Saturday, March 24, 2012

Learning Space Research Summary

In order to identify the key issues that will govern the design context of our studio redesign projects, the class conducted research in several areas including: contextual analysis, users/ needs, social/behavioral factors, precedent studies, teaching pedagogies, and other activities. I will touch upon four of these.

Contextual analysis was meant as a study of the existing plans as compared to the building as it exists today (as built). In terms of the issues with sound pollution being a problem, we have come to find many of the acoustical products had been “value engineered” out of the building.

Thinking of the users and their needs for the space, aside from the usual complaints (no acoustical privacy, lack of storage, poor task lighting, etc.), there were several other areas within the studio that were asked for. These spaces include a napping area, a rendering lab, acoustically private meeting areas, and a full café. The café in particular was seen as an opportunity to bring the art department, and iarc together. Through the power of discussion the café has the ability to bring these two groups of students together, and thus continue learning outside of the classroom. Continuing student learning was a concern of the professors that was brought up under our discussion of teaching pedagogies.

The social and behavioral factors group looked at the space in its current state and how we, the students, currently use it. They brought up the point that we should redesign the space from the perspective of taking the “band-aids” we have placed on the space, and making them into permanent solutions. This entails actions such as: taking the walls we pin drawings to the sheetrock on, and put up pin-up boards; taking away the mini-fridges and microwaves, and make a place for a full kitchen or café; and taking the pictures taped to the windows and the objects placed on the sills, and giving us proper pin-up space and storage. As creative persons, we have the need to personalize our spaces because we see our desks as a reflection of ourselves. This is why I suggest that we do the same with the third and fourth floor studio spaces as a whole.

Currently, there is no representation of the iarc logo, or even a scrap of the signature orange or blue so often seen in our departments printed graphics to be found in the entire space. I propose a series of environmental graphics be created and put on the walls of studio. These graphics would include the iarc logo, the four core values of iarc and their definition, and “the Rules of iarc”. These graphics, I believe, would not only serve as special beautification, but would help to inspire and enliven the students working there, but would also be a reminder to all students of the way we are expected and taught to live and work with one another, and the communities around us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Universal Design

As defined by the North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design, Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, with out the need for adaptation, or specialized design. The seven principles of universal design help lay out the steps to be taken when producing such design work. Each principle focuses on different design considerations to be carefully thought out through the design process. The seven principles of universal design are:

1)   Equal Use (design is useful, marketable, and appealing to persons of all abilities)
2)   Flexibility in Use (accommodates range of personal preferences and abilities. “I.E. works for left and right handed people”)
3)   Simple and Intuitive Use (no manual required to understand)
4)   Perceptible Information (uses different modes of communicating info: verbal, tactile, auditory, etc.)
5)   Tolerance for Error (“fail safe” features)
6)   Low Physical Effort (used with a minimum amount of fatigue)
7)   Size and Space for Approach of Use (easy to use regardless of persons body size, or abilities)

From the definition mentioned above, the phrase “… without the need for adaptation or specialized design,” really stood out to me. Being left-handed, I am a frequent user of these “adapted” products. These include left-handed scissors, left-handed can openers, left-handed spiral notebooks, just to name a few. I don’t know how many lefties have ever tried using a right-handed manual can opener before, but I assure you it is almost impossible. It is from these small moments of struggle in my every day life that I have derived a true appreciation for universal design.

In my eyes, a universal design is a more complete design than those products and environments that are conceived without taking these principles into account. Universal design, as I understand it, is not the creation of one single design determined for all people to use, but all design that carefully and thoughtfully considers all of the different types of people who would want or need to use the product or space being developed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Visual Explorer: community

From a social perspective, I think of a community as a group of people who inhabit the same geographical area, with these persons having shared experiences, and often a shared moral code or system of values. Communities are also a place of learning. Someone once said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” which speaks to the idea of communities as a place that fosters learning, growth, and development.  This is evident in the children in the image above as the intently observe, and attempt to contribute to the group activity. A community is also a place of familiarity (in terms of both people and place), and a place where all members are treated with mutual respect. This can be seen in the close-knit groups that embrace each other.

From a philosophical perspective, it is said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A well-oiled machine cannot run if it is missing a single nut. All parts are necessary for life to carry on, and we all have our unique roles to play in both the local and global community. 

Visual Explorer: authenticity

I chose this image to represent authenticity because ice fishing is a skill unique to only geographic areas that endure extreme cold. This sort of fishing especially is a skill that must be taught, with the craft often being passed down from generation to generation. Something that is authentic can be described as raw, natural, or unenhanced. It is what it is; it does not try and be something it isn’t. For example, the fisherman’s fishing pole is no more than a stick. Yet, the man did not carve the stick to make it smooth, or paint it to look like steel, he simply let his pole be a stick. Learning to respect the integrity of objects, places, buildings, and materials is a key lesson learned in design school. This lesson is also a part of learned ethics in relation to perceived value of the product. By adopting these values it is unlikely the students might be tempted to falsify said value. Adding to their personal value as a genuine, true, and trusted professional.

Visual Explorer: innovation

Innovation, in a general sense, is challenging the traditional way of doing things to improve for the future. As designers, the art of innovation is our profession. It is our job to look at the task/problem from an outside perspective in order to provide a unique solution that improves upon the former. Through the design of objects and space, we are better able to improve upon, and create new experiences that enrich and streamline our daily lives.

I chose this image as both an example of what happens when innovation stands still, and as a picture of how innovation has changed our lives across time.  In terms of politics, when innovation stands still, or if reform is restrained, eventually out of necessity there is a forced push forward or revolution. Although there are more peaceful alternatives, war is an example of this push toward a reformed system that is relevant to current values, and is more efficient. This image shows men armed with guns riding horses. The horse are an example of where innovation stopped early in history in terms of transportation, while the firearms show where innovation has progressed the development of weaponry.

Visual Explorer: stewardship

My first thought, as it relates to stewardship, was of being a good steward of the earth. It reminded me of how the Native Americans never took more than they needed to live, and what they took they used every part. In today’s modern world, we have begun to see the damage our current way of living has done to the environment. In an effort to save the land and water we live off of, new technology has been developed to lessen the negative impact on the earth. The wind turbines featured in the above image are an example of such technology.

From a social perspective, stewardship can be defined as helping those in need, are less fortunate, or who are simply different from ourselves. Stewardship can also be taking care of something that belongs to someone else. The bible speaks of all of us being given different talents, and that it is our job to take said talents, develop them, and use them for the betterment of society. Thus, using our individual strengths for the good of the team. 

Visual Explorer: how they all connect

The community breeds and molds the individual, making them anauthentic, contributing member of the local and global community. Likepollination, innovation is bred from the sharing/exchanging of ideas, and pastexperiences between people from different backgrounds. Stewardship is takingwhat we have learned from our interactions with the business and learningcommunities, and using those tools to give back to the community from which we came.