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04 OCTOBER 2013

Meredith Davis: A Call to Action for Design Educators

"I believe that design education, at the most fundamental level, views complexity as a problem to be overcome through reductivist artifacts, not as an inevitable and pervasive attribute of life in the post–industrial community. So if the future is about an ever–expanding web of connectedness, how are we preparing students for meaningful work in this complex world? I'd like to suggest that we're not. Despite the obvious emotional impact of Glaser's poster, he belongs to a generation in which the goal of design was to make things simple. Negroponte, on the other hand, is a technologist for whom the design goal is to render the complex manageable and to make complicated things meaningful.

Almost everything about today's graphic design education is matched to Glaser's worldview. We structure both curricula and projects in craft–based progressions from simple to complex, from the abstract to the contextualized. In typography classes, for example, we begin with the letter, and then advance to the word, sentence, paragraph, and page. Sequences of typography courses are built on this simple to complex progression, when opening InDesign demands that students address the formal and interpretive issues of publication design simultaneously; how do you defer a discussion of leading, of column width, of the modernist preconceptions of software, of language? The only option is default, and what kind of typographic lesson is that?

The reality is that our strategy for teaching typography is residue from how students could comp type in predigital times; by drawing. It is the organizational structure for every type book since James Craig's 1970 Designing with Type, but it holds less relevance for what students need to know about communication in a digital world. Typography today is a complex relational system that depends on the interplay of formal, technological, linguistic, and cultural variables. Yet we persist in teaching this progression of scale, isolating such variables within their own distinct conceptual frameworks and rules.

The same strategy exists for how students progress in other studies of form. Foundation lessons begin with abstraction: point, line, and plane; color wheels; and paper–folding exercises. We defer discussions of meaning and context until later levels of the curriculum and beginning students learn these abstraction principles only through patterns in what makes their teachers smile. Nothing about these studies resembles what students know about in the real world, and as a colleague recently suggested, what the clients of design see in our work. So what if we begin with the familiar and complex?"

(Meredith Davis, 4 April 2008, AIGA Boston Presentation)

Presentation made at W/Here: Contesting Knowledge in the 21st Century, Emily Carr University of Art+Design, Vancouver, Canada, 7–9 December 2011.

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 SEPTEMBER 2013

World's first ethical smartphone to launch in UK

"Fairphone, which is described by its makers as 'the world's first ethical smartphone' is set to launch in London. The first prototype of the Fairphone, which has been developed by a team in The Netherlands, will be shown at the London Design Festival next week. Fairphone's makers say they use conflict–free materials and aim to ensure that every worker in the phone's supply chain receives a fair wage."

(Angus Montgomery, 10 Sep 2013, Design Week)

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TAGS

2013 • Action Aid • AmsterdamAndroid OSapplied research • Bas van Abel • black box system • Closing the Loop (programme) • conflict-free • conflict-free materials • Democratic Republic of Congodesign responsibilityDesign Weekethical consumption • fair wage • fairer principles • fairness • Fairphone • Fairtrade • Jelly Bean OS • London Design Festivalmademobile phoneNetherlands • non-profit organisation • Peoples Republic of Chinaphoneprototype • raise awareness • recyclingresearch projectresponsible designreuse • Schrijf-Schrijf • smartphonesocial enterprise • social values • South Kivu • speculative designsupply chainvaluesWaag Society • wages • workers

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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