Thursday, June 30, 2011

Developing a Comprehensive K-12 Design Education Program

Anyone interested in helping to develop a comprehensive K-12 design education support system is invited to contact

"Comprehensive" can be interpreted in several ways:
1. Producing designs, understanding design, design history, design criticism, design theory.
2. 2D graphic design, 3D product design, 4D spatial design, and 5D experience design.
3. Design Thinking - problem-solving, ideation, visualization, prototyping, implementation, evaluation.
4. Interdisciplinary design - technology, art, computer science, mathematics, engineering, marketing, illustration, robotics, social studies, etc.
5. High and Low Design - comic books, pulp illustration, theme park design, video game design, children's animation, etc.
6. Historic, traditional, contemporary, new and emerging design.
7. Design in Japan, India, China, UK, US, Denmark, Finland, Brazil, etc.
8. Elementary, middle and high school levels.


What is needed to support K-12 design education?
Lesson plans, curriculum, standards, professional development, a conference, a social network, a publication, design teaching exemplars???
What can you contribute?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tomi Ungerer Illustrates Children's Books

When Tomi Ungerer lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in the 1960s he and his friend Jules Feiffer both did edgy, sometimes sexually explicit work for the Village Voice and Playboy magazine. Both now also do charming children's books of a much friendlier and tamer nature. Ungerer, who has lived in Ireland for the last 25 years, came to NYC in 1956 at the age of 25 from his home in Alsace, France. With little formal education Ungerer nonetheless speaks, reads and writes books in English, German and French as a result of growing up in Alsace. He writes all of his children's books in English even though many are also printed in other languages.

In an impromptu drawing demonstration with some excited children (right) at the Phaidon Book Store in NYC, Ungerer used a small pair of scissors (held up by his thumb) to form the eyes and beak of a bird he completed with marker. He had already demonstrated the differences between drawing an elephant and a pig by changing the tail, feet, ears and nose. Cutting off the elephant's trunk to form the pig's snout created little sausage slices that then became the nose and eyes, and even the buttons, of the pig. The lowest button is a bit different because, as the children guessed, it is a "belly button". In the center is a little pig on the bank of a river in response to a request to draw a "piggy bank". (click on the image to see the details)

Tomi Ungerer is the only living French artist to have a museum dedicated to him. Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration is a museum in Strasbourg where he was born. Opened in November 2007, it displays 8,000 graphic works of all kind by Ungerer and some of his most famous colleagues (Saul Steinberg, Ronald Searle, André François...) as well as Ungerer's large collection of ancient toys.

The museum is spread over three floors of a French villa. The ground floor is dedicated to Ungerer's work as a children's book illustrator, the first floor is dedicated to his work as a political caricaturist and satirical cartoonist. The basement—not accessible for children—is dedicated to his erotic and semi-pornographic drawings.

Ungerer and his colleagues are often referred to as cartoonists but somehow their work doesn't seem to fit that description. They are sometimes referred to as satirical or political cartoonists. Ungerer was impressed by the work of Saul Steinberg because the work conveyed humor and imagination without the use of words.

Click on the heading above to see images of the collection at Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.

Get Schooled by Super 8

On the surface, the movie Super 8 is an enjoyable summer action flick but, for students interested in making movies of their own some day, it is also an excellent textbook on the language of visual story telling techniques.

Super 8 is a movie in which a group of young people are trying to make their own movie. Their amateur efforts are set alongside the real movie directed by J.J. Abrams which, as they say, has "production values." The movie Abrams made is an homage to Steven Spielberg and his life-long love of film as a story telling medium. Abrams (on right in photo on left), an exceptionally gifted story teller in his own right, channels Spielberg (on left in photo on left) in his selection of camera angles, crane shots, slow zooms on faces, constantly moving camera, extreme point-of-view shots, tight editing and fast-paced story points.

Students interested in film making should be encouraged to study every frame of this move - every shot - every edit - every pan - every scene - every lighting treatment - and every sound. It is not great art but it is workman-like film making the way students would like to be able to do it. This is simply solid filmic story telling in the hands of an expert giving tribute to one of the masters.

An epic train wreck early in the film is overly long and over the top to heighten the contrast between "production value" available to film professionals and those available to amateur film makers. Abrams is saying "I'll show you production value." The point is brought home humorously again at the end (don't leave before the credits roll) by bookending the film's opening train sequence with the students' own attempt to simulate a train wreck in super 8.

Throughout the film, Abrams and Spielberg demonstrate how to frame a shot, how to manage the movement of the action and the camera, how to transition from one scene to another, how to do a reaction shot, how long to hold a shot, and everything else one should attend to when telling an effective story with film.

When Super 8 comes out on DVD it should become part of your film library so students can pause and study each shot and each scene to help them internalize the rhythm of film.

Click on the heading above to see the trailer for Super 8.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Challenge of Pulp Art

“Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection” is the current exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. Ninety pieces from the Lesser collection are currently displayed at the Society of Illustrators.

Lesser (left with his Bride of Frankenstein collectible) is a pulp art collector and author of the book by that name (right) that recognizes pulp art as a valuable part of American cultural heritage while some find it offensive garbage. Pulp Art is definitely identified more closely with Visual Culture than it is Art.

Lesser was a pioneer in recognizing the value of pulp art with the collection of original paintings and the corresponding printed publications he started in the 1970s. He now has the most comprehensive collection of pulp art in America. Pulp art, which was often destroyed after it was created, is now an extremely rare highly collectible commodity.

Pulp art, along with folk art, needs the qualifying first word to distinguish it from "fine art" which often is referred to simply as "art". Much confusion would be minimized if "art" always had a qualifying term like "pulp", "folk", or "fine" to clarify the categories. Pulp Art is often thought of as the working man's art, a true American art form, with no European, high society pretensions.

Lesser is unapologetic about his love for Pulp Art, even while revealing that many of the painters themselves refused to sign their own work and never expected it to be of any value. Thinking about the art world's low esteem for such work provides a good opportunity to draw clear distinctions between Visual Culture and Fine Art and helps us clarify the strict rules and requirements established by the fine art world.

New Book on "Design Thinking" by Nigel Cross

Nigel Cross, Emeritus Professor of Design Studies at the Open University, UK, has a useful new book called "Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work" that is a good introduction to design for K-12 teachers and undergraduate students.

Anyone who is interested in understanding how designers think and work will find this small, accessible book useful because it reveals what designers do while they are engaged in designing. Using case studies of designers at work, interviews, experiments, simulations and reflection, Cross helps us understand, often using the designer's own words, their creative processes and strategies for developing design innovations.

This is not a "how-to" book but it provides commentary and advice based on design research, case studies, and interdisciplinary observations from fields such as architecture, product design, engineering and automotive design. Design today includes activities like drawing or modeling done prior to and sometimes separate from making things.

Cross finds that designers share common strategies such as taking a broad, systems approach to a problem rather than accepting narrow criteria; framing the problem in distinctive ways; and design from "first principles" that attend to the problem goals, framing the problem, developing solution criteria, and conceptualizing a solution.

Cross says that we all design to a certain extent and can develop our natural design abilities over time through education and experience from neophyte and novice to expert and master.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize Announced

Eduardo Souto de Moura, a 58 year old Portuguese architect who has worked mainly in his native country, has been awarded the 2011 Pritzker Prize. The Pritzker Prize is considered the highest honor an architect can receive - it is like the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Souto de Moura (right), who lives and works in the northern Portuguese city of Porto, is not as well known internationally as many previous Pritzker winners but is highly respected in Portugal. He is the second Portuguese architect to win the prize; the first was Alvaro Siza in 1992. Souto de Moura worked for Siza early in his career.

Souto de Moura work includes his 2004 stadium in Braga, Portugal, a 2007 office tower in Porto and his design for the Paula Rego Museum in Cascais, Portugal, completed in 2008.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama (left) presented the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize to Souto de Moura at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, June 2. The Pritzer Architecture Prize is awarded annually by a jury to a living architect who has made “significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” The winner receives a $100,000 grant.

With his tendency toward angular designs using steel, glass, granite, and marble, Souto de Moura is often described as a “neo-Miesian” (Mies van der Rohe). Souto de Moura does not define his work as "green", but takes care to pay attention to sustainable building elements. At a forum in 2004, he said, “There is no ecological architecture, no intelligent architecture, no sustainable architecture — there is only good architecture. There are always problems we must not neglect. For example, energy, resources, costs, social aspects — one must always pay attention to all these.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Documentary Film Explores Motion Design in NYC

Graham Elliott (right) directed a documentary film called New York in Motion that explores the industry of motion design in New York City. The hour-long documentary is a distillation of over 100 hours of film featuring about 50 of the top motion graphic designers in NYC.

Elliott has been working in Motion Graphics himself for many years and teaches motion graphics at the School of Visual Arts. He realized that even though it’s all around us, his students did not really know what Motion Graphics actually was. He believes Motion Graphics is definitely the next big thing in the creative arts.

He wanted to find out what the people who are actually creating the Motion Graphics in New York City have to say about the field. Richard Wilde, dean of the SVA Graphic Design & Advertising department that also heads a fast-growing Motion-Graphics division, supported the film as Executive Producer.

Elliott felt that the digital revolution has brought with it an era of digital democracy. Accessibility and affordability have put the creators in much more control, as opposed to ten years ago, when you really had to be part of a large company to have access to the tools and distribution networks to produce motion graphics.

Click on the heading above to see the trailer for New York in Motion.

Television Loves Motion Graphics

Chris Scarlata (left) is one of the almost 50 motion designers featured in Graham Elliott's documentary film "New York in Motion" showing some of the top motion graphic designers in New York City.

Chris is a Design Director for Comedy Central, the TV network that features hit comedy shows like South Park, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central has design departments for their print, web and TV departments. Chris is a Design Director and Brand Creative in the TV area and has been with Comedy Central for 12 years.

In addition to managing the brand logo for Comedy Central, designers In broadcasting create commercial bumpers, ident bumpers and break bumpers usually simply referred to as bumps. These are usually two to 15 second motion graphics placed between a pause in the program going into and out of commercial breaks.

Even though he is a Design Director for one of the hottest enterprises in television, Chris secretly would love to teach! He sees a need for more awareness of design in K-12 schools.

Click on the heading above to see several motion graphic promos for Comedy Central in a one minute video.

Teach Students Visual Note Taking

Students can learn how to take visual notes with just a bit of instruction and practice. Once they know how to do it they should be encouraged to take visual notes in all of their classes as well as activities outside of school. Use visual note taking as a warm up or fill-in at the end of class.

The first step is to encourage students to carry a sketchbook. A small hardbound sketchbook is standard and will last them most of the school year. Fine line markers and pencils are good tools to use. Colored markers or even crayons can be used to add color.

Have students practice doing hand-drawn letters in a variety of styles. This is a skill they will find useful all of their lives.

See how many types of bullets, connectors and frames they can find or imagine. They should try to select appropriate ones to go with the content. Bullets usually refer to black circles (like bullet holes) but can be open squares, stars, hearts or anything that works at a small scale. Comic books use a lot of different frames (thought balloons, jagged "crash" frames, speech balloons, rectangles, squares, ovals, etc.)

In the list on the right "peeps" stands for people. That should include people, places and things. The goal is "Show me, don't tell me". See how many words can be replaced with images and still convey the meaning. Students can play games like "Pictionary" to practice doing quick drawings. A quick shadow on a frame, picture, bullet or connector makes it pop off the page.

Once students see the difference between dry written pages and rich visual note taking they won't be satisfied with the boring old method again.

Click on the heading above to see a comprehensive visual note taking video with some experts that could be used with your students.