Thursday, September 29, 2011

Richard Dawkins Promotes "The Magic of Reality".

I often come across people who don't want to know the truth about some things because they are afraid that knowing too much about something will take away its magic. There is sort of this attitude that, if we don't know too much about some things, they will remain more magical and interesting and if we learn too much about them it will somehow spoil the mystery and the fun.

The desire to be consciously not curious about something is a decidedly anti-scientific stance and misses the fact that reality is much more fascinating and engaging than mythology or mysticism.

The British geneticist and evolutionary biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, had it right when he said, "I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

In The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (right), coming out in October 2011, another British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, (left) writes that while magical explanations of natural phenomena are twaddle, the laws of science and reason can be "magical": that is, "deeply moving, exhilarating: something that gives us goose bumps, something that makes us feel more fully alive."

Dawkins is well known for books like The Selfish Gene (1976) and the controversial The God Delusion (2006). The Magic of Reality is a comic book written by Dawkins and illustrated by comic artist Dave McKean. It is not just for children, but for adults as well.

The book is also available in an interactive iPad version.

Click on the heading above to see a short video of Dawkins talking about "The Magic of Reality."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Big Business Understands the Power of Design

The October 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine demonstrates just how important design has become in the economic survival of nations competing in a global economy. The lead article by Linda Tischler is "The United States of Design" and other articles cover 30 design-driven companies and 50 most influential designers.

Tischler says "From GM to 3M, in boardrooms and on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and on Madison Avenue, design matters more than ever. Around the globe, American designers have never been more influential. Welcome to an unexpected and inspiring moment."

Tischler points out that design can be a critical competitive advantage if American business seizes this moment. America's openness to anyone with a big idea makes the place a magnet for the world's talented designers including Apple's Jonathan Ive (British), graphic-design guru Stefan Sagmeister (Austrian), industrial designer Yves Behar (Swiss), product designer Dror Benshetrit (Israeli), and MoMA curator Paola Antonelli (Italian).

Tischler asserts that In the U.S., there is no official support for design, no high-priority government programs or national design initiative but people like Bill Moggridge, head of the Cooper-Hewitt, the country's national design museum, are trying to change that.

There are many influential individual design organizations in America (IDSA for industrial designers, AIGA for graphics folks, DMI for design managers, AIA for architects, and many more). Tischler says, "Each strives to make the case for design, but they do so in their own silos. The result is weakened influence."

Around the globe, however, countries are investing in design and integrating it into their business climate. The Chinese have expanded their base of design schools from 20 to 1,000 over the past decade and now has more than 1 million students in the system. South Korea is similarly motivated, and Singapore is placing big national bets on design.

The U.K.'s Design Council promises to "place design at the heart of growth and renewal in Britain" and has launched the Design for Growth Fund. In Spain, the DDI, the state agency for the development of design and innovation, promotes the role the former can play in boosting competitiveness. In the Netherlands, Premsela, jointly funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science and the City of Amsterdam, works to support and advise people in the design industry. Some nations even partner with one another: In April 2010, the India Design Council joined with the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization to develop related skills in both countries.

Click on the heading above to read Linda Tischler's article in Fast Company magazine.

How Do We Handle the Economy in Schools?

Here's the dilemma - we want students to go to school so they can be successful in life but we don't want to talk about being successful in business. As a result, it is very difficult to talk about real-world design in schools because most designers work for businesses. We don't know how to handle the economy in schools.

We are ambivalent about how to treat businesses in education. Many teachers will say they are opposed to helping students get jobs because the real mission of education is to become a well-rounded person and schools should not be about getting jobs.

How does an enterprise like education, which is basically non-profit at its core, do justice to the for-profit world when we think it is the root of evil? How do we help students become productive citizens in a global economy when we think selling things for profit is filling the world with stuff people don't want or need?

There are many role models in the design world who are attractive, bright, wealthy and successful but we don't tell students about them because it's impossible to talk about the people without talking about the companies they work for. David Butler (left), for example, is a handsome young man who heads up global design for Coca-Cola. Young people would die to have David's life and job. In schools however, Coca-Cola is a bad thing. We know Coke isn't a healthy drink and we try to keep it out of schools.

And who wouldn't want to be Jonathan Ive, head designer and friend of Steve Jobs at Apple - the coolest company anywhere (right). How do you talk about design without talking about the companies that have the best designed products in the world?

You see the problem? How do you talk about the importance of design in shaping the global economy in schools where teachers often feel businesses are bad? If we talk about advertising in schools it is usually to point out how bad advertising is and how it gets people to buy and do things they shouldn't. If we talk about product design it makes educators think about our overly materialistic culture of commercialism.

So do educators continue to ignore, or even denigrate, trying to be competitive in the global economy in favor of instilling loftier virtues and education for education's sake? How can schools do justice to the need for our students and our nation to be competitive against the growing economic powers in China and India?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Power and Importance of Doodling

Sunni Brown (right) is one of a growing number of professional "doodlers" or visual note-takers. They draw real-time visual representations of speeches at conferences using text, graphics, arrows, sketches, bullets, frames, and a variety of other visual devices that visually capture and preserve presentations (left).

Brown recently presented a defense of doodling in her presentation at a TED conference. Her presentation addressed the underlying bias against visualization in "serious" scholarly works which respect only words and numbers. This is a huge hurdle we must overcome in schools.

There is a systemic prejudice against visual images as a way to understand, process and communicate important ideas and information. Publications with more images are assumed to be less reliable than those that are dominated by text. Seeing, or visualization, is not considered an important basic skill in any educational system from Kindergarten through college.

Our battle is much deeper and more insidious than the effort to preserve Art in schools. We are battling for the value of visualization in any form as an important way people perceive, think and communicate.

Click on the heading above to hear Sunni Brown's defense of doodling in her TED presentation.

Study Classic Animation With Release of "Lion King" in 3D

The release of a 3D version of Disney's 1994 animated film "The Lion King" (left) for a limited two-week engagement provides an opportunity to introduce our students to classic animation in the Disney style. If you missed the re-release of the film in the new 3D version in a movie theater chances are your students didn't. This is a perfect opportunity for them to see how animated films used to be developed through a series of drawings from rough sketches (right) to finished animation cels.

Animated films are made in reverse with the sound track created first and the animation done to match. Rough storyboards, more detailed drawings, and rough pencil tests precede the finished colored animation cels. Click on the heading above to see a pencil test of the hyena scene in the elephant graveyard done in 1993, a year before the original film was released. Show students the development stages of a typical scene in a traditional animated film.

Students can try their hand at concept designs for characters, turn-arounds (showing a character from front, side and back), storyboards, rough pencils, in-betweens, inked pencils, colored cels, and finished animation. All of these are demonstrated in this short pencil test scene from the original Lion King.

DC Comics Starts Over With 52 Iconic Comic Books

Even if you aren't into comic books, the audacity of a recent move by DC Comics should catch your attention. On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, DC Comics launched a historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues. In other words, they redesigned all of these iconic characters, provided new story lines for their characters, and just started renumbering the line of comic books at #1 - almost like the previous decades of stories about these characters never existed.

Imagine the creative risk here - redesign costumes for iconic and well known characters like Superman and Batman and create new lives for them. I particularly enjoyed a meeting between the Green Lantern and Batman in the new first issue of Justice League when Green Lantern incredulously realizes that Batman has no superpowers (he can't even fly) but is just a normal guy dressed up in a bat suit.

Jim Lee (right) is an incredibly talented comic artist who became the new co-publisher of DC Comics on February 18, 2010. He not only oversaw this monumental and daring re-visioning of 52 comic books but he actually pencils the Justice League series (left) himself. This alone is full-time work for most mortals (22 pages each month).

Click on the heading above to watch part 2 of a 4 part series with Jim Lee showing how he draws a character.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Four Steps to Comprehensive School Design

When schools are designed, much of the focus (and budget) is usually placed on the first three steps (1. site selection, 2. facility design and construction, and 3. furnishings). Neglecting the integration of the fourth step, program design, in the design process often results in the failure of the schools to ever become true learning environments.

1. Site selection is important and determines views, quality of light, landscaping possibilities, parking, playgrounds, entry ways, and a variety of other factors that determine the experience of the school by students, teachers, administrators, parents and visitors. How many schools have beautiful entryways but students and teachers enter from the side or back through poorly designed areas often cluttered with dumpsters and maintenance materials? (left)

2. Architectural design and construction provides the spaces for learning and the many other functions that make up schooling. Decisions made at this stage determine whether the site can be appropriately used and what is possible inside the building. Good designers go well beyond considerations of space allocation, hallways, (right) heating, lighting, and plumbing - some don't. Too often, the walls, halls, and rooms are finished in such a way that student work can't be displayed and exhibits are difficult to add or prohibited completely.

3. Furnishings such as cabinets, storage, tables, chairs, smart boards, etc. come from a third budget and determine to some extent how classrooms are arranged and how the learning environment will work. Since furnishings come from a different budget and are often selected by different people, there is often a mismatch between the possibilities created by the building design and the needs of the teachers and students.

4. Program Design (the teaching and learning that takes place in the school), should be a guiding consideration all the way back to step 1. Can the teachers and students go outside for learning experiences? In urban settings can roof tops or playgrounds be maximized as learning opportunities? Can students and teachers reconfigure learning spaces to accommodate a variety of learning activities? Does the design of the facility encourage and enable student and teacher made exhibits and interactive displays (like in children's museums) that enhance learning? Have maintenance, safety, and security issues been poorly resolved so that learning opportunities are inhibited rather than enhanced? Are teachers and students treated like "renters" and discouraged from using the facility to its full advantage?

Landscapers, architects, and interior designers who work on educational facility designs need to start with an understanding of the teaching and learning that takes place in the school. Schools need to be designed to maximize the learning environments and the productivity of teachers and students rather than the efficiencies and economies of landscaping, construction and maintenance.

Getting Serious About Being Playful in School Design

Fast Company's online site Co Design (left) has an article about What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar.

The article points out that the country's strongest innovators in business embrace creativity, play, and collaboration -- values that also inform their physical spaces. When we are about to build or rehab a school, however, we create checklists of best practices, looks for furniture that matches the school mascot, and order shiny new lockers to line the corridors.

According to the article, what makes the Googles of the world exceptional begins in the childhood classroom -- an embrace of creativity, play, and collaboration. 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number-one leadership competency in the global marketplace.

The article maintains, "We can no longer afford to teach our kids or design their schoolhouses the way we used to if we’re to maintain a competitive edge. In looking at various exemplary workplaces such as IDEO, Google, and Pixar, we can glean valuable lessons about effective educational approaches and the spaces that support them."

"What would it mean for schools to have a culture centered on design thinking and interdisciplinary projects instead of siloed subjects? What if the process of education were as intentionally crafted as the products of education (i.e., we always think about the book report or the final project, but not the path to get there). What if teachers were treated as designers?" There are some schools out there that are doing just that, including High Tech High in Southern California, and the Blue Valley Schools Center for Advanced Professional Studies (BVCAPS).

The article also points out that "Pixar, arguably the greatest digital storyteller of our time, is an easy source of school-environment inspiration: Its studio is a place where magic results from a potent blend of art and science, work and play, digital and analog."

The giant technological company Google realizes that valuable innovations are born from serious play, deep teamwork, and a holistically engaged (and cared for) staff. A playful strain runs through Google’s office culture.

We are challenged to imagine what might happen if students had the same power to edit and make their own spaces within the school environment as employees do in "serious" players in global economic markets.

The article maintains "There is much to learn from our innovative corporate giants, and some schools are already taking note. But ironically, the true genius of these work spaces is how they’ve been inspired by lessons from children. (The ability of top executives to incorporate playfulness and internal strategy has even become a topic of discussion for major corporations.) Yes, school designers and leaders should make learning environments that reflect dynamic workplaces. But school leaders would be remiss if they didn’t critically re-examine (and support) the power of play and creative arts that these leaders have gleaned from them."

The writers of the article, Steven Turckes, leads Perkins+Will's global K–12 design practice and is the director of the K–12 Education Group for the Chicago office, and Melanie Kahl is an educational design researcher in Perkins+Will's global K–12 Practice.

Click on the heading above to see the whole article.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Teaching Visual Strategies for Learning

Here is our dilemma - we know we should be teaching students skills in visual thinking but we have little training in this area and, frankly, we just like "Art". "Visual Communication" bores us to tears. It all seems so "scientific" and not very creative. We can even convince ourselves that this will in some way actually do harm to a student's tender psyche and destroy their humanity.

It's time to suck it up. Students need to learn visual literacy including visual communication, design, and visual culture as well as visual art. We can no longer justify only providing a portion of a complete visual curriculum to our students. Imagine if English teachers only taught poetry.

There is a book coming out in April 2012 called Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers by Felice Frankel and Angela DePace.

The prepublication description from Yale University Press says,
"Any scientist or engineer who communicates research results will immediately recognize this practical handbook as an indispensable tool. The guide sets out clear strategies and offers abundant examples to assist researchers—even those with no previous design training—with creating effective visual graphics for use in multiple contexts, including journal submissions, grant proposals, conference posters, or presentations.

Visual communicator Felice Frankel and systems biologist Angela DePace, along with experts in various fields, demonstrate how small changes can vastly improve the success of a graphic image. They dissect individual graphics, show why some work while others don't, and suggest specific improvements. The book includes analyses of graphics that have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Annual Reviews, Cell, PNAS, and the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as an insightful personal conversation with designer Stefan Sagmeister and narratives by prominent researchers and animators.

Felice C. Frankel is a research scientist in the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her work in visual communication. Among her previous books is Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image. Angela H. DePace is an assistant professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, where her lab studies the mechanism and evolution of gene regulation. They both live in Boston. Stefan Sagmeister, a leading graphic designer and typographer, has a design firm in New York City."

Click on the heading above to read what design writer Steven Heller says about the book.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interactive Infographic of 50 Most Influential Designers

Fast Company magazine (right) has long been a good source of information about contemporary design from a business point of view. Their site currently has a useful interactive infographic with their take on 50 of the most influential designers. The matrix (left) tracks designers from the virtual (websites and information) to the physical (cars and even spaceships). Thinkers wield influence through writing and leadership, while makers exert it through their work.The Infographic was designed by Kristina Dimatteo.

While everyone's list of influential designers would include different people, this infographic is a good way to get caught up on what is happening in the design world. Click on the heading above to go to the infographic. Click on the names of the designers to activate information about them.

Fast Company is a leading progressive business-media magazine, with an editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design. It is written for, by, and about progressive business leaders. Co.Design is a visual tour of the intersection of business and creativity, from architecture to electronics, consumer products to fashion.

Design a Car for the Future

Product Design Lesson Idea: Transportation

Design a car for the year 2020. Do it in 4 steps:
1. Clarify the idea. The greatest need will be a car that works in crowded, congested places rather than open roads. Study the technology that will be available at that time. Search the internet for loads of ideas people are already developing - keywords "future, car".
2. Visualize the possibilities. Start doing lots of drawings. Purge your mind of the common, first ideas that come to mind until you start coming up with some truly innovative ideas.
3. Make a prototype. Make a quick prototype (model) of your car using inexpensive materials. This will reveal new possibilities and perhaps some problems with your design you hadn't noticed.
4. Present your idea. Using presentation skills, drawings, models, presentation boards, concept drawings, etc. present your idea in a way that inspires the audience and makes them say "Yes, I want that car!"

Some things that car designers predict in future cars.
1. Autonomous cars. Less of the driving will be done by humans.
2. Drive by Wire. There won't be fixed steering columns but steering will be done more like a game controller freeing up design space in the interior.
3. Skateboard Chassis. That hump that runs down the center of today's cars will be gone because each wheel will operate independently and a drive train won't be necessary.
4. Engines in the wheels (left). Rather than one large engine taking up space in the front, it is likely that each wheel will have its own electric motor.
5. Carbon-based Bodies. New moldable materials that are stronger than steel will allow more transparent spaces (bigger windows) and integrated lights (LEDs placed wherever you want them.
6. Smaller, easier to park cars. The City Car (rignt) is small, city friendly, easy to park and stackable (a bit like carts in a grocery store) so it takes up less space.
7. Tethering Cars. Cars will be able to connect to each other on highways so they function like a train or a bus and can safely move faster and take up less space on the road.
8. Interchangeable Bodies. You can put different bodies on your car for different needs - transporting more people, more storage, etc. by simply unbolting one body and popping on another. You will also be able to design your own car body.
9. Reconfigurable interiors and exteriors. There will be a great deal of freedom and ability to customize your car. Steering can be done from anywhere in the car. Panel controls can be configured however you want them.

Type in keywords such as "car of the future" to see lots of videos of ideas people have.
Click on the heading above to see a video of a car of the future that exists today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Book About Type Fonts for the General Reader

There are lots of books about typefaces for professional designers but Simon Garfield (right) has written a book about fonts for general audiences. Garfield has written many non-fiction books on a variety of topics and it is significant that a seemingly obscure topic like the origin and impact of typefaces in our lives is now something general audiences are willing to buy. Just My Type (left) is a book of stories about fonts. It examines how typefaces like Helvetica and Comic Sans became known around the world. The book explains why we are still influenced by type choices made more than 500 years ago and about that key moment in history (1984) when fonts were loaded onto computers and typefaces became part of the consciousness of people beyond type professionals.

The computer's pull-down font menu with names we are starting to recognize like Helvetica, Times New Roman, Palatino Gill Sans, Bembo, Baskerville, Caslon, Bodoni, and Verdana takes the average citizen beyond Gutenberg's printing press and beyond the age of the typewriter. There are more than 100,000 fonts today and typefaces are now 560 years old. This is no longer only the domain of the professional designer. New technologies have put part of the responsibility for clear, concise and compelling visual communication in the hands of average citizens. We have a responsibility to learn to use these tools well and wisely.

Type designer Matthew Carter is one of the recipients of a National Design Award at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum during National Design Week in October.

Click on the heading above to see a motion graphic promoting "Just My Type" that illustrates the thousands of choice we make when communicating with type.

Design Festivals Signal Public Awareness of Design

Design is a fairly new concept. The growth of Design Festivals around the world is a sign that people are starting to recognize what design is and why it is important in our lives and work. One of the biggest design festivals, the London Design Festival (left), is only in its 9th year and this year opens on September 17. On September 26 the first Chinese design festival (right) opens with Beijing Design Week.

There are over a hundred design festivals around the globe. Countries like China, the US, the UK, Japan, and Korea are recognizing that the old economic model of a manufacturing nation is no longer sustainable. The aim of the Beijing Design Festival is to shift the identity of its industry from "Made in China" to "Designed in China". Innovation and design are now as important as price and quality to remain competitive in global markets today.

National Design Week in the US has activities in cities across the country with many of the main events taking place in New York City through the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Events range from exhibits and lectures to a $1,250 a plate Gala (design for the other 10%) featuring the US National Design Awards.

Click on the heading above to go to the Beijing Design Week site.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Frederick Law Olmsted: The Father of Landscape Design

Frederick Law Olmsted is still the most influential landscape architect in America. Justin Martin's new book "Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted" (right) recounts his achievements in landscape architecture, from New York's Central Park (left) to Boston's Emerald Necklace to Stanford University's campus, but also tells the story of Olmsted as an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War.

According to Martin's book, Olmsted didn't simply create places that were beautiful in the abstract but, most of all, he was a social reformer. Olmsted's work is even more relevant now than it was during his lifetime. Olmsted's designs survive to the present day and inform our urgent need to revitalize cities and our yearning for green space.

Students should know about Olmsted's influential ideas and engage in activities to help them understand 4D spatial design. In his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner used the term spatial to refer to visual intelligence but few people have any training or education in spatial design because our visual education usually stops with 2D image design and 3D object design. Designing a 3D object is very different than designing a 4D space or place.

Click on the heading above for a lengthy discussion by Justin Martin about "Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted".

School Arts Magazine Looks at Responding to Nature

The October issue of School Arts magazine focuses on "Responding to Nature". It is available online ( and will be arriving in subscriber's mailboxes soon. This issue will also be featured in the Davis Publishing booth at state art education association conferences across the country in October.

For design educators the topic of responding to nature opens up opportunities to learn about spatial design. Most traditional art education programs concentrate mainly on 2D images and 3D objects. Most art educators have had little experience with 4D spatial design or 5D experience design. Architects, landscape architects, interior designers, urban planners, set designers, and exhibit designers are people who design spaces and places in which people move around, which takes different sensibilities than designing 3D objects.

Two iconic examples of 4D spatial designers are the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted. Wright is famous for being responsive to nature in his designs such as the Kaufman House (Fallingwater) (left) and Olmsted (right) is the father of landscape design whose works include Central Park in New York City. Much can be learned from the work of both of these famous 4D spatial designers and there are many resources available about them and many others like them. A good book just out this year (2011) is "Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted" by Justin Martin.

Click on the heading above to see the digital version of School Arts magazine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maurice Sendak's Work Preserved at Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia

Original drawings, papers and memorabilia from the prolific life of famed illustrator Maurice Sendak are maintained in a little known museum and library in Philadelphia, PA. The Rosenbach Museum and Library is the sole repository of Sendak's original artwork and a foremost authority on all things Sendak. Sendak chose the Rosenbach to be the permanent home of his work in the early 1970s thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. The Rosenbach's Sendak collection is the largest collection of Sendakiana in the world, with over 10,000 preliminary sketches, final drawings, manuscripts, books, and ephemera.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator, Patrick Rodgers (left), has created a traveling exhibit (right) highlighting Sendak's work that is currently at the Rohrbach Library on the campus of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania through Ocotber 14, 2011. As a result of his research into the collection of Sendak's work, Rodgers has collected numerous anecdotes and video conversations with Sendak in his home in Connecticut.

In addition to Sendak's original illustrations, the Rosenbach collection includes James Joyce’s manuscript for Ulysses and:
• Bram Stoker: notes and outlines for Dracula;
• George Washington: more than one hundred personal letters;
• Lewis Carroll: more than 600 letters, his rarest photographs, books, and more;
• William Blake: original drawings and books;
• Cervantes: an extremely rare copy of the first edition of Don Quixote and documents in Cervantes’s hand;
• Phillis Wheatley: first editions of the first book published by an African American;
• Thomas Jefferson: an inventory of his slaves;
• Charles Dickens: the largest surviving portions of the manuscripts for Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby;
• Joseph Conrad: manuscripts for two-thirds of his literary works, including Lord Jim, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent;
• Mercedes de Acosta: letters, photographs, and ephemera relating to cinema and lesbian history;
• Dylan Thomas: the manuscript and typescript for Under Milk Wood;
• Girolomo da Carpi: more than 150 drawings from his Roman sketchbook;
• Fragonard: original drawings for Orlando Furioso;
• George Cruikshank: over 4,000 caricatures and book illustrations, many of them signed;
• Samuel Yellin: a pair of elaborate grillwork doors; over a dozen drawings.

Click on the heading above to see an interview with Sendak produced by the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

Maurice Sendak Still Drawing at 83

The irascible Maurice Sendak (right) has a new children's book called "Bumble-Ardy" (left) coming out this month (September 2011). Bumble-Ardy evolved from an animated segment for Sesame Street that aired in the early 1970s about a mischievous pig who has reached the age of nine without ever having had a birthday party. That changes when Bumble throws a party for himself and invites all his friends, leading to a wild masquerade that quickly gets out of hand. Bumble-Ardy is the first book illustrated and written by Sendak since Outside Over There in 1981.

Born June 10, 1928, the 83 year old American writer and illustrator of children's books is perhaps best known for Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963. Sendak has illustrated over 90 books in his long career including 20 he also wrote.

Sendak's illustrations are intended to not just mirror the text but to add something in his own voice - to create a second deeper story than that which was originally written. His illustrations add something unique to the story of which the writer may not have even been aware. Sendak's illustrations hide another visual story within the written story. The entire text of Where the Wild Things Are, for example, is only 39 words but his illustrations created a rich visual world around the sparse text in the 1963 book which sold over 19 million copies and was turned into a 1980 opera and a 2009 feature film.

Click on the heading above to hear an NPR interview with Sendak in 2005.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Design-Based Middle School Opens in La Crosse, WI

The first design-based middle school in the country opened in Fall, 2011 in La Crosse, WI. La Crosse Design Institute is a project-based learning school that focuses on the importance of authentic student-centered learning.

The school is designed to help students become more accountable, better problem solvers, and more informed citizens as they work through the design process to complete individual and group projects. The school's integrated curriculum and hands-on approach to learning will focus on technology, engineering, architecture, manufacturing and science. The teachers, administrators and community partners have a passion for fostering high-level thinkers.

The La Crosse Design Institute will teach students 21st Century skills including communication and presentation skills, organization and time management, research and inquiry skills, self assessment and reflection skills, and group participation and leadership skills. The school's project-based learning approach requires content mastery and critical thinking while incorporating essential project management skills valued by today's global industries.

The school features:
Project Based Learning through a solution-based inquiry in authentic tasks.
Expeditionary Learning where students spend concentrated amounts of time in the community working on design projects.
Interdisciplinary Learning that blends the core specialized areas of the curricula so students experience authentic learning.
Personal Learning Plans through which students are held accountable for their individual learning through continuous progress monitoring, student portfolios and finished design pieces. Parents are active participants in monitoring their child’s learning and attainment of standards.

La Crosse Design Institute introduces creativity and the importance of imagination using basic design as the catalyst for delivering the district’s high quality middle school curriculum. The school’s integrated curriculum and hands-on approach to learning will focus on technology, engineering, architecture, manufacturing and science. The teachers, administrators and community partners have a passion for design.

Click on the heading above to see a video about the La Crosse Design Institute.