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Reaching Across Cultures: International Design Initiatives at The University of the Arts
DesignPhiladelphia 2013
ThursdayOctober 17
6:00PM to 8:00PM
Terra Hall, University of the Arts
211 South Broad Street
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With the increasing complexity of social, technological, and ecological challenges, design practice has subsequently expanded its focus to become a significant agent of social transformation and innovation. Designers have at their disposal a number of tools and methods which give them a unique ability to partner with communities, organizations, and businesses to help initiate meaningful change. 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 other cultural contexts? How do designers most appropriately enter into these cultures? Reflecting on these questions, students and faculty from the undergraduate and graduate Industrial Design programs at The University of the Arts will discuss two recent design collaborations in Kenya and Beirut, Lebanon that explore the challenges inherent for designers working in global contexts.

In this DesignPhiladelphia blog feature, Prof. Jeremy Beaudry explains further the motivations and objectives for the event: http://www.designphiladelphia.org/?p=2506

Reaching Across Cultures: International Design Initiatives at The University of the Arts
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 at 3:55 pm by azahn123.
Design Professionals of the Post-Professional Era

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

Design Professionals of the Post-Professional Era
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This entry was posted on Friday, October 25th, 2013 at 5:40 am by azahn123.
The Value of Real-World Projects

Kelly Babcock, a second year student in the MiD program, writes on the importance and value of real-world projects in her graduate education experience. This post was originally posted on Kelly’s blog on October 27, 2012.

It just recently occurred to me that the majority of my higher educational training in the MiD program has involved a real-world project curriculum — and how beneficial this has been to my “employability.”

My undergraduate graphic design coursework involved an interdisciplinary studio class where we formed student teams and worked with real clients on branding-focused projects. The students were from marketing, mass communication, and graphic design, and the course lasted for one semester. We learned project management skills, had regular client meetings and presentations, and had to provide professional design deliverables by strict deadlines.

My MiD graduate coursework at the University of the Arts has a strong focus on collaborating with real clients. We take on the responsibility of identifying client partners, building the relationship, and fostering it throughout all aspects of the project — schedules, meetings, presentations, deliverables, and of course the design work involved.

This curriculum has been invaluable to me, and I can’t imagine school any other way. The thought of a “made up” client or project just seems meaningless, and I feel that higher education (and even earlier) will need to adjust to this type of real-world project curriculum if they want to best prepare their graduates for employment. There are key skills that you acquire by working in this professional manner, and the more comfortable you are with them prior to entering the workforce, the more you will stand out above others.

I have been researching this further and I am interested in understanding the ways in which others describe the outcomes and effectiveness of engaging students with real clients. One study I came across was: “Future Fit: Preparing Graduates for the World of Work,” published by the Confederation of British Industry. The study nicely outlines what employability means, and the skills that can be acquired while still in school to better prepare you for the work world.

First, they define “employability skills”:

A set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace — to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.

Then, they outline what the skills include:

  • Self-management: readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning.
  • Teamworking: respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others.
  • Business and customer awareness: basic understanding of the key drivers for business success – including the importance of innovation and taking calculated risks – and the need to provide customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty.
  • Problem solving: analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
  • Communication and literacy: application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and questioning.
  • Application of numeracy: manipulation of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing, estimating and applying formulae).
  • Application of information technology: basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines.
  • Underpinning all these attributes, the key foundation, must be a positive attitude: a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.
  • Frequently mentioned by both employers and universities is entrepreneurship/enterprise: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk-taking. An individual with these attributes can make a huge difference to any business.

I can relate to these skills, and can attest to the benefits of learning these through the real-world project curriculum I have experienced through the MiD program.

As I continue to look into university-based venture incubators and innovation centers for an independent study project this semester, I hope to incorporate these ideas about engaging students with real clients. There is just such great satisfaction when you know that the project has a greater purpose and value beyond just merely a learning exercise.

The Value of Real-World Projects
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 at 7:55 pm by azahn123.
2012 MiD Thesis Projects

Presenting the 2012 MiD thesis projects from our most recent cohort of degree candidates. Please explore this impressive work below and let us know what you think — we welcome feedback on our work in the program.

Designing Conversations: Frameworks for Collaboration & Empowerment
Matt Van Der Tuyn

Designing Conversations is an action research based project exploring how Design frameworks can lay the foundation for collaboration and empowerment within organizations and communities. We will demonstrate both how Design can be used as a tool to address ever-evolving problems and how Designers can transfer these tools to the organizations that will continuously benefit from their use. What I have tested in this work is how design can enhance and leverage the empowerment and collaboration of individuals and groups within both structures to produce lasting transformational change. In this thesis I have prototyped several frameworks and supporting materials to help guide the work being done in both of these environments toward a more collaborative and empowering approach. This has led to an understanding of strategies and guiding principles in working within these two contexts to build a capacity for more meaningful ways of working and learning.

Designing Health: Fostering the Growth of a Healthy Workforce within Corporate Culture 
Alaina Pineda & Sara Hall

Designing Health: Fostering the Growth of a Healthy Workforce within Corporate Culture describes our work in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Health System [UPHS] to design a work environment that promotes and values employee health. Through our discovery process, we also identified the need to affect the decision-making process of our client and the much larger health system in order to reach those impactful outcomes. To try to make a good thing even better at the health system, we developed and implemented a series of design interventions to address the current challenges within the UPHS environment. This design driven model for organizational learning can produce meaningful insights that will facilitate positive changes in less time and with fewer resources. Our process empowers change from within an organization. Ultimately, we provided our client with a series of tools and abilities to enable them to implement sustainable and successful initiatives for their employees.

SHIFT: Cycling as a catalyst for better communities
Nicolas Coia & Dominic Prestifilippo

Using the bicycle as a catalyst, SHIFT proposes a number of design interventions to help raise Philadelphia’s quality of life. To facilitate this proposed shift, this thesis leverages the Human Centered Design Process through ethnographic field studies, visual data synthesis and an iterative design approach. The meaning of “interested but concerned” was juxtaposed against the theories of latent demand to highlight and unpack the economic benefits that a 3% shift in ridership could afford this fair city. Finally, a semantic view on the role of politics and communities in Philadelphia is unraveled. Focusing on the wickedness of the encountered problem and expressing how design solutions are but a small piece of the puzzle.

2012 MiD Thesis Projects
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 1:43 pm by azahn123.
UArts Finance Project

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Last year, during a particularly low time in the economy, a group of MiD students came to the aid of their local university community here at UArts. They began working with the finance office to help improve their systems and discovered a fundamental issue. The school’s bi-annual presentations about the state of the school were bogged down with a lot of formal spreadhseets explaining, in possibly too much detail, the progress of the school.

It was recognized that this means of communication was difficult for the visual people to follow and so MiD students Justin Witman and Fraser Marshall were tasked with the job of finding a better way to communicate this critical information that would make it more accessible and appropriate to the audience without compromising its integrity.

Working with the Vice President for Finance and Administration, Bill Mea, and one of the the graphic design professors here, Larry Bach, the group developed and iterated a more visual way of presenting the critical information. All the while maintaining a balance of the two mindsets of administrators, focused on details of the information, and faculty, focused on what this information meant for them.  The visual community appreciated this effort because it allowed them to see through the clutter and better understand the status of their business.

It turned out that in the area of university administration this was rather pioneering work. So much so that the group was accepted to present their process at the annual meeting for the Eastern Association of College and University Officers in D.C. The presentation focused mostly on the process of developing this new visual method and was well received.

Overall the project was a success. The school community was better informed and Mr. Mea says he is very interested in continuing to employ the techniques developed for making his formal information more accessible. The school has also begun to realize the resources it has in its student body and build a more symbiotic relationship by providing the students more real world experience while helping the school improve.

UArts Finance Project
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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 10th, 2011 at 4:17 pm by azahn123.