University of Washington (Erin)



Sep '08 - Feb '10

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    Catching Up Post #2: Winter Quarter + good news

    By copper_top
    Sep 12, '08 6:02 PM EST

    So I like the idea of recapping last year, but my last post just got too dang long. Please bear with me as my editing skills hopefully continue to improve... For the Winter quarter catchup, I’ll just give the highlights, and some exciting current related news.

    The class most worth noting in Winter Quarter was Environmental Design. This is the primary area that I am in school for, and I get asked what the heck it is ALL the time. So to avoid the question, environmental design deals with design challenges at the intersection of 2D design (print) and 3D design (architecture, urban planning, industrial design). Environmental Design includes but is not limited to: signage, exhibit design (not just trade shows, but museums, schools, etc.), urban scale advertisement, and wayfinding.

    What I love about this is that it lets me utilize my favorite bits of my architectural education: I understand space and scale in a way that most of my classmates don’t, get to keep playing with fun materials, and when working in exhibit and installation design get to contribute to public education. What I hate about this is the occasional expectation to slap a metal logo on a building, or put a bunch of text on a wall and call it a day.

    The main project I worked on in environmental design was called Make Change: teams of students each chose a topic which was important to us and designed an installation or exhibit to try and affect change in that area. My group was amazed when one of our members told us about garbage island, so we decided that we wanted to impact that situation in some way. After tossing ideas around, we felt that the best way to do this was to get people to reduce their consumption of plastics. Given that the university educates and/or employs tens of thousands of people, many of whom are in the most wasteful consumer demographic, we decided to keep the site close to home, and keep the tone light with a little humor. The result was recently the focus of an article in Arcade Magazine, written by the professor for that class, who seemed very impressed with the project. I had a chance to speak with some people from Arcade a few months ago and they were excited about how the project fit with their theme for the issue: we were mostly excited about melting plastic. More images can be viewed here.

    In totally unrelated news, in my last post I mentioned that I would love to teach Information Design to architects- well, it’s not quite that, but this fall I get to practice on Informatics students. UW has a whole Informatics program, where the students focus entirely on the dissemination of information. Unfortunately in the past there has been very little cross-pollination between their department and the Design program, but this year they specifically invited designers to apply to TA one of their senior level courses, and I was just informed that I got the position. My previous TA experience has led me to believe that I work well with older students rather than foundation level students (the critique style engrained in me by architecture school is perceived as harsh in the world of graphic design, but older students seem better able to handle it), so this is a chance to see whether that truly is the case. I am also really excited about teaching to people with an intellectual approach to the topic, and hope with the addition of some basic design skills my students can do some really fun work.


    • mantaray
      Unfortunately in the past there has been very little cross-pollination between their department and the Design program

      wow, this seems surprising, so I'm wondering if I don't quite understand what Informatics is. Seems like Informatics would be... the same as Communication Design?

      Sounds intriguing -- and congrats!!! Let us know what teaching is like!
      Sep 12, 08 9:40 pm  · 

      yeah, I know. From the Informatics program website:

      Informatics students design information systems and services to meet the needs of people. Students in the program develop a broad understanding of both social aspects of technology (e.g., privacy issues, ethics, and management) as well as the technical aspects (e.g., search engines, web development, and database design). At the end of the program students bring these skills together to work with a client on a real-world project called the Informatics Capstone.
      Examples of possible jobs Informatics will prepare you for include usability engineer, information architect, network administrator, IT director/manager, and database developer.

      So the Informatics students approach the same information from the opposite skillset than designers do. We're all trying to make information more accessible, but designers are taught how to make it look pleasing and informatics students are taught how to code it. I imagine that collaborations between the schools would produce great results.

      Sep 13, 08 4:12 am  · 

      Ohhhh, that's interesting. I guess it's the same as "Information Systems Design" or something like that from my own alma mater. Intriguing! Yeah, you'd hope that each program would require at least one course in the other's field!

      Sep 13, 08 11:56 am  · 

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