue as primaries. Digital and light designers usually use RGB color systems (red, green, and blue as primaries). Print designers usually use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) color systems. Web designers usually use hexadecimal color designations (000000). A designer can usually answer the question, "What colors does a TV set or computer mix to get yellow?"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Do you teach design or media literacy?

We're guest editing two magazines on K-12 media literacy and design education and are looking for great articles and writers. 

One is a special design education issue of SchoolArts magazine published by Davis Publishing. These articles are for classroom teachers and are short (800 word) how-to articles with photos about teaching design to Pre-K, elementary, middle, and secondary students.

The other is The Journal of Media Literacy special issue about School 2.0 - How Media and Technology Will Shape the Future of Education in the 21st Century. These articles are longer (2000 words) and can be more theoretical.

Contact me at if you have an article idea for either publication.