Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wishing You All a Happy New Year!

Happy New Year is not just a traditional season's greeting for designers but it exemplifies a perpetual state of mind in the profession. Designers are always looking forward to the future. Unlike the general population, designers rarely fear the future because they are so excited about creating it.

New Year's Eve, when we usher out the old year and ring in the new one, is perhaps the original model of "planned obsolescence".

Planned obsolescence is a practice in industrial design of deliberately designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete after a certain time. Each year we look forward to getting rid of the past year and happily starting fresh with a new one. Each year we resolve to do better than before.

I hope your new year is healthy, prosperous, and peaceful.
Together, let's design the future we would like to see!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Designing 5D Schools: Immersive Learning Environments

2D design for schools includes all the textbooks, maps, posters, signs, interactive boards, white boards, bulletin boards, handouts and other flat materials we use everyday.
3D design for schools includes all the objects, manipulatives, chairs, desks, cabinets, plants, sculptures, tools, supplies, and other things students physically hold, touch, walk around, sit on or work on.
4D design for schools includes all the spaces in which learning takes place such as halls, classrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds, science labs, gyms, auditoriums, etc.
5D design for schools includes all the interactions that take place with images, objects, spaces and people. What do students actually do? If you took a picture in each classroom what would it show? Are students sitting at desks, sitting at tables, gathering around to listen or watch? Are they mainly reading, writing and listening?

How can we make schools more interactive and immersive learning environments? Where can we see students making something rather than just working with things others have made?

In 2D design do students also create the books, maps and signs used in the school?
In 3D design do students actually make objects and things they use in the school?
In 4D design do students change the spaces in which they learn, work, play, and live for 6 to 8 hours each school day?
In 5D design do students help design the way they interact with each other, with teachers and with the content of the curriculum? What do they actually experience and do rather than just read, look at or hear about?

Can the students write, design, illustrate and make books about topics in science, history or social studies?
Can the students work with tools to create 3D models of the planet, universe, heart, DNA, vehicles, clothes, etc. in their science and history books?
Can the students research, design and construct their classroom to look like an aquarium, a building from history, a place from another culture, or a natural history diorama?
Can the students create their own video games, toys, interactive exhibits, musical instruments (think Blue Man Group and Stomp)?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Technology Student Association Promotes Design

If you are still holding on to the idea that Technology Education is only about vocational training and doesn't develop creativity and imagination then you better take another look. Click on the heading above to see an inspiring promotional video for the national Technology Student Association.

With over 150,000 members, the Technology Student Association includes over 60 competitive events in their annual state, regional and national competitions that cover areas like web development, film, fashion, graphic design, media, architecture, imaging, animation, robotics, music, and environment as well as the areas we would expect like agriculture, electronics, construction, engineering, and aeronautics.

The organization is lead by students elected by members to develop leadership and prepare students to drive innovation in technology, design, engineering, business, communication and education. Their mission is to prepare the next generation of leaders who will imagine the future and reshape our world. They provide the Technology and Engineering in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Check out their web site at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Design and Engineering: Partners in Shaping the Future

WALL-E and Eve sort of represent the difference between engineering and design. In the early stages of development of a product, service, place, or experience much of the focus is placed on engineering. That's why many products may be well-engineered but poorly designed.

Apple Computers knew from the beginning that their edge in the world marketplace would be determined by including both high quality design and engineering in every product. Walt Disney saw that design would separate their parks from the ubiquitous but tawdry thrill-ride parks scattered around the world. The Corporate 500 world knows that today they need design to survive in the global marketplace.

Folks like Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, Richard Florida and Thomas Friedman have been pointing out the importance of design for years in their best-selling books read by corporate leaders around the world. The business world has gotten the message but the world of education is a bit on the slow side. Technology teachers have begun to include design in their standards and teaching in an effort to catch up with real-world needs.

Students need to learn design thinking today:
1. Ideation (Identifying, clarifying and researching a problem)
2. Visualization (brainstorming, generating potential solutions)
3. Prototyping (selecting a possible solution and testing it by making models)
4. Implementation (present the best solution, produce it, disseminate it and evaluate it.)

Technology Teachers Add Engineering (think Design)

It happened so quickly and smoothly that some people hardly noticed but the International Technology Educators Association added Engineering to its name so it is now the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (left) and its publication Technology Teacher (far right) is now called Technology and Engineering Teacher (right).

The significance of this simple change is monumental. Technology Educators have made a move to incorporate design into their curriculum and to be the locus of design education in schools. Engineering is very closely related to design and the Engineering Design Process Model is almost identical to the Design Process Model:
1. State the problem
2. Generate ideas
3. Select a solution
4. Build the item
5. Evaluate
6. Present the results

Engineering is the "E" in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the Technology Teachers were wise to add this to their curriculum. While art educators have made some feeble gestures at adding "Art" to make it "STEAM" they missed the opportunity to claim Design as part of their domain. Design makes up three of the ten Standards for Technology Literacy but is not included in Standards for Art Education (which could then have been Standards for Visual Literacy).

Design is the kind of problem solving the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has in mind for their educational initiatives and the Technology Teachers are well positioned to take the lead in filling that need.