Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How do we approach teaching web and interactive design?

Mr. Brad Weed of Microsoft presented, via his PC equipped web cam, a recorded informal talk about software development. Paul Berkbigler is in the foreground.

Under the auspices of AIGA Nebraska, “Small Talk #2” occurred last Friday, July 9. Although attendance was small, the gathering proved to be a productive regional colloquium for design educators. Mr. Paul Berkbigler ably led the meeting and Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska hosted the event.

Discussion and thoughts that came from the meeting were:

How are we incorporating web, interactive, motion, and mobile media design into existing design curriculum?

Decide the most effective way to communicate a message and then implement with media best suited to convey that message. In other words, a thoughtful designer should ask whether it’s best to utilize a web site when actually a printed piece would suffice to send a message to somebody or to send something as a message — and vice versa.

To reinforce the point: Paul suggested reviewing the resource materials by Leslie Jensen-Inman titled, “Elevate Web Design at the University Level." The import of her ideas is perhaps best stated in her biography: “She is an advocate for holistic creative solutions. Her diverse background gives her a unique perspective on teaching career development and professional practices.”

As educators we need to continue teaching hierarchy as a fundamental visual communication principle. Think of hierarchy of visual elements as remaining constant as media changes.

For some clarity about hierarchy, the order of import, here’s a passage from Graphic Design: The New Basics by authors, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips:
In interaction design, menus, texts, and images can be given visual order through placement and consistent styling, but the user often controls the order in which information is accessed. Unlike a linear book, interactive spaces feature multiple links and navigation options. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) articulate the structure of a document separately from its presentation so that information can be automatically reconfigured for different output devices, from desktop computer screens to mobile phones, PDAs, kiosks, and more. A different visual hierarchy might be used in each instance.

The average computer desktop supports a complex hierarchy of icons, applications, folders, menus, images, and palettes–empowering users, as never before, to arrange, access, edit, and order vast amounts of information–all managed through a flexible hierarchy controlled and customized by the user.

As technology allows ever-greater access to information, the ability of the designer to distill and make sense of the data glut gains increasing value.
Try to avoid thinking of graphic design as only knowing and possessing the application software, which obviously is in constant change and flux. To explain this point, Mr. Brad Weed presented via his PC equipped with a web cam, a recorded informal and friendly talk about software development. Mr. Weed is the partner group manager for Windows Live product line at Microsoft. In addition, Brad is a national board member of the AIGA.

Weed advocated an attitude of always learning not just for the sake of utility but also as service and calling. Faculty need to work hard at being current by knowing and understanding the applicability of new media.

From the standpoint of design education, teach design students to:
  • Think of design as utilizing repeatable formats
  • Build on skills as a generalist
  • Approach the design process with the “play” principle
How we’re handling requests for pro bono work involving student designers?

This question will possibly be the focus of a future / subsequent blog piece. However, here’s one point that was discussed, “Design an integral curriculum by developing projects that, when applicable, collaborate with various departments on campus.”

Mr. Paul Berkbigler, Director of Education for AIGA Nebraska and principal of
P.Berkbigler Design & Illustration in Lincoln, Nebraska. Paul has taught graphic design at Concordia University Nebraska in Seward.

Mr. Jim Wolf, President AIGA Nebraska and graphic design instructor at Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Nebraska.

Ms. Becky Meyers, graphic design instructor at Mid-Plains Community College, McCook, Nebraska.

Mr. Phil Schimonitz, graphic design instructor, Northeast Community College, Norfolk, Nebraska.

Mr. David Versluis, professor of art (graphic design) at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.

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