A report from Min Yeh, Fall 2014 DSI post-graduate fellow
Fall 2014 DSI Post-graduate Fellow Min Wen Yeh spent the last several months building upon the work of her thesis project, The Bridge, which addresses design tools and methods for cross-cultural interaction and group collaboration. Her thesis project included a toolkit for students bridging highly motivated mindsets to positive cultural adaptation behaviors. During the Fellowship, Min further developed the thesis work through designing and testing educational tools in the ESLI program at UArts, and built a conceptual / behavioral / pedagogical model.
The Design for Social Impact Post-graduate Fellowship provides exceptional graduates of the program the opportunity to implement and measure the impact of their thesis work as applied within the Philadelphia community. Additionally, the Fellow will make a significant contribution to the graduate program by serving as a mentor to current students and promoting the work of the program in support of our recruitment efforts.
Min Yeh’s fellowship was generously sponsored by the Design for Social Impact MDes graduate program, the Office of the Provost, and International Student Programs at The University of the Arts.
Fuajia Amin, a first year student in the MiD program, reflects on her understanding of the role of the designer.This post was originally posted on Fuajia’s blog on October 3, 2013.
I remember one of my first industrial design projects; I was a sophomore at Virginia Tech and this was the point in the program where students were taught the design process. I was in the process of learning how to research, iterate, sketch, create prototypes, do 3d models and render them. When I completed this project, I felt so proud of myself; I had created something on my own from the beginning to the end and I actually liked the end result. Today, design seems to be taking a direction that is allowing more and more people to experience something similar to this feeling of accomplishment that one feels after creating.
“Yet, to my mind, the most significant boundary currently not only being crossed but being dismantled is the boundary between professional and amateur, or more pertinently, between designer and user.” (Atkinson, 30). This statement raised some questions and thoughts in my mind. Though I see myself as a professional, I wondered when I stopped viewing myself as an amateur. Was it supposed to be after I got my undergraduate diploma? Whenever it was, the issue that arises from these boundaries being crossed or dismantled is the negative way in which some people, especially professionals, view the situation. Many feel as if the role of the professional will be devalued, but I do not fully agree with that argument. Having access to design tools does not make someone a designer. Even if everyone had access to a 3d printer, many will still make rubbish until someone teaches them the skill or until they encounter an easily identifiable need. Having this access also does not devalue those who went to school for design, instead I believe it leads to more opportunities for collaboration between professionals and amateurs.
I believe this is where one can truly see the difference between professionals and amateurs; designers have a better understanding of all the different aspects that go into a design while amateurs tend to see only the immediate need or want. It is important to note that designers are the ones responsible for making design tools more accessible to the masses or for making design more self driven through the DIY approach and other methods. Designers are helping non-designers to feel less dependent and able to help themselves. In a way, I see the designer who is able to create this as an “advanced” professional because they are not only designing a product; they are designing experiences that allow people to feel confident and creative. They have a better understand of the individual’s need beyond the product.
Design is more than just a profession to me; it is more about solving problems and delivering services whether they are concrete, abstract or emotional. As designers, we can design tools that allow people to feel similarly to how I felt when I completed one of my first design projects. I believe that if we focus too hard on the profession part of design, we can get a little self focused and possibly have a hard time accepting changes which can push us to grow as professionals. If we see ourselves more like experts at solving problems, creating experiences and providing services, we are able to discover new forms of design and opportunities around us that also lead us to be better well rounded designers.
Source cited: Boundaries? What Boundaries? The Crisis of Design in a Post-Professional Era, P. Atkinson – 8th European Academy of Design Conference – 2009
With the increasing complexity of social, technological, and ecological challenges, design — as a process and a way of thinking — has subsequently expanded its focus to become a leading agent of social transformation and innovation. Designers have at their disposal a number of powerful tools and methods which give them a unique ability to initiate meaningful change in communities, organizations, and businesses. But how do these design tools and methods translate across cultural, linguistic, and geographical lines? And how do the underlying assumptions and values embedded within these practices sit within in other cultural contexts?
With these questions in mind, four MID graduate students (Vrouyr Joubanian, Nidhi Jalwal, Min-Wen Yeh, Jordan Shade) and MID faculty member, Prof. Jonas Milder, travelled to Beirut, Lebanon on June 3rd to begin a design research project exploring the translation of design methods and tools across cultures. Through workshops and focused fieldwork, the MID team will initiate a month-long design collaboration with Lebanese students and designers in which they together will explore the shifting definition and application of design methods and tools in the Beirut context. The project will culminate with an exhibition and public presentation and discussion of the experience by the MID graduate students and MID Program Director, Prof. Jeremy Beaudry, during the 2nd annual Beirut Design Week, a series of exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and screenings which explores the role of design in contemporary culture, society, education and economy (June 24-30).
This project is generously supported by The University of the Arts Faculty and Academic Development Fund, with special assistance from Associate Provost Jim Savoie. Essential to the project has been our partnership with the MENA Design Research Center, a Beirut-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the understanding of design and developing its role as a creative tool for the enhancement of society at large in the Middle East and North Africa. Doreen Toutikian, Director MENA DRC & Co-Founder, has been instrumental in helping us frame the project and organize the logistics for our visit. Studio work space for the MID team has been kindly provided by AltCity, a co-working and incubator space created to facilitate, mobilize, encourage, and support high impact entrepreneurship and innovation in Lebanon and the region.
During the first year of their studies, Babcock and Visconti explored the world of alternative learning spaces through their work with YouthBuild Charter School, a vocational charter school for high school dropouts, and the Free Library of Philadelphia teen services. They employed design research methods, such as ethnographic observation and interviewing as well as generative participatory activities, to gain a deep understanding of issues such as chronic low attendance, and how to build programming and physical spaces for young adults.
This experience naturally led them to focus their thesis work within public, secondary education. “Truss: A Partnership for Design and Education” outlines a model for partnership between university design students and public school teachers to support the implementation and sustainability of design-based learning.
It tells the story of Babcock and Visconti’s own experience working with a principal intern/American history teacher at the Franklin Learning Center, a high school in the Philadelphia public school system, where they implemented a design-based learning project to build 21st century skills in a class of junior students.
This experience provided the opportunity to outline the roles, responsibilities and relationships between the design student and public school teacher. Through this innovative model for partnership, they hope to alleviate some of the main stresses or obstacles teachers face when implementing a new way of teaching.
Babcock and Visconti will be speaking about their experience as designers in the classroom, and will be focusing their discussion on the five things they found to be most influential in shaping the roles and relationship between the university design student and the teacher. These key learnings include lesson and activity planning, direct instruction and facilitation, building creative confidence, assessment of understanding, and organizing reflection.
Their presentation will be followed by time for Q&A and discussion.
Recent MID Grads Kelly Babcock & Alex Visconti Will Present at ‘Design-Ed Future 2013’
Tags: alumni, design, design research, education, thesis
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Thursday, June 27th, 2013