Monday, June 9, 2008

A Basic Starter Curriculum for Design Education

If you would like to develop a curriculum to teach design education and aren't sure where to start, here is a basic framework upon which you can build all future lessons, This is a simple 4 X 4 set of units and lessons.

Start with one unit in each of four areas:

1. Design a piece of text or information. You and your students can chose whether this is a poster, a page, an ad, a two-page spread, a three-fold flyer, a small publication, a website, or other piece of information that requires selecting and laying out type, graphics, and images. A popular version of this assignment is to design a CD cover.

2. Design a useful object. You and your students can chose to design anything from a chair, shoes, appliance, tool, utensil, etc. Students might not all be designing the same thing. Be sure to design the object itself rather than to decorate an existing object.

3. Design a space or a place. This can be a building, a park, an interior, a neighborhood, a city, a stage set, etc. There is often a real space or place that is being designed (or should be re-designed) in the community. If at all possible, use a real place students can visit.

4. Design an interactive experience. This could include a toy, game, video game, theme park, festival or anything where the user is part of the design.

With these four lessons you have the basic structure of the world of design. Now take each of these lessons and break them into four major activities.

A. Develop the idea or intent for the project. Spend a whole class period on coming up with ideas for each unit. Practice brainstorming, concept development, do a charrette, do a deep dive. Don't give the project to the students - teach them to find and identify design problems. Teach them empathy.

B. Visualize some solutions. This requires some research and a lot of sketching. This has to be done visually so that the ideas get from inside their heads to paper where others can see them. Be sure to have the students come up with many ideas. Pin them up so everyone can see them. For designers, this is the fun part - they never want to stop with just one good idea. Designers love to look for even better solutions.

C. Create a prototype. From all the ideas, decide which has the best possibility to fulfill the criteria, specifications, or need of the problem and create a model or prototype. Prototyping is an essential component of the design process. This will usually take several class periods.

D. Make a Presentation. It is important for students to get practice in presenting and defending their ideas in front of others. This might be a presentation or it might be what is called a "crit", a formal critique by clients (teachers) and peers. A good test of a design is to see how users actually interact with it. Does it really work in real life?

So this is a simple framework of four units each with four lessons - a starter set of sixteen lessons for any level of design education that introduces students to a spectrum of topics, methods and processes in the design world.

Click on the heading above to hear David Kelley from IDEO talk about designing.

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