Monday, December 29, 2008

Junior Systems Studio | Fall 2008

During the Fall 2008 semester, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a Junior Level Studio, instructed by Martha Scotford and Silas Munro. click on images for detail or download the full hi-res pdf that is located on the left side of my blog

The junior level studio at NC State focuses on exploring systems. As a teaching assistant for two sections of the junior studio, my role was to assist students in brainstorming, ideation, concept development and refining their visual language. In addition, I was a full participant in class critiques and developed a class blog to facilitate collective research between the two groups. To begin the semester, the students worked as a team to build an analog concept map of food systems in the United States. The students then identified an area of interest to further explore for the entire semester. By allowing the students to choose their subject matter, it increased ownership and motivation in regard to their work.

The students worked to develop individual concept maps that would function both as a research tool and as a “road map” for all of their remaining projects: Information Design, Identity Design, Packaging Design, Student Choice and Presentation Design. By requiring the students to always go back to the concept map when beginning a new project, it ensured that the students were sticking to their identified system. Students went on two research trips to a local farm and restaurant to explore the social and cultural conditions of their sectors.

The individual concept maps were considered works in progress for the entire semester to allow students to add information as they learned more through research. These particular concept maps were designed to function as evolving research tools more than refined artifacts. The concept maps were used to define and develop the sector of the general map of special interest to the student. Research and resources were to be shared among students in both sections using the class blog. For the chosen food sector, the student researched natural, cultural and economic (and other) systems in which their specific system operates. These systems are those where the design work and developing system operate. Research and map building informed each other and the map helped students understand what they were learning and directed further research. In this concept map, Helen was exploring the affects of different methods used to raise cattle. She was particularly interested in the affects on the cattle themselves and the humans who consume them.

When creating the illustrated explanation of one time-based process within the students chosen food sector, they were to combine multiple types of information design and use cited research. The students had to identify the designer voice, audience and context for the design artifact. These requirements introduced the idea that design does not exist in a vacuum and is dependent on cultural and social settings. Here, Helen was exploring how to illustrate the differences in meat and eggs that result from various farming methods.

The students created a basic visual identity system for a food-related business, organization, institution or event (existing or invented). Minimum design requirements included: mark, typefaces, colors, application to various scales, surfaces and a design manual. They imagined the total system and selected what to implement. Student writing defined entity, location, vision, core mission, audience and potential competition. The packaging project could extend the identity work or be used to explore a new area within their identified sector. The packaging project was opened up to include the packaging of goods, services or experiences.

For the identity project, Helen created a fictional “Pay What You Can Cafe” that serves only local free-range foods. The cafe allows customers to pay what they can and operates on the collectivist ideal that people will actually pay to benefit the greater whole. For the packaging, she wanted to extend the identity and create to-go containers. It was important to her that they further supported the ideals of her fictional cafe, so she designed a system that allows customers to re-use their containers when possible. When re-use is not possible customers are offered 100% recyclable materials.

In this information design artifact, Rachael explored how gender affects service in a restaurant and how much time and energy is wasted when following the proper gender based etiquette. She envisioned this piece being used by the typically upper and middle class clientele that frequent high end restaurants.

Rachael created a fictional childrens party planning service for her identity project. She was interested in creating a kit of parts for the company that would operate both as the advertising materials and as the artifacts at the parties themselves. She worked to create characters that would cross typical gender lines and function both for boys and girls.

For the packaging project, Rachael used her previously created characters (created during the identity project) to create dynamic patterns.

In this concept map, Teresa researched food packaging. She was curious about why packaging is needed in the first place, how social and economic conditions affect packaging and finally how it is utilized in marketing.

For the information design project, Teresa analyzed cereal production in the US. She designed this to operate as a folded booklet or a flat poster.

For the identity and packaging projects, Teresa created what she jokingly called the “Netflix of Cereal” or Trik My Bowl. This company allows customers to go online and customize cereal and receive samples through the mail. Once they are finished with the cereal, they return the container for another order. While the project is fairly speculative, Teresa was exploring timely issues such as how Web 2.0 and the desire to collaborate and customize may be changing our everyday lives.

The student choice project allowed students to explore any medium, intent, voice, context and audience that they desired. The only requirement was that it fit into their identified food system sector. The students were required to write the project brief in order to define the design problem. Many students used this as an opportunity to explore a strategy that they would normally not employ or to challenge themselves by defining a problem that would push them to work on self identified weaknesses. For the student choice project, Teresa chose to challenge her process by starting out the project with no real vision in mind for what the end result would be. She created these light-hearted posters as an exploration of how juxtaposing highly artificial cereal with natural landscapes may affect an audience’s interpretation of the cereal.

For this information design piece, Shaade set out to make a poster that would exist in a school classroom. She was interested in layering different types of information and creating an informative, yet lively, artifact the explored the differences in natural and artificial honey production.

Taking a playful turn with her research on artificial or genetically modified foods, Shaade created a company, MODO, that creates toys inspired by genetically modified organisms for the identity project.

For the packaging project, Shaade extended her identity work to create collectible toys and packaging that appealed to young adult audiences.

For the student choice project, Shaade wanted to create a complex, dynamic information design piece that asked people to interact. It is a print artifact that is comprised of three different panels that are hinged together on one corner. Information relating to the impact of genetically modified crops on world hunger is hidden and then revealed as the audience interacts with it.

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