Thursday, October 28, 2010

A PhD in Art and Design?

Most people in the higher education art and design world get an MFA as a terminal degree. Is there a need for a PhD in art and design?

That was the question being discussed at a conference in New York called "Evolution: Art and Design Research and the PhD". The participants explored how research is defined and in what ways it might shape a doctoral degree in a field where artists and designers are more often rooted in creative practice.

Parsons The New School for Design and Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), the University of Sydney, sponsored Evolution: Art and Design Research and the PhD, a two-day conference on October 22-23, which brought together an international roster of artists, designers, and scholars to envision new models for academic research in art and design.

Parsons The New School for Design is based in New York but active around the world. Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), the Visual Arts Faculty of the University of Sydney, has been leading the research and practice of contemporary art in Australia since 1976.

The conference opened a dialogue about the role of a practice-based PhD in art and design, an idea that is slowly gaining traction in the United States, as Parsons considers developing one. Through lectures, panel discussions, faculty presentations, and breakout sessions, they explored the wide range of practices utilized by visionary artists and designers in the context of advanced research practice and PhD programs. Throughout the conference, attendees addressed the sociocultural, political, and technological issues in the current doctoral landscape.

The conference featured keynote speeches by Bill Gaver, head of the design PhD program at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Sara Diamond, president of Ontario College of Art and Design. Meredith Davis, head of the interdisciplinary PhD program at North Carolina State University and a leading advocate for American design research, called for more design PhD programs in the United States. Her program is one of only a handful in the U.S. that offer a PhD in design while there are dozens of such programs in other countries.

The conference was streamed online for those who couldn't attend in person and you can see videos from the conference by clicking on the heading above.

Fast Company Names 2010 Masters of Design

Each year, Fast Company magazine devotes an issue to what they call "Masters of Design" (MOD) (left)- innovators in the design world who have made some significant contribution to design and business. This October's issue is it.

The cover photo (right) shows Spanish-born Patricia Urquiola (nicknamed "Hurricane Patricia,") who leads a staff of 30 people at Studio Urquiola in Italy and is one of the few women to make it to the top of an industry dominated by men. Urquiola has won numerous awards including Designer of the Decade honors in Europe. She helped BMW develop a car designed by and for a woman and she did the $194 million design of the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona.

The Masters of Design include young designers from small companies to designers for some of the biggest companies in the world like Denis Weil who created classy new looks for McDonald's franchises in places like Australia.

Click on the heading above to see the whole list of Masters of Design at Fast Company's web site and read their stories.

Design In Action Conference in Chicago

The 2010 AAO/A+DEN Conference "Design in Action: Inspiring Solutions for People and Cities" will take place on November 15-16, 2010 in Chicago.

One of the organizers, the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO), is a network that supports the many organizations around the world that are dedicated to interpreting architecture and the built environment to the general public. A+DEN is a hub for architecture and design education that provides connections to organizations, programs, lesson plans, resources, conferences and workshops across the country.

One of the breakout sessions at the Design in Action Conference will be Architecture Education: What Should K-12 Students Learn about Architecture? Academic standards address what students should learn in many subjects – but what about architecture? Kelly Lyons (right) from Carnegie Mellon will address the initiative to develop learning goals for architecture education. Lyons is Program Director for Architecture Explorations, the K-12 outreach program of the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, as well as UDream Program Coordinator. She develops and manages a collection of architecture outreach programs, reaching over 1,000 students each year.

Click on the heading above to see a video about A+DEN featuring Lynn Osmond and Jean Linsner from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and others talking about the motivation behind the formation of A+DEN as a national network.

Visualization: The Promise of the 21st Century

Until relatively recently in human history it has been difficult to reproduce and distribute visual images the way the Gutenberg press enabled us to reproduce and disseminate the written word. With advanced technologies, however, we now have the capacity for mass distribution of drawings, photos, film, video and digital animation. This is having a tremendous impact on the development of the human brain and is unlocking capacities lying unexploited in our right hemispheres and occipital lobes.

It is clear that one of the greatest transformations in human intellectual growth will happen during this century and will require a complete paradigm shift in how we value and accept visual images in the scholarly psyche. Currently there is a deep and systematic opposition to the acceptance of visual images as serious forms of thinking and communication at every level of our educational system. Progress in human intellectual development is being systematically hampered by our refusal to accept and exploit the power of visualization.

Barbara Maria Stafford, over the last couple of decades, has written several books (left and right) documenting the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought and how complex images compress space and time to make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford says that making full use of contemporary visualization capabilities "means casting off vestigial biases automatically coupling printed words to introspective depth and pictures to dumbing down."

The real transformation of education in the 21st century will occur when the death-grip of textual communication is loosened enough to accept visual communication as a powerful tool and partner for thinking and communicating. The fear and loathing aimed at visualization promoted by the biases of "textism" is one of the latest forms of discrimination to take its place alongside sexism and racism.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Stafford's work.

A Sculpture Lesson from Disney's Halloween Pumpkins

Each Halloween season Disneyland Park displays giant heads of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters carved from "pumpkins". Seeing how they make this Halloween feature provides hints on how a group of students could make a large scale sculpture of their own design. Click on the heading above to see a video of the process. Watch it a couple of times because it goes by pretty fast.

This video appeared on a special website all about Disney Parks called Disney Parks Blog. The site is a great way to help students see how Disney creates their unique 5D immersive experiences by expertly designing 4D spaces, 3D objects, and 2D graphics.

Without getting hung up on any attitudes you might have about "Disney" and not planning to just copy Disney characters, there is a great deal to learn form the Disney Imagineers about how to create visually stimulating immersive learning environments in our schools. Taking a look at a Disney Park makes our school environments look pretty drab and uninteresting. What can we do with graphics, objects, spaces, and experiences to help students learn important content in our schools?

There are many good books like the one on the left about the Disney Imagineers and how they create the magic of Disney through design.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From Halloween to a Lifetime Passion

Halloween is an excellent time to introduce students to careers in costume and makeup design. Students love to dress up for Halloween but many don't know that their love of costumes, makeup and masks could become a life-long love and a paying career. Rick Baker is a Hollywood makeup artist who made a career creating prosthetic makeup such as this Wolfman makeup (right) on actor Benicio Del Toro.

Wouldn't your students like to have Rick Baker's life working with people like director George Lucas (far left), actor Andy Serkis (second from left), and director Peter Jackson (far right)? (Baker is second from right) This work requires drawing and sculptural skills and a great deal of hard work because the field is so competitive and the people in it are incredibly skilled.

Think about the makeup effects in films like Harry Potter, Hellboy, The Grinch, X-men, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Alice in Wonderland where the effects are not done digitally but involve hours of makeup application on actors like Ray Fiennes, Ron Perlman, Jim Carrey, Benicio Del Toro, Rebecca Romijn, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp.

Click on the heading above to see a trailer for the movie Wolfman to put yourself in the Halloween spirit and look at the design involved in the cinematography, sets, lighting, costumes, and makeup.

Visual Note-Taking Increases Comprehension

All students need to develop skills in visual communication. Students should have opportunities to learn how adding visuals to note-taking can help increase understanding and reveal connections that might otherwise not be apparent.

Visual note-taking (right) includes:
Differentiating text with headings, subheadings, changing font sizes, and using bold-face and italics when appropriate.
Using bullets to identify lists of materials. Bullets can include dots, circles, squares, triangles, stars or any visual device you like.
Making connections by using arrows, lines, dotted lines, dashed lines or any other connecting symbol you like.
Framing special material to separate it from the rest. Frames can be rectangles, ovals, speech balloons, thought balloons or any other framing device.
Graphic techniques such as alignment, justification, shadows, overlapping and any other technique to create visual interest and clarity.
Sketches include quick drawings of people, places or things that may be metaphoric or represent things mentioned in the presentation.
(Click on the photo on the right to examine the note-taking process.)

Click on the heading above to see an amazing example of visual note-taking of a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson (left) to the RSA (Royal Society for the Arts) in London. It is a bit small to see in the video but at the end, when the camera pulls back to reveal the entire drawing, you see how the non-linear nature of visual note-taking allows one to review the entire presentation in a glance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dornish Collection of Children's Book Illustrations on View

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania's Sharadin Gallery has an exhibition of original children's book illustrations collected by Professor Emeritus Robert Dornish.

The exhibition features over 75 original illustrations for children’s books in a wide variety of media (oil, mixed media, watercolor), and a diversity of styles from some of the world’s best-known illustrators. Included are works by Wendell Minor, Tedd Arnold, Robert Sabuda, Brett Helquist, Gennady Spirin, Valeri Gorbachev, Tomie dePaola, and Caldecott winners Uri Shulevitz, Gerald McDermott, Jerry Pinkney, and Leo and Diane Dillon.

Dr. Robert Dornish, Kutztown University Professor Emeritus, taught for over 28 years in the Elementary Education Dept, beginning in 1969. One year, a last-minute change of schedule found him teaching children’s literature so he began seeking out the best in current children’s books at conferences and bookshops. He struck up friendships with many of the nation’s leading illustrators and began collecting signed first editions, many now housed in Kutztown’s Rohrbach Library.

Book collecting soon led him to collect original illustrations beginning with a large oil landscape by illustrator Thomas Locker which he got as a gift from his wife. The collection has since grown to nearly 180 pieces.

Click on the heading above to see more about the exhibition.

Marilyn Cole Started Young in Illustration

Being an illustrator takes dedication and Marilyn Cole (left) not only wrote her own adaptation of a classic fairy tale but illustrated it, self-published the book, and had a costume specialist make an amazing representation of the main character (on right in the picture on the left). Cole wrote and illustrated her own adaptation of the classic story "The Tortoise and the Hare" (right). She also does a web comic on her site, "5 Days a Week".

What's most amazing is that Marilyn Cole is a 20 year old full-time college student majoring in art education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Cole's adaptation of the Tortoise and Hare story has a modern spin and follows Jack Hare in another race with Terrance J. Tortoise who has failed to defeat the Hare in fourteen straight races. When the Fox witch places a curse on the hare he is forced to rethink everything about who he is and what his purpose is as a competitor, friend, and a husband. Cole wanted to create a more text-heavy version of the children's classic for older readers.

Cole, like many young illustrators today, uses Photoshop and a Wacom tablet to create her illustrations.

Click on the heading above to check out her comic strip site.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Edward Tufte Creates Art and Information Design

Information designer, Edward Tufte (right), (the Da Vinci of Data), has opened a gallery/museum called ET Modern in NYC's Chelsea district showing his sculptures as well as some of his information design work. On Saturday's you can get a tour of the space from Tufte himself (I was star-struck).

While the gallery is dominated by his metal sculptures, Tufte is possibly the greatest authority on what is called "information design" (charts, graphs, diagrams) and author of several books including, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. This book redefined the field of information design and was named one of Amazon's 100 best books of the century. President Barack Obama recently appointed Tufte to an independent panel that advises the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (tracking how stimulus funds are spent).

The heads of Fortune 500 companies (even Bill Gates) know Tufte and have his books on their shelves. Tufte's simple but powerful philosophy is to get rid of ornamentation, or what he calls "chartjunk", and let the data speak for itself. Visual communication is about visual thinking and visual evidence, not about commercial art. With increasingly heavy amounts of data and information, what's needed is a clear, analytical, statistical, quantitative presentation of the information rather than decoration. He calls this restraint "the least effective difference." He is famous for his pronouncement "Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely."

Click on the heading above to learn more about Tufte and his new gallery. (Notice how his web site exemplifies his philosophy.)

Douglas Rushkoff says "Program or Be Programmed"

In his latest book, media guru Douglas Rushkoff (left) says that in the current digital landscape you can either create software or be software - program or be programmed.

Just as it is important to be able to write as well as read, Rushkoff argues that too many people have worked with software created by others for so long that they don't know how to create their own software. In his new book, Program or Be Programmed (right), he provides 10 principles to help us rethink our relationship with the software we use. The 10 "commands" amount to an ethical manifesto for gaining control and humanizing our technology. They provide lessons for how to live a humane life in a digital world.

Rushkoff has been writing about the interface between people and media technology for a long time and is known for getting it right when it comes to understanding the implications of technology well before others have been able to see past their initial negative reactions to anything new.

Rushkoff says kids can easily learn programming like they learn any language and, rather than just learning to use off-the-shelf software they should learn computer languages and learn how to write programs. He says, "Programming is the sweet spot, the high leverage point in a digital society. If we don't learn to program, we risk being programmed ourselves."

Technologies have certain biases that shape our thinking if we don't understand their underlying structure and meaning. Rushkoff points to other example in which we failed to see the biases of the technology. We think that the development of the automobile lead to the creation of urban sprawl and suburbia when, in actuality, the suburbs, and the publicly funded highways leading to them, were actually created to sell automobiles.

To adults, learning the language of programming can seem pretty daunting but for children, if they grow up in a culture of programming, they can learn it as easily as a Chinese child learns to speak Mandarin. Seymour Papert's "Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas" promoted this idea way back in the 1960s. Mitchell Resnick and the folks at MIT's Lifelong Kindergarden developed the programming language "Scratch" to help young people create their own video games and John Maeda wrote "Design by Numbers" to encourage artists to learn to program.

Perhaps it's time for design educators to help create a generation of truly literate digital natives who can not only read but write in the language of computers. The next generation of designers can not only be game players but game changers.

Click on the heading above to check out Rushkoff's website to learn more and to see a short video about the book.