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Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide


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This e-book is an accompaniment to "Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills," published in Nov. 2010 by HOW Design Press. …

This e-book is an accompaniment to "Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills," published in Nov. 2010 by HOW Design Press.

"Creative Workshop" contains 80 creative challenges that will help any designer reach a breadth of stronger design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. Exercises range from creating a typeface in an hour, to designing a paper robot in an afternoon, to designing web pages and other interactive experiences. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background stories to help designers increase their capacity to innovate.

Before the book, however, there was a quarter-long class where design students had to complete 80 projects in just 11 weeks. This Teacher's Guide describes the pedagogical methods behind the book, how to create your own Creative Workshop class or workshop series, as well as how to utilize challenges from the book most effectively in a classroom setting. This text is intended for teachers of design and creative thinking, but it may also be helpful for designers and creative managers.

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  • 1. i e D M il- et T le ce, hat um mer pp Ma ate k Me dab P, EP, Pu or e Gam by N inking O ing W ne A ess ec re wn rmy gra ino ter ed Chec Se CD, L Sto Is L de i, V See ot A ,R iPho Go nd rd Pos re se op 51 Tour de H 52 Wacky Ve 50 Patien Bio Vid 53 Excuse to 49 Th 54 Th Rob co . da Sh 48 eu 55 Mo a I ni, 47 .O e ,R 56 Re e nte og 46 Ve yp 57 ce for V.O oY 45 re Pri tot re n 58 du E. uA ro 44 OBSERVATION he ch o on P Re 59 N ti ,T y Te 43 0 CTIO nY 6 mo TRU ink he tM h 42 ro ing s INS W P IT 61 dd Ju INN dy e ff a neles 41 Cr rW and OV 62 R ea h It O AT Dis ite oo C IO ’s r td aid 63 Wr olla N Let 40 Ou Up, t Pl w ar Wo en r aD ITY 64 39 I He L’ Oh List t Fo Tha IAL pe 38 rom part 65 uy ? I’d B T tore Us A TER ar 37 er Te 6 6 t’s in S MA Wh a Nev 36 d 67 rs Diape t Goo U rban Lick I 68 35 mut t of Ga pe Face 9 Ou 34 Ty ke a Nap 6 33 Let’s Ta -Casting 70 Future 32 Sell Me a Bridge 71 This Is for Your Health 31 Going to Seed 72 Paper, Plastic, Glass, Vapor 30 Flappin 73 Free Tib et Blog g in the Win d DAVID SHERWIN & INTERPRETATIO 29 I’v 74 Bli N e Got a nded b MARY PAYNTER SHERWIN y the Lig Golden 75 28 ht Ticket teacher’s guide Ten-S econ Touch 76 27 d Film Scree Crea Sniff n of D ION Festiv 26 ture al 77 Test eaf R ock UT Feat Can Ima ure EC 78 25 WORKSHOP gin You creative EX ar y He a Tot 24 Film 79 Ben rM ally Ce din eN gG He 80 Wh 23 rea ow? l at eog Sh 01 Do rap22 Bo We ave IK hy 21 ok s, S no 02 He ll, in Op Re he 20 po Sh FOU llo My w? De 03 po ,M rt Ea NDA 19 Bo ad sit ave 04 s TION sy T yN ok es 18 … a Ph 05 im am At 17 ryb ilo It S sA 06 tra On B o 16 sp eM oo eI 07 C s ct 15 I’m 0 08 eL he I’m ac kE h rs in Sto unds Mr. Free nd Fee ine Dra Ro eL Hey, Be Grid ing Blu ck 14 10 Ass 9 Tra og ling e tte Sixty- win o Spray You g lock ro 13 Three ocia 10 Grung Rea x 10 ed aB nV Seco lly, Mad Paint tion gic San e in O iny 12 Strange C R nd lan evet s 11 Future Pen
  • 2. CONTENTS build upon this work! ............... 3 INTRODUCTION: what DO design students need? .............. 5 Using creative workshop in a classroom setting ............ 13 Teaching the challenges: Foundation ............................... 21 Execution .................................. 30 Materiality............................... 42 Instruction ............................... 49 Observation . ............................. 52 . innovation ................................ 55 interpretation......................... 62 about the authors .................... 71 GET THE BOOK ............................. 72layout based on a design by Grace Ring, HOW Design Press
  • 3. Build Upon this Work!This e-book is an accompaniment to CreativeWorkshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, Creative Commons License Infopublished in November 2010 by HOW Design Press. The material contained in this eBook isThe print book contains 80 creative challenges that ©2011 David and Mary Sherwin. It is offeredwill help any designer reach a breadth of stronger under a Creative Commons Attribution-design solutions, in various media, within any set time NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unportedperiod. Exercises range from creating a typeface in License for use internationally. The full detailsan hour, to designing a paper robot in an afternoon, of the license can be found here: http://to designing web pages and other interactive Each exercise includes compellingvisual solutions from other designers and background To quickly summarize the license:stories to help designers increase their capacity You are free to…to innovate. Share: To copy, distribute, and transmitThis e-book was written to work in concert with the workCreative Workshop. It is a work in progress, intendedfor teachers of design & creative thinking, but it may Remix: To adapt the workalso be helpful for designers and creative managers. Under the following conditions…If you have any updates or improvements to the ideas Attribution: You must attribute the work in thecontained here—or if we made a mistake—we’d love manner specified by the author or licensorto incorporate your input and promote your thinking (but not in any way that suggests that theyto the greater design community. And if you’ve endorse you or your use of the work). Pleasecreated a challenge and tried it out with others, we’d provide attribution back to the authors aslove to consider it for a future Creative Workshop book. follows: “From Creative Workshop: A Teacher’sWrite us at Guide by David and Mary Sherwin, http://” Noncommercial: You may not use this To order copies or have work for commercial purposes. If you’d Creative Workshop supplied like to, you’ll need to contact us at david@ for permission. to your university bookstore, Share Alike: If you alter, transform, or build call 1-800-289-0963. You can upon this work, you may distribute the also buy copies online at resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. Upon this Work! 3
  • 4. 4 Exercise #
  • 5. Introduction: What DoDesign Students Need?“If you want to study something, it’s better not to know what the answer is.”—Shunryu Suzuki, “Find Out for Yourself”When considering the skills that today’s designers The answers we received back were surprisinglyneed to be successful in today’s job market, we often consistent, and distressingly integral to the success offocus on job requirements, which are listed in tidy any designer working today. The majority of them fellbullet points on recruitment requests: into the following four categories: • Experience working in Adobe Creative Suite 1. Big-Picture Ideation Planning version du jour the Execution • Knows Flash, Dreamweaver, HTML5/CSS3, Strong conceptual thinking is the root of any well- Javascript, and more esoteric flavors of script- crafted design execution—and the skill of creating ing languages (and theoretically knows how concepts through focused brainstorming is often to create an interactive experience) learned through mentorship or brute repetition on • 3 -5+ years of “related” design experience the job. Additionally, most designers discover that an idea is meaningless if it isn’t delivered on time andCreative Workshop, both the book and the class, executed well. So, effective ideation requires strictwas inspired by a survey we conducted in 2008 with time management and structure. Otherwise, we’re justdesigners and creative directors with whom David creating napkin sketches.had worked in the past, as well as creative leaders inthe American design community whose paths we had “My experience working with young designers iscrossed. Specifically, we wanted to know what today’s that they are excited and interested in present-creative directors and designers sought in students ing a technique. Often there is little thoughtemerging from design school—what skills students behind it other than it looks cool. I prefer toweren’t learning that could be infused back into their have the cool as the topping for a carefullycourse curriculum. planned design.”The questions in the survey were open-ended, such — endy Quesinberry, creative director and Was: When working with or managing other designers, principal of Quesinberry Associateswhat skills do you most actively cultivate? We also “Idea generation has become increasinglyasked for anecdotes regarding how they overcame important to me. That means no computer!a difficult design challenge, thereby stretching their Just sketches and notes and scribbles andtalent and growing a practical design skill. mood boards. These all help keep ideas fromIntroduction: What Do Design Students Need? 5
  • 6. becoming too precious, and encourages with a willingness to share and help each exploration of ideas. There’s something about other… It just doesn’t feel like work when you’re sitting down and finessing an idea on the doing it right.” computer that can make it harder to let go of — uane King, principal of BBDK and creator of D an idea that’s just not working. Even when you the design blog Thinking for a Living know it’s not!” “Trust is by far the most important thing. It’s —Michel Vrana, book designer fragile and takes time to build, but only with trust can there be collaboration. And only with collaboration will people help each other to make the best ideas in the group surface.”“Technology and — cott Berkun, author of The Myths of S Innovation and Making Things Happentools should not get in 3. Sketching Ideasthe way of your ideas. Out of all the tools available to a working designer, the humble pencil is often the quickest method to accessThe second this happens, one’s intuition. It’s often not listed as a requirement in a job listing, but creative directors and designersyou’re screwed.” looking to hire you will listen not only to what comes out of your mouth, but also the quality of thought—David Conrad that you render through design sketching. Only after considering a sketch can the design execution take place, whether via Photoshop, code, or tempera paint. “The ability to sketch an idea before executing2. Collaboration Communication it is fundamental to any work environment and to any economy. Sketching affords designersEven for solo designers, collaboration is the lifeblood the ability to suggest without committing toof any professional creative endeavor—with your marks or grids or any element of design. Byclients, with fellow designers, and with vendors that quickly sketching out ideas, the poor onessupport fulfilling your work. But to collaborate well, you fade quickly from priority without wasting pre-have to squelch your ego, speak your mind, bring in cious time to execute them. The discerningpartners from other disciplines beyond design, and designer uses sketching to rule out as well asknow the business problems you’re trying to solve. rule in dominant ideas about the formal ele- “Sharing your thoughts isn’t a risk, it’s an asset. ments of any communication. It is the domain Creative kinships with people from a wide of the sketch where the concept is nailed variety of skill sets serve to expand your views down as well, instead of massaging more aes- of what’s possible. Whether designers, pro- thetic details, which don’t matter one iota if grammers, motion graphics artists, illustrators, the big idea doesn’t work.” copywriters, or photographers, the result will —Carrie Byrne, Creative Director, Worktank be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative energy that can offer true originality while test- “Technology and tools should not get in the ing your assumptions of how things are done… way of your ideas. The second this happens, I love to watch the sparks fly when creative you’re screwed.” individuals meet, match wits, and inspire each —David Conrad, Studio Director, other. I also thoroughly enjoy participating in Design Commission these exchanges myself. These relationships require honesty and a lack of ego combined6 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 7. across the table and told the client that ‘this4. Resilience Under Pressure site will be designed and developed with aTo quote Scott Berkun: “There is nothing like the modern, CSS-based format.’ I had no clueimpossible and the unfair to stretch your talents.” if I’d be able to pull it off. With the addedDesigners who focus their energies on untangling pressure of having given my word I threwextraordinary and seemingly intractable problems myself into the project and succeeded wherelearn design fundamentals more quickly, while before I had not. I’ve never gone back toexposing new domains for future exploration. However, table-based work since. Pressure and fear isthese kinds of “stretch” projects must be balanced an excellent motivator.”with time for reflection, or designers will burn out. — ndy Rutledge, Principal and Chief Design A “There was a time in my career when I worked Strategist, Unit Interactive for an individual who directed a department of a well-known agency. This was a person How Can Students Acquire of questionable character who overstepped These Skills More Quickly? boundaries in every way possible. This Devil wore Prada. The years spent at that place Why aren’t more students graduating with these skills? were my second college education. My but- Can these skills be taught in that setting at all? tons were pushed. My ego was battered and In the classroom, there may be a desire to focus on bruised. Because of this, my creativity/problem deep study of design fundamentals, such as typog- solving was stretched to new levels. This was raphy, layout, and the use of computer programs, the most tortuous yet rewarding experience of rather than exploring various domains of design. But my career. Although it may not seem like it at in analyzing the survey we’d sent out more thoroughly, the time, being pushed beyond what you think we realized that developing a fast-paced sequence of is possible is the best education available.” quick design challenges would force designers to ide- —Jon Lindstrand, designer ate in an improvisational manner. They could illustrate their ideas in collaboration with fellow designers, and communicate them to a client or teacher. Recent thinking by design educators in America is“There is nothing like echoing this desire to create:the impossible and “curricula characterized by flux rather than stability; classrooms that are open and perme-the unfair to stretch able rather than closed and finite; teaching materials understood as participatory plat-your talents.” forms that are modular and extensible; and pedagogical practices founded on perceiving the larger system rather than isolated entities—Scott Berkun within that system.” — olly Willis, “Embracing Flux,” New Contexts/ H New Practices: Six Views of the AIGA Design “I had been studying how to design and devel- Educators Conference, edited by Julie Lasky op web pages without using tables for layout, It can be just as hard to effectively learn the skills I’d instead using divs and CSS entirely, but found identified in two- and four-year design schools as it is it quite difficult. I always had to abandon my in the workplace. But not all of this knowledge must effort and go back to table-layout as I butted come from doing graphic design projects. We’ve up against my knowledge and skill limitations. been following ongoing discussions on the Interaction Shortly after starting my first job at an agency, I Design Association’s website regarding this subject. had a client discovery session where I looked Diversion Media, when queried by a graduatingIntroduction: What Do Design Students Need? 7
  • 8. student about work experience requirements for across all disciplines of design—many of extraordinarybecoming an entry-level interaction designer, complexity and difficulty. Most of the people in thesaid this: class were also working full-time as designers. Most of them had tool-based skills with the latest and greatest “The only way to acquire all these skills is to do software. The only stipulation was that for each chal- projects… However they don’t all need to be lenge in the class, they would need to turn in a pencil- UX projects. If you’ve been a carpenter, short based sketch of their solution, unless a computer order cook, or theater designer you probably execution was required. have a lot of them already. Plus, of course, you need to demonstrate killer deliverables, The structure of the class was not invented whole- mastery of several software programs, and sale by the two of us. One of our first roommates familiarity with the development process. I’d post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In also like to know that you’ve been on at least the summer of 1999, he took a class called “Instant one successful software project through the Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks,” which was being full lifecycle (from whiteboard to launch). All taught by the poet Peter Klappert. The class explored of the above is much more important than an collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/ arbitrary number of years...” fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire, visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and looseSo, every student must master new software technolo- rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of othergies, old-school design theory, and production meth- approaches. Each student was responsible for fulfillingodologies, while fulfilling more projects. But we think in-class and take-home exercises, as well as comingthe dirty secret is not in that a designer should spend up with their own exercises that could be shared withweeks or months on those projects. The projects the class. Many students found the class to be oneshould be unfair in their construction, and limited to a transformative creative experience far beyond anyan hour or two at a time, not days or weeks. other classes they had ever taken in college or gradu- ate school. With a little research, we discovered that Peter’s class was adapted from a course taught at the Corcoran School of Art—one where students were only allowed“Without rules, you’ve two weeks for creating 80 artistic works! The artist Angie Drakopoulos said this about her experience ingot no target to aim for. the Corcoran class:Without flexibility, you “The Corcoran encouraged students to work with many different media and explore newhaven’t the freedom to ideas. What I really learned was a way of think- ing about art, not necessarily how to make it,redefine the target.” but how to think about making it. One of my favorite exercises, in my junior year, was a proj- ect to make 80 works in two weeks. We were—Duane King given specific instructions on different media that had to be used, or an idea to be incorpo- rated, or a color, or words for a piece to refer to. It was exhilarating; it really opened my mindcreative overload as a to the possibilities of making art. Also, becausepedagogical approach of the project’s size and deadline, you couldn’t spend too much time on any individual work;To prove this theory, David taught two quarter-long so you achieved a certain degree of detach-classes where recent graduates from design school ment from the end result, which allowed a lotwere tasked with solving 80 creative challenges of latent ideas and tendencies to surface. I8 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 9. think that was the first time I experienced art as a mind-game.” challenge You’ve been asked to submit anDesigning Structures for Improvisation identity design for the 2012 OlympicCould design be approached as a similar sort of mind Games in London. The initial sketchgame, fostering a similar sense of detachment, allow- of your logo must be composeding intuition to bubble up from the margins? Would from a single, unbroken line. Onceit possible to cram a set of wildly divergent design you’ve placed your pen or pencilexercises into the course of short time frame, forcing down on the paper, you can’t take itdesigners to exercise the full breadth of their abili- off the page until the logo is complete. Don’tties in a finite period of time—learning critical skills go back for corrections—embrace mistakes!more quickly? Would people in such an environmentbecome better designers at an exponentially fasterrate, with substantially better output? Almost everyone knows what the Olympics are, so a design brief isn’t required to understand what charac-During 2009, we worked to construct the challenges teristics may comprise a great logo for the event.that would serve as the foundation of this “80 Works”class for designers. What made this a difficult challenge was the con- straint around how you exercise a critical, almostWhen considering what would comprise these commonplace skill for any designer: challenges, one of Duane King’s responses to Becoming more mindful of what ideas flow out ofour survey best summarized the spirit of our approach: a set of intuitive pencil gestures, and using those “There are various factors in creating an ade- gestures as finished material rather than polishing quate space for a creative team to work within, and refining identity concepts with tighter sketches but I tend to focus on the definition of struc- helped students begin to trust their initial ideas and tures for improvisation, simplicity in complex- their hand-crafted nature. ity and freedom of will. Without rules, you’ve We also had students try out a variant where teams got no target to aim for. Without flexibility, you of people had to create Olympic logo ideas with a haven’t the freedom to redefine the target.” different constraint:We loved the notion of “structures of improvisation”and how it encouraged a push and pull between take it furtherrules and flexibility. We knew that each challengewould have to combine open-ended flexibility with Get into a team of four people. Together, you willrigid rules. The time limit for each challenge would sketch a new logo for the upcoming Olympics. Thealso have to force an immediate confrontation of the design will be passed from one person to the next.problem at hand, rather than letting solutions rumble Each person, using a permanent-ink marker or col-around in the subconscious for a few days. ored pencil, can contribute one element to the design at a time. If you’re crafting type, you can dot an i orAs an example, one of the first challenges David cross a t, but only one word can be written per persontaught in the class was “One Line Logo,” which has a (unless it’s a run-on, if you really want to bend the30-minute time limit: rules). Altering the paper in any way can also consti- tute an element of your design. Keep in mind: once you’ve started, you can’t crumple it up and start over again. And when you’re done, your team will share your work with the class.Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 9
  • 10. This is the opposite of the previous constraint: instead Throughout each class, the students learned toof completing an idea in one gesture, the idea must use timeboxing both in solving individual challengesbe painstakingly communicated or collaboratively and in team collaboration, working in short sprintscreated. And with only one shot to put the idea down tempered by pauses for evaluation and reflection.on paper, the students had to be clever about inte- When solving design problems, the studentsgrating any mistakes into their final identity sketch. would use the first timebox as a place to use unorthodox brainstorming methods to kickstart This is only one example of how we constructed their creative process. the challenges. In the last section of this e-book,“Teaching the Challenges,” we provide further By repeating this process over and over again— thoughts around what makes the challenges sometimes in as little as 15 to 20 minutes—students in Creative Workshop so, for lack of a better had a chance not only to exercise their own talents word, challenging. under pressure, but to also gain an appreciation of the ways fellow designers solved the same problems. Structuring the Design Process Needless to say, during the first few weeks the stu- Through Timeboxing dents struggled. They were putting in sleepless nightsIn the process of brainstorming the challenges, perfecting design executions instead of following thewe realized the following: If a designer knew which skill provided class instruction and focusing on simplethey want to learn, almost any kind of problem could pencil sketches of their ideas. By the end of the class,be designed to help them acquire it. But the way stu- however, they were exploring strong design ideas fromdents tried to solve the challenges, and the specific sketchbooks filled with possible design directions andprocesses they used to arrive at a solution quickly, spending less time sweating under their deadlineswould require an explicit structure if they were going in class and at work. They learned to collaborateto succeed in the time frames they were provided. with each other effectively; with such short deadlines,And this structure needed to start with a designer there wasn’t time for ego. And, most importantly, theyidentifying strong ideas, before she or he became explored domains of design they had never experi-lost in the flow of polishing an executed design. enced before, which redirected many of their career paths dramatically.In researching and testing different design processes,the one that stood out as an exemplary model for the You can read more about timeboxing and using light-class was timeboxing. This technique is often used in weight brainstorming methods beginning on page 4the world of software development, but it’s just as use- of Creative Workshop.ful when creating design solutions. It also keeps design-ers from moving too quickly into a design execution,before they’ve brainstormed a broad range of ideas.“Pretending you know what you’re doing is almostthe same as knowing what you are doing, so justaccept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.”—Bre Pettis and Kyo Stark, “Cult of Done Manifesto”10 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 11. The rest of this e-book outlines how this more agileDesigning (and Teaching) with philosophy for design instruction was implemented inDirty Hands a classroom setting. It’s our hope that there is mate-When design curricula is slow to change, and it rial from this text that you can adapt, explore, andrequires great effort to learn and understand the improve as part of your teaching and ever-changing technologies we must useas designers and teachers of design, it’s tempting tocling to what we’ve learned and “what works” as theend-all, be-all of design practice. Yet in schools, we’reseeking to keep our students’ hands dirty all the time.Perhaps we’re just turning over the same plot of land.In having taught the 80 Works class twice, and inhaving solved all of the challenges in the CreativeWorkshop book—some multiple times—we’ve dealtwith a lot of ambiguity in the design process, aswell as many blind spots in training and working asa designer. It would be impossible for us to professexpertise in many of the focus areas we tackled inclass. In many cases, constructing a challenge andplacing it in the hands of multiple designers has beena leap of faith: sometimes leading to highly successfuland exciting design thinking, and sometimes fizzlinginto a muted failure.But in all cases, we noticed that as the class (andby extension, the teachers) settled into not knowingwhere the next turn would take us, we became morecreative and more willing to take risks. “Pretending youknow what you’re doing is almost the same as know-ing what you are doing, so just accept that you knowwhat you’re doing even if you don’t and do it,” say BrePettis and Kyo Stark in their “Cult of Done Manifesto.”They add: “People without dirty hands are wrong.Doing something makes you right.”Flipping our fear of doing something wrong into adesire to experiment and take risks is what we thinkour student’s employers truly desire from the designersthat they hire. We should be even more purposeful inhow we cultivate these next generations of designerswith the right thinking tools.This requires us to surprise ourselves, and by extensionour students and co-workers. Time spent teachingtools and craft must be balanced with the time neces-sary for students to gain tacit knowledge in ideation,collaboration, sketching, and remaining nimble andcreative under pressure. That is, if we want studentsto be employable and successful in their first roles asdesigners, out in the world.Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 11
  • 12. 12 Exercise #
  • 13. Using Creative Workshopin a Classroom SettingThe core of a Creative Workshop class is a set of students will become faster and faster at solving chal-instructor-provided challenges, which is then supple- lenges, so you’ll need to further shorten their dead-mented by a set of student-created challenges. lines or increase the number of deliverables requiredThe teacher then constructs “story arcs” out of the as you progress.challenges for each class (and its accompanying No challenge should have a time limit longer thanhomework assignments), conveying larger lessons two hours—especially for take-home assignments,about creativity, craft, teamwork, process, and other where students will be tempted to lavish days on pol-fundamental skills. ishing design executions. They can do that when the class is over.What Makes a Great Creative Challenge?For a challenge to succeed, it needs to contain the True Goals for Growthfollowing attributes: There’s what you’re asking your classes to create in a focus area, and then there’s what you want themAn Area of Focus to learn.When considering which challenges to use in a For example: Challenge #3, “Time Machine,” requiresclass—or creating your own challenges—make sure students to take an old advertisement and executethere is a clear, stated area of focus as part of the it as if it had been published in a modern magazine.challenge statement. This ranges across the various While this is the goal for class output, what the chal-domains of design, from branding to packaging to lenge is actually teaching students is how to assessadvertising to user interface design. This will help the the strategy behind an advertisement, analyze theclass gauge what kinds of design outputs are neces- societal and artistic trends that helped to shape itssary while solving the challenge. A list of focus areas is execution, and translate all of those details into aincluded in the Creative Workshop book. modern design execution.Tangible Creative Output This is no small feat—especially in 90 minutes.Each challenge requires tangible output, from a SITS Outside Everyone’s Comfort Zonedesign sketch to a high-fidelity design execution. (Including Yours)Sharing an idea verbally when time is up does notcount for credit. Truly inspiring creative challenges aren’t bread-and- butter design problems. When constructing a chal-An (Almost) Impossible Time Limit lenge, think about how you can add variables or unusual constraints to an everyday project to pushIn class, the time limits for challenges from Creative your class (and the teacher) into uncharted andWorkshop can be cut in half, or even shorter. If stu- risky territory.dents aren’t rushing to the last second to completethe stated deliverables required at the end of a If you don’t feel comfortable leading an exercise inchallenge, you’ve given them too much time. Your an area of design you haven’t explored before, inviteUsing Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 13
  • 14. in other instructors or working professionals to help real-world situations down into their constituent com-facilitate those challenges. ponents, then analyzing them for ways in which they can be reconstructed and improved.Contains Content Your Students Observation: Requiring students to step outside theCare About classroom and their studio into the real world, usingEach time we taught a Creative Workshop class, their senses to observe and reflect on how otherwe provided the students with a brief survey at the people behave—then using this insight as the fuel forbeginning where we asked them what types of proj- design solutions.ects and what kinds of clients they’d like to work with Innovation: Working with design problems specificallyin the future. This information was incorporated into in the domain of product design, service delivery,many of the class challenges and increased and social innovation—forcing designers to grapplestudent engagement. with how to reinvent businesses and reshape humanIn addition, we asked for each student to provide at behavior.the start of every class period a challenge that they’d Interpretation: Open-ended problems whose solu-created. This can be for credit, or for students to tions require designers not only to determine whathave input into the class content. Depending on how needs to be designed, but also to answer an evenyou’ve structured the class, you can select the more important question: Why does something needstudent-suggested challenges that fit the arc of to be made?upcoming classes and incorporate them. An important additional category to note isBased on student suggestion, we’ve included at least “Unsolvable Problems.” Students often find ways to20% student-inspired challenges over the life of each approach lose-lose situations with creativity and freshclass we’ve taught. perspectives that provide new ways of influencing major societal issues. We often throw one unsolv-VARYING LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY able problem into the mix as a final assignment forThe challenges in Creative Workshop are ordered from the class, for all of us to understand exactly how farcraft-oriented problems that hone making skills to a designer’s reach can truly extend in dealing withdesign problems that are open-ended, highly compli- wicked problems.cated, and fraught with ambiguity. When brainstorm- Tasking students with an insoluble problem maying challenges for the class and the book, Mary hit seem a bit sadistic, but it’s one of the best ways forupon the following categories for the different types of designers to understand what it feels like to grappleproblems designers solve in their daily work, indepen- with—and identify in the future—whether a problemdent of disciipline: is wicked (i.e. influenceable, but not solveable). ForFoundation: The fundamentals of being a designer more on this topic, see our rationale for Challenge #79from a craft-based perspective. This includes typog- on page 69 of this e-book.raphy, layout, grid systems, design history, research,illustration, and sketching. Using Exercises in Your Existing ClassesExecution: Moving from fundamentals to real-world When David taught Creative Workshop classes, eachdesign deliverables, while being forced to explore a class period was four hours and consisted of solvingrange of design solutions in a faster timeframe than five challenges in a row. This was a great way to intro-they may have attempted in the past. duce a range of brainstorming methods, focus on a series of challenges that teach a specific skill, or breakMateriality: The tangible act of making things as a large-scale project into digestible chunks.part of the design process—often without comput-ers—yielding design executions that rely on the hand- It’s also possible to string out challenges over a seriesmade touch for their power. of weeks in a recurring fashion. At frog design’s Seattle studio, David set up a biweekly lunchtime series toInstruction: Cultivating the crucial skill of breaking explore different methods of physical prototyping,14 Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
  • 15. using challenges from the book and timeboxing to We required the students to show an artifact for eachteach different ways of building and evaluating com- client review, usually in sketch form. Sharing a solutionplicated systems in a low-fidelity format. verbally is not acceptable to the client. (When was the last time you walked into a client review and told themSolution Structures about your design idea without some tangible render- ing of it?)What is a solution structure? It’s a method of engineer-ing social situations around specified challenges that This is a solution structure we have used in everymakes them much harder to solve—forcing student Creative Workshop class period, continually varyingdesigners to learn how to collaborate more effectively. the challenges and the unique deliverables required during each sprint; it forces students to work in parallelIn teaching classes involving Creative Workshop, we and quickly divide large design problems into smallerinvented the following solution structures. See which sub-tasks, which is a crucial skill for any work setting.ones you can come up with as well! STRUCTURE 2: the Round-robinSTRUCTURE 1: 30 Days in 30 Minutes It’s useful to teach at least one class period in a quar-Teams of three or four students are provided with ter or semester where the output from one challengea challenge, which they must solve in 30 minutes. is directly inputted into the next challenge they’ll needThose 30 minutes are divided up into the following to solve, while rotating the students into an entirelytimeboxes: lateral design domain. 8 minutes: Each team reaches a goal that is set As an example: in collaboration with the designer by the teacher. Scott Scheff, we created a five-challenge sequence 2 minutes: The teacher serves as the client, provid- where one of my classes had to create a “record store ing quick feedback to the teams and providing of the future.” the next milestone. In the first challenge, the students came up with the 8 minutes: Each team scrambles to incorporate name of the store and its logo. the feedback and reach the next milestone. In the second challenge, they planned out the store 2 minutes: The teacher/client gives another round space in Manhattan based on a defined set of con- of feedback and sets the final milestone. straints provided by their real estate broker. 8 minutes: Each team incorporates the final feed- The third challenge required them to brainstorm user back and completes the final solution(s) for the flows for a mobile application necessary to buy and challenge. download music while in the space. Last 2 minutes: Each team has 30 seconds to In the fourth challenge, they created a 30-second present their solutions. TV ad for their store that had to include handmade puppets.As an example that describes how this works in action:We provided a class with the “Storybook Ending” chal- For the fifth and final challenge, they had to craftlenge in Creative Workshop, in which they had 30 min- a pitch for investment capital based on everythingutes to come up with the plot and character studies they’d created in the first four challenges.for a children’s book. STRUCTURE 3: Variable Client FeedbackOver the first 8 minutes of solving the challenge, theyhad to ideate around the theme of their book. In the For certain challenges, we’ve stopped the studentssecond 8 minutes, they had to move from the theme midway through solving a challenge and providedto a full-blown plot and characters. In the last 8 min- them “client feedback” as an additional constraint.utes, they had to create a character study and a Another fun way to deliver “client feedback” is tomoral for their book. isolate a student from the overall class, take themUsing Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 15
  • 16. outside the classroom, and have them draw random survived the entire quarter or semester. feedback out of a hat that they spout back to the Also, consider a special prize for those students who class in response to their work midstream. This not only complete all of the challenges. It’s unlikely that most makes the class become more creative in response to students will be able to turn in a solution for all the“out of nowhere” feedback, but also helps the student projects. (So far, there has been only one.) play-acting the client see what such a situation feels like from a client’s perspective. Time ConstraintsRefer to page 10 of Creative Workshop for a starter set Assume at least 40 minutes of class time for eachof client feedback items that will keep your class on challenge the class attempts, including critique.their toes. We’ve also allocated 40 minutes to discuss all take- home assignments, which are shared out for in-classThrow Yourself Under the Bus critique and review.It’s helpful to read out a particularly difficult challenge, As an example: We have taught classes over the quar-execute the challenge at the same time as the class, ter system, meeting every week for four hours. In eachand then be a part of the critique process. class, we fulfilled five challenges, and three challeng- es were provided as take-home work.Class Lectures A Creative Workshop class can be conducted overAs you plan the challenges that form the arc of each the course of a semester, but the shorter the timeclass period, consider what mini-lectures may be period for the entire class, the greater the benefit. Forrequired that will help to solidify specific skills that a 7-week seminar, the class would need to completeyou’re teaching. 12 projects per week, while over a semester there mayAs an example, we’ve introduced new brainstorming not be as much time pressure. This may require themethods at the start of a class period, then had the teacher to intentionally manufacture such pressure.students utilize those methods across a set of chal-lenges to provide them a chance to road test each Class Rules Regulationsone individually. Alongside the class syllabus, we’ve provided the fol-In another case, a lecture that closed out a class lowing three guidelines to students:helped to set up ground rules for how the students 1. You should fulfill every assignment and bring it tocould best fulfill design research in the midst of their class, no matter what. Work fast. Turn your editor off.busy schedules. Take as many risks as possible. The greater the risk inFor sample lectures (in a raw format) that we the work that you’re attempting, the more importantdelivered during the classes, take a look at the that you bring it to class. You shouldn’t have time to sitclass archive here: http://changeorder.typepad. around and think about whether what you’re doing iscom/80_works_for_designers/lectures/ good. You should feel uncomfortable every time you show a solution to the class, no matter how much timeClosing Portfolio Review you have to prepare it.When teaching a class that solves 40 to 80 challenges, 2. Everything is shown to the group, no matter what.the last class period should be reserved for a final Each assignment will be viewed and commentedchallenge and a review of all of the work created by upon by the group. Listen to how other people vieweach student over the life of the class. it, and what they think it can become from their vari- ous perspectives. This is invaluable input. Don’t rushStudents learn a great deal by placing 40 to 80 design to defend what you meant to accomplish in the timeexecutions in sequence on a table for the entire frame. This class is about possibilities as much asclass to comment on. This process can take a num- finality, and it’s possible that the input of your peersber of hours, so we’ve encouraged students to bring may push your work in new directions you hadn’tfood and drink and make it a celebration for having considered.16 Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
  • 17. 3. Failure on some of the projects will happen, and is missed in-class challenges, or fulfill appropriatea desirable outcome. Keep notes on what works and substitute challenges as assigned by the teacher.what doesn’t work. Be willing to throw away work in • 200 points will be provided for direct class partici-progress to start over with what you’ve learned. Only pation and involvementwhen we reach the end of our class should you focuson what can be extracted from your best works over The student’s grade could then be their earned pointsthe life of the class. Until then, keep a record of your divided by 10 on a standard 100-point scale.working process and progress, not what you’ll beincluding in your portfolio. What Skills Should Students Have Before Taking a Creative Workshop Class?How Do You Grade Creative Students without an initial foundation of craft-basedWorkshop Classes? design skills—ideally with at least one to two yearsIn a class such as this, fair grading is based on two of design education—may find a Creative Workshopfactors: in-class participation and solving all of the class with 40 to 80 challenges quite demanding.challenges posed by the teacher and class. When we have taught a class, a portfolio review was required for student entry to ensure they would notParticipation need to fully acquire design fundamentals while solv- ing all 80 challenges.To receive credit, students will be required as part oftheir in-class work to: Planning the Arc of a Creative • Regularly critique challenge solutions in a group Workshop Class • Work collaboratively to solve challenges as teams On the next page are examples of how the above ingredients fit together as part of an 80 Works class, • eep a written record of what they’re observing K as well as a blank template you can use to plan your about their working progress each week, either own. (This is based on the quarter system, which is on a public blog or in a journal format that can used in Washington state). be shared when appropriate with the class The challenges can be arranged over the length • t the end of the class, help classmates identify A of the class in escalating difficulty and time invest- which projects may become part of their portfolio ment. There should also be take-home assignments (with any additional polish) that require small group collaboration alongside individual exercises, much like what a designer experi-Challenge Completion ences when entering into an in-house or studio workStudents receive credit for each challenge they pro- environment.vide a solution for and present to the class. This is for The final two to three weeks of the class can containboth in-class and take-home challenges, including the most complex, most open-ended challenges youones that integrate work from previous solutions into can solutions.SAMPLE Grading MethodologyAt the end of a course with 80 creative challenges, astudent could receive points as follows: • 10 points for each of the 80 challenges that are shown to the class. This adds up to 800 points over the life of the class. If a student misses a class, they still need to turn in the take-home andUsing Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 17
  • 18. Creative Workshop Planning Worksheet: Quarter System (Sample Class Structure) Category Challenge Name Category Challenge Name Foundation Hello, My Name Is ExecutionWeek 1 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 6 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Foundation Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________Introduction to Foundation Interpretation focustimeboxing ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________on fundamentals Interpretation Group: Execution ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Foundation ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Observation ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Innovation ____________ _ _______________________ Materiality ____________ _ _______________________ Innovation ____________ _ _______________________ Foundation FundamentalsWeek 2 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 7 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Execution Group: Innovation Group: Provide class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Begin to reduce Interpretationbrainstorming Execution ____________ _ _______________________ by here… time limits ____________ _ _______________________ techniques Execution Instruction Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Materiality Group: Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Foundation Instruction Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Innovation ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation ____________ _ _______________________ Foundation ExecutionWeek 3 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 8 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Execution Group: Fundamentals Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________Beginning to explore This is a “breather Execution Execution Group: designcollaborative ____________ _ _______________________ the class” before ____________ _ _______________________practices Materiality Group: final stretch Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Instruction Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Observation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Observation ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Materiality ____________ _ _______________________ Materiality ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation InnovationWeek 4 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 9 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Execution Group: Execution ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________Starting to bring From here out, Execution Instruction Group:in design research ____________ _ _______________________ too problems are ____________ _ _______________________methods Innovation Group: hard for solo Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ designers to solve Interpretation Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Observation Innovation Group: Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Materiality Innovation ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation ____________ _ _______________________ Execution ExecutionWeek 5 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 10 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Fundamentals ____________ _ _______________________ Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Overwhelmingly Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ hard problems in Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Instruction brief time frames Innovation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Observation ____________ _ _______________________ Homework Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Instruction ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation Well, in My Book ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation Group: ____________ _ _______________________ Interpretation “Kobiyashi Maru” Week 11 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ 18 Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
  • 19. Creative Workshop Planning Worksheet: Quarter System Category Challenge NameWeek 1 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 6 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Week 2 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 7 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Week 3 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 8 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Week 4 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 9 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Week 5 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Week 10 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ Homework ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ ____________ _ _______________________ Week 11 In Class ____________ _ _______________________ Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 19
  • 20. 20 Exercise #
  • 21. Teaching the Challenges:Foundation This logo is for the artist one has become, and does Hello, My Name Is not limit the artist that one will be. Remind everyone that designers grow and mature, and just like people, some of our more enduring brands (from IBM to theThe Goal United States Postal Service) have also evolved their colors, font selections, and iconography. • Logo design If your students are really stuck, limit the logo to a par- • Expansion into personal identity system ticular aspect of their work. While having four logos— showing wizardry in After Effects, advertising, Maya,The True Goal and wedding invitations—isn’t practical in the real • Learn to organize disparate thematic elements world, this initial constraint can help to organize the into a concise statement thoughts of a frantic Renaissance designer. • eparate the designer from the work, and S internalize the objectivity that comes with this separation Easy as ABC • Design for change and growth: understanding that a permanent mark does not necessarily mean a unchangeable brand The Goal • Create a typeface out of found objectsWhen To Use It • dd additional symbols or create a poster using A • ounger designers, especially those right out Y the typeface of school • Designers transitioning into freelance after work- The True Goal ing in-house or spending time at an agency • eparate letters from each other and understand S • Career transition them as stand-alone forms • Document the creative processFurther ThoughtsDesigners have difficulty with their own identities for a When To Use Itnumber of reasons. In choosing a logo, participants • esigners who are overly attached to a comput- Dhave to decide which skills to highlight and which er-driven processto let fall away. This can be traumatic, especially foryounger designers, who still want to Go and Be and • esigners who feel they are not “crafty” or “artsy” DDo Everything. • nyone who loves to argue over which font is A worse, Papyrus or Comic SansTeaching the Challenges: Foundation 21
  • 22. Further Thoughts When To Use ItWe learn words by first learning letters, and so abece- • Designers who struggle when moving deliver-darian exercises tend to rely on more rudimentary ables between print to screenapproaches. Most of the work will likely fall into two • round discussions of “timeless” or “iconic” Acategories—the same material being used for all of designthe letters (jeans, ribbons, pushpins), or the word forthe material starts with the letter being illustrated (B is Further Thoughtsfor Boy, C is for Cat). Be on the lookout for typefacesthat highlight the disconnect between the words for We think of research when it comes to designingthe objects and the letters they illustrate, as the inspi- products: How will a consumer use this? What kindsration for material choices may not be obvious to the of features do they want? But the research for thisentire class. This can make for good group discussion. assignment serves another purpose: to understand how design elements, motifs, and compositions haveDespite the description of a typeface of “twenty-six evolved from decade to decade. Start conversationscharacters,” don’t let that limit your participants. If about basic subjects such as font choice and whitesomeone speaks Greek, encourage him to compose space. The why? of these choices may be a tired andfrom that alphabet. If he can present to the class a common question, but getting designers to see thechart for comparison, even better. pervasiveness of a particular visual trend can be pow-However, American Sign Language (ASL) and other erful. This will help them to see patterns in their ownhand-language systems are easy to replicate for this work and in the work of others. And by watching theassignment, and they could be great temptations for progression of present-day work, it can also help themstudents. Depending upon the class, you might want plan for future clarify whether these are allowed or not. Advertising has been around forever, and while the pictures and the products have changed, our basic needs haven’t. Though this is a research assignment at heart, it is also a great idea to point out what’s hap- Time Machine pening beneath the visuals. What are we really selling when we design an ad? What are we really saying?The Goal • ring an old ad into the future after research B • r take a modern ad and push it back in time OThe True Goal “We become very attached • Learn to identify what works and what doesn’t to our computers… we while integrating historical motifs into a design encounter a lot of design • solate individual elements in a design and adapt I through our computer… them appropriately, while maintaining overall cohesion but any disciplined • Understand the transient nature of visual descrip- designer will tell you, tors and textual explanation despite the fact it’s just not the same that the driving forces for the products have not changed (survival, acceptance, status, etc.) as pencil and paper.”22 Teaching the Challenges: Foundation
  • 23. One Line Logo I’m Drawing a Blank The Goal The Goal • reate a logo from a single unbroken line C • Make a folder using white as the dominant color • ith one or more partners, create a logo from W • Create associated sell sheets individual unbroken lines The True GoalThe True Goal • Understand what people mean when they talk • Learn to incorporate mistakes into a design about “white space” as a design element • se basic sketching skills to communicate a com- U • earn to unravel overly complicated layouts and L plex identity rather than use the staid approach brand systems, reducing them to their most pow- of type, image, and color selection erful elementsWhen To Use It • iscover new uses for small but powerful D applications of other colors • esigners who rely heavily on the computer to D drive process When To Use It • longside projects that are grounded by photo- A • esigners transitioning from Internet to print D graphs, type, or materials • tudents having difficulty negotiating the bal- SFurther Thoughts ance of text to imageThis exercise is one of several found throughout the • s a reward for designers who rarely find an outlet Abook that is meant to help designers get back to for their “minimalist” approach, or as a punish-basics—in this case, sketching. ment for those who feel the need to fill every inch of a pageWe become very attached to our computers, espe-cially when the early stages of discovery rely so heavily Further Thoughtson it. Whether it’s through emails or Internet researchabout our client, we encounter a lot of design through Color is one of the more powerful tools we employ asour computer. It’s only natural to simply switch pro- designers. But often, we’re limited to the real worldgrams when it comes to the physical work of design- interpretations of those colors—grass is green, skiesing. There are even programs meant to mimic the act are blue. With color being constantly attached toof sketching. images illustrating reality, it’s easy for students to for- get about red, green, and white as pure design ele-But as any disciplined designer will tell you, it’s just not ments. Especially when people start throwing aroundthe same. With paper and pencil, the mistakes are the concept of white space.more tangible than on screen. It’s easier to see wherethe design has come from and where it is going to. As a color, white doesn’t get a lot of respect. It’s usu- ally treated as the one that’s there when nothing elseShould strident challenges arise, students can always bothers to show up. As a result, the power of white isdo the assignment twice (with a different client, of confined to being a simple buffer between other ele-course), once with a computer and once without. ments. This exercise requires the designer to fully focusAllow them to time their iterations, track their progress, on white as its own unique entity.and explore the efficacies of each process.Teaching the Challenges: Foundation 23
  • 24. But it’s not all about white. By using white as the domi- From a technical perspective, designers should benant element, students are forced to more closely able to visually recognize branded colors (Starbucksanalyze their other color selections. In a sea of white, green, Coca-Cola red). But beyond reading PMS col-a two-inch tall logo in red can become a beacon. ors and RGB values, we also have to communicateWhile that’s easy for a teacher to say to a student, it subtle differences in hue through verbal descriptionsdoesn’t sink in until the decision is visible on the page. in meetings with our teams and clients. Given its per- ceptual subjectivity, color is difficult to speak about; the ability to speak clearly and confidently about visu- al components and their related effects cannot be Mr. Blue overemphasized. So as students present their solution to this challenge, encourage them to be as precise as possible in how they describe their work.The Goal • Design a magazine using the color blue as the driving design concept Gridlocked • xpand this into spreads, masthead, and an over- E all grid scheme The GoalThe True Goal • earn to place elements in a fixed grid L • dentify and then break down beliefs around I • earn to adjust grids based on new content L color theory associations requirements • nderstand that color is not restricted to a par- U ticular hue The True Goal • rain the eye to detect subtle shadings and T • nderstand that certain pieces of a design may U undertones run counter to a preferred aesthetic • earn to view designs as a whole, and then learn LWhen To Use It to break them into their constituent parts • esigners consistently working in the same color D • earn to think about the grid as a powerful tool, L palette rather than an unfortunate necessity • n conjunction with discussions around readabil- I ity, culture, and psychology When To Use It • s a reward for designers who feel “discipline” is AFurther Thoughts a strong suitRed means angry, blue means sad, green means • o break designers from the habit of leaning on Tenvious. As designers, we don’t need to know where the same layoutsthese associations come from, but we do need toknow that they exist. We also need to know that they • or less experienced designers who may know Fare changeable; the proper use of blue in a layout about grid systems, but may not understand howcan work with other elements to make the audience to construct themlaugh or cry. Further ThoughtsAnother color assignment, “Mr. Blue” plays withour ideas about color association and meaning. Ah, the grid. Bane of many a designers’ existence, aRealistically, you could use any color for this chal- throwback to the old ways of doing things, when thelenge, but as blue has the distinction of being the grid was brandished as a weapon by anal-retentivemost popular color, there are more potential concep- Swiss professors willing to do anything to crush thetual associations to play with. creative spirit of an aspiring artist.24 Teaching the Challenges: Foundation
  • 25. But while the grid is powerful, it is actually benevolent. • henever a portfolio shows signs of being too WThe grid allows us to not only view a layout as one homogenous, especially when a student’s workcohesive unit, but it also forces us to consider each indicates that the prevalence of similar materialindividual element in relation to the others. When the is being dictated purely by preference and notgrid we’ve initially set for a layout changes rapidly, we abilityhave to re-identify the prioritization of elements in the • esigners who want to incorporate live event pro- Dlayout (because it may not be the same), and we are motion into their repertoireforced to consider each element anew. The physicalposition of elements is just as important as the ele- Further Thoughtsments themselves. Graffiti conjures up some specific, and perhaps unfair,When we become more comfortable with the grid associations. As designers, we have to be able toand its ability to focus the eye on particular content recognize the difference between reality and our ownelements, we can easily adapt that content for mul- biases. At the same time, we also have to be awaretiple formats. Changing a two-page spread into a tri- that those same biases may exist in other people. Thisfold brochure is a lot less of a headache when we’ve is pretty obvious—not everyone thinks like us—but withhad this kind of practice. graffiti, there’s a lot of controversy over its artistic value. This is not just a struggle related to class and culture. It’s also about creativity, control, spontaneity, and art Spray Paint Wars in the public domain. The reasons behind the stigma and the reverence are complex. So, this exercise is a great way to explore our opinionsThe Goal about a complicated hot-button topic, so that we can • se graffiti hand-lettering to design a logo, story- U determine how to talk to our clients about such design board, and storefront choices in the future. This challenge is also good for honing illustration skills; street artists work very hard to • evelop an event for the store D develop a personal voice in their work under extreme conditions.The True Goal The opportunity to create a public “happening” • earn to spot assumptions and stereotypes L around something as polarizing as graffiti is some- • dentify when to use those assumptions and when I thing that designers don’t often get to grapple with. to ignore them And while we want to maintain our own individual style, just like street artists do, we have to remember • Begin to craft a vocabulary around promoting that their work often incorporates elements from the public events surrounding environment. Students can really push this challenge by placing the store in different localWhen To Use It neighborhoods, anticipating community responses • Students who need to hone their illustration skills and designing the logo and events accordingly.“The rules of typography are not only the most helpful for constructing a powerful layout—they are alsounfortunately the most common for a client to ignore.”Teaching the Challenges: Foundation 25
  • 26. really challenge them, consider setting a word count minimum. As an alternative, try requiring a minimum Tragic Sans number of additional design elements (i.e. five fonts and a minimum of two photos), or require the use of typefaces generated in “Easy as ABC.”The Goal • Create a brochure cover using five or more distinct fonts “Designers have to be able to teach • dd two more fonts to a brochure display setup A themselves about a particular field or product and then designThe True Goal appropriately for it. When we • Learn typography and arrangement as distinct design elements present work to a client, we have • eal with clients who make truly terrible D to demonstrate a mastery of those aesthetic decisions concepts, even though we usually • ultivate simplicity in complex layouts C are not experts in that field.”When To Use It • Designers whose work is consistently austere or simplistic • o settle battles between typeface snobs T Grungevetica • n conjunction with discussions around I readability, clutter, and distraction The GoalFurther Thoughts • istress the Helvetica typeface in a manner D related to the original versionBy now, everyone should have a basic understand-ing of the rules of design. But our clients usually aren’t • esign a poster that incorporates the Ddesigners, and their tastes might offend every single updated fontprinciple we hold dear. So sometimes the rules we liveby have to be broken. And the rules of typography are The True Goalnot only the most helpful for constructing a powerful • earn what makes a particular construction work, Llayout—they are also unfortunately the most common and what doesn’tfor a client to ignore. • ain a working vocabulary for describing neces- GWe think of fonts within certain frameworks, as being sary changesappropriate for one particular use but never for anoth-er. Fonts have “looks” and styles; some seem futuristic • nderstand how to dissect a type-based solution Uand others are perfect for more classic approaches. into forms, principles, and executionWhat happens when we separate each typeface fromthose associations? Can we change emotional reac- When To Use Ittions through word arrangement? • reward students who feel constrained in their ToThe easiest solution to this challenge is to use one output (i.e. any designer that has worked tooword per font. And while that addresses the issue of long with an in-house style guide)simplicity, it might not help a designer deal with the • ith anyone dismissive of design history’s role in Waesthetic crisis that multiple fonts can present. To its future26 Teaching the Challenges: Foundation
  • 27. Further Thoughts There may be students that already have an under- standing of quantum computing. This doesn’t excuseIt’s time to shake up the establishment, but the estab- them from the research aspect of their project; in fact,lishment doesn’t always want to be shaken up. How they are under an even heavier burden in that theydo we describe the need for an update to our client will have to scale their knowledge into a smaller out-while still maintaining their original spirit? Coming up put, rather than build up their newfound knowledgewith fresh ideas is difficult enough; how do we make into a larger output.something classic fresh, when changing its form maybe considered verboten? With regard to execution: what we’re working with in this exercise is similar to the typography-focused chal-Be sure to emphasize each student’s description of lenge “Tragic Sans”—only this time, we’re dealing withtheir solution when solving this challenge. It’s not more ambiguous concepts from the client. Typefacesenough for a student to run over a sheet of typewrit- and logos conjure up certain feelings and resonanc-ten paper with a car and call it done. There has to be es dependent upon the content surrounding them.a solid conceptual bridge between the original font Certain images and their presentation make us feeland the distressed output. Making these connections a company is conservative; others make them seemwith photographs and logos is easy; typography is more cutting-edge. Sometimes, our clients challengeanother beast entirely. our interpretations, and a designer must know how to address those concerns. Future Penmanship Strange Chemistry The Goal • esign a futuristic logo using a hand-drawn solution D The Goal • xtend this logo into Flash animation, stationery, E • cover for an annual report using a handwritten A or a Web site solution with refined photography • esign an online experience that animates these DThe True Goal two different aesthetics • iscover how to handle seemingly conflicting D aesthetics The True Goal • nderstand how to research challenging ideas U • nderstand how creative juxtapositions generate U novel, potent relationshipsWhen To Use It • Avoid politics, sticking to the task at hand • esigners who are showing a profound lack of D research skills, or who are showing a weakness in When To Use It being able to synthesize research information • urrounding discussions of the emotional S • n any class where there is a marked lack of hand I influence of particular design elements illustration skills and/or understanding of the emo- • esigners see this challenge strictly as an D tional and rational impact of typeface choice ideological exerciseFurther Thoughts Further ThoughtsDesigners have to be able to teach themselves about Putting opposite things together is a reliable way ofa particular field or product and then design appropri- generating new and exciting relationships within aately for it. When we present work to a client, we have design. But with this challenge, it’s the content thatto demonstrate a mastery of those concepts, even can derail the process.though we usually are not experts in that field.Teaching the Challenges: Foundation 27
  • 28. Despite the type of client involved, this isn’t about • ain an appreciation for how people of other Ghow we feel about chemicals or the green movement. backgrounds perceive common objectsIt’s about putting disparate concepts together andstudying how they interact. Public opinion toward the When To Use Itenvironment and toward industry is frenzied right now, • Groups of students from diverse backgroundsbut don’t let students get caught up in the politics.Make sure that students do not become distracted • roups that have exhibited polarized attitudes Gby the ideas represented here. While it is important to (or single-minded executions)be able to identify our ethics surrounding the clientswe feel comfortable representing, it is also important Further Thoughtsto be able to recognize basic design problems evenwithin domains that may be ethically fraught. If we There is a great power in universal symbols. Olivecan’t, then we lose the ability to migrate our execution branches mean peace, frowning faces mean sad-skills from client to client. ness, snow means Christmas. Unless you’re Jewish. Or if you live in California. Or if…In short, this challenge is about nailing the basics.There will be plenty of time in other challenges for Ah, symbols. We know how easy it is to miss the markthem to struggle with ethical issues. when we assume everyone sees the same things that we do. We attach meanings to pictures because of a staggering variety of influences, most of them specific to our families, our hometowns, or our social circles. Three in One Everyone has a story to tell, and these stories have a profound effect on how we perceive ordinary objects. But we can’t realistically design for each individualThe Goal interpretation; eventually, we have to pick an image • se a single item and accompanying text to U and some text and make it work. convey three different meanings So for this challenge, encourage your students to • toryboard your favorite execution for a S talk about their images and the text they choose to television spot accompany it. When we explore how text plays with these perceptions and attitudes, we can watch howThe True Goal our reaction to an object changes. More importantly, we can learn how to use text and images to change • egin to understand the stories behind everyday B other people’s reactions. This is what effective adver- items and how copy can manipulate those stories tising is all about.“Students can really struggle with iteration, mostly because they don’t know how to incorporate failure into their process… If you think something, and it’sterrible, no one will ever know. But you can’t denywhat’s staring back at you on the page.”28 Teaching the Challenges: Foundation
  • 29. 10 x 10 The Goal • esign a container by drawing 100 sketches D • esign a Web site for the container using the D same processThe True Goal • Understand that there really is no limit to the ideas in our minds—we just need to get them out of our thoughts and onto paper • Confront truly terrible ideas and learn that they are a powerful part of the design processWhen To Use It • esigners who don’t like making mistakes and D want to “get it right” quick • Around discussions concerning hand sketching vs. computer workFurther ThoughtsIt’s trendy right now to talk about mind-body relation-ships, about intuitiveness and flow. There are manynebulous and sometimes bizarre ways that peopletalk about the creative process. You can put all of thatstuff aside. Because like a lot of things, the truth is thatdesign is something you often have to physically do.Sometimes, you can’t think through a problem in yourhead, you have to put pencil to paper and work on itin the real world. With a deadline breathing down yourneck, you don’t have time to figure out why such aphysical process works, you’re just glad that it does.Students can really struggle with iteration, mostlybecause they don’t know how to incorporate failureinto their process. Most don’t know how to frame theconcept of failure, and this is true even of more expe-rienced designers. Every one of the sketches gener-ated for this challenge isn’t going to be The One, andfacing the fact that we aren’t geniuses all the time isa little humbling for some. If you think something, andit’s terrible, no one will ever know. But you can’t denywhat’s staring back at you on the page.Teaching the Challenges: Foundation 29
  • 30. Teaching the Challenges: Execution and coming up with a brilliant headline that makes Sixty Second Deadline everyone want to buy dust bunnies. It’s about seeing the connections between the lofty and the mundane, and realizing that any sort of material can contribute The Goal to the effectiveness of our work. • Create billboard copy in sixty seconds The sixty-second deadline is an added bonus for dis- cipline. Even the best marathon runner knows how to • evelop a series of billboards based on the most D sprint to the finish. effective execution The True Goal • earn to think efficiently under extreme time L Hey, You Made That Up! pressure • nderstand how design permeates our experi- U The Goal ence, and that everything and anything is fair • nvent a product based on a random combina- I game when it comes to generating concepts tion of syllables and develop a storyboard for a related motion-graphics pieceWhen To Use It • dd voiceover and music to the movie A • tudents who idolize design as a pure, completely S artistic discipline The True Goal • henever the class seems to be progressing at a W • Learn how to set goals in open-ended scenarios nice, safe pace • hink about how to describe products or ideas T Further Thoughts through motionWe can segregate parts of our life from design, When To Use Itbecause we don’t see how they contribute to our pro-cess as designers. What does a toothbrush or a blue • Designers who have little to no experience withsock say about my process? your students may ask. It motion designcan say plenty if you let it, and once you’ve guided • tudents who thrive on constraint-based Sthem through this challenge, they’ll see why. scenarios It’s easy to apply design principles to things that are“designery”. But when we can see those principles Further Thoughts at work around things like hammers, popcorn, and There’s a strange relationship between the sound of a headphones…that’s when we know we understand product name and the product itself. Certain letters those principles. It’s not about being a slick salesman30 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 31. evoke specific emotions, and there have been • nytime the class needs to stretch their concep- Aa number of articles written about the effects of tual thinking skillssound on our purchasing decisions. In this challenge,students will have to grapple with how the name of Further Thoughtsa product operates on a sensorial level with a poten- Annual reports have to convey a vast amount of infor-tial consumer. mation to a diverse audience of shareholders. At theAll of those thoughts in the last paragraph about very minimum, a design team working on an annualsound and feel in the naming of a product? A red report has to blend hard data, corporate political spin,herring for your students. and idealized artwork. They have to make it work with a foundation built largely of subjective interpretations.The real reason why this one is such a challenge— And as an added challenge, all of those elementsand that it has defeated scores of designers to date— have to work together so well that the entire effect isis because the name of the product has nothing to subtle, not melodramatic or with it.What students are actually doing here is designingwith absolute freedom around the content. We’reused to having tightly defined constraints driving “We’re used toour design process, and it’s difficult to do whateverwe want without any guidance. When solving this having tightly definedchallenge, the name doesn’t have to relate to theproduct in any way whatsoever. A savvy designer constraints drivingcould plot a solution for anything and just tackthe name on at the end. our design process.But don’t tell your students! It’s difficult to do whatever we want Free Association without any guidance.”The Goal Sometimes, the elements provided just don’t form a • reate the cover of an annual report using three C cohesive whole. But we can’t change a company’s unrelated elements logo or their office mascot. We can’t change where • evelop an interactive experience from the D their headquarters is located or how attractive the concept development team is. We have to build the best story that we can.The True Goal When kicking off this challenge, be sure to have stu- • Break down expectations around logic, order, dents select the elements one at a time. Additionally, and sensibility it’s best to do this challenge in class, if only to protect the separate random generation of the three ele- • earn to craft a visual narrative with wildly differ- L ments. Students can easily reverse-engineer the pro- ent components cess if given the opportunity. If there seems to be too easy of an agreement between the three elements,When To Use It you may try having students pick one element for the • Students who have difficulty perceiving trends or person on their left and then another for the person common features across multiple elements on their right. Do whatever it takes to prevent relation- ships from being drawn too quickly.Teaching the Challenges: Execution 31
  • 32. Further Thoughts I’m Feeling Really, There are two main approaches to explore for this Really Lucky challenge, one for the client and one for the designer. Of course, in the real world, we balance these two approaches, but it can be helpful for young designersThe Goal to study each approach separately. • Redesign the user interface of a randomly Depending upon the needs of your class, you can selected webpage look to the client for direction when he brings strongly established work to an agency for improvement. In • xpand that redesign to the entire site E these situations, designers have to identify what com- ponents contribute to the direction and image of theThe True Goal company and eliminate those that detract from it— • Work with strong, established Web sites or even if those components are highly functional within within deeply embedded systems to find small the Web site. but significant ways to better them On the other side of the challenge is the approach • n a practical level, build a vocabulary for O that identifies pieces within a web environment strictly assessing the effectiveness and purpose of a by effectiveness and usability. Here, the designer’s Web site’s information architecture and user approach drives the project rather than the brand. interface design While it may seem strange to analyze a Web site from a purely functional perspective, it’s helpful to remind • nderstand how interfaces can be broken down U your students that well-organized Web sites tell their into constituent parts and how their qualities own particular story about a company and its direc- change when they are attached to or detached tives. It’s less a straightforward narrative and more like from other elements in the design how a stage is set for the story in advance.When To Use It All in all, this is a very basic challenge. Though the class could spend a lot of time in discussions about • Designers who seem too comfortable with user-centered design vs. brand-centered design, a design being “done”—i.e. the ones that display don’t let those topics distract from the task at hand. anger or anxiety when you suggest moving a In this challenge, students are deciding in the initial headline a few pixels stages of design exactly who’s calling the shots. Are • ith younger students, as it is easy to divide W we respecting the brand or our own experience? Are a class into those that grew up with computers we able to tell the difference? and those that didn’t • n conjunction with conversations about working I with established brands“Informed choices about our tools help us makeinformed choices about our processes. That helps us develop effective work for our clients.”32 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 33. technology or media comes from being able to extract from it exactly what makes it special and It Sounds Better Vinyl on vital to the task at hand. Why do we choose Adobe Illustrator over a pencil and paper? When is a white- board better than a handful of sticky notes?The Goal Informed choices about our tools help us make • Make an LP album cover that uses a photograph informed choices about our processes, and that helps and transitions into illustration, or vice versa us develop effective work for our clients. • esign the back cover, sleeve, and label for the D record Storybook Ending The True Goal • Combining skill sets and determining the The Goal common processes behind each • Develop a storybook for children • Using imagery to convey similar themes in a different art form: music • sk a toddler to help finish the book AWhen To Use It The True Goal • Whenever class is feeling a little too much like • Learn to tell stories in their simplest form: as the work progression of a single idea over time • Students who struggle with transferring and • earn how to establish closure as part of a long- L applying similar systems and vocabularies form narrative across multiple media When To Use ItFurther Thoughts • Students overly comfortable with generatingThe more things change, the more they stay the same. static ideas in single outputs, or the opposite,The layman’s definition of innovation requires that a ideas that open up to lots of potential but thatdesigner truly believe that something new can be have no final destination attached to thembrought into the world. And while it’s powerful to imag- • esigners worried about creating Dine the new and exciting things that certain technolo- meaningful workgies can bring to us, it’s helpful to remember that thelessons we learned about the previous technology still Further Thoughtsmight apply. The systems can be transferred. Telling stories is integral to what we do as designers,The ways that we thought about vinyl records didn’t but all too often, we come up with a driving imagesimply vanish when the compact disc came to market. and leave it at that. Developing a campaign for a carThe same can be said about illustration, photography, that says “freedom” or a perfume that says “beauti-and the Internet. Humans have developed very specif- ful” is relatively easy. But moving that idea across timeic ways to talk about the representation of an image, can be difficult, even though it’s what makes reallyregardless of how that representation occurs. There fantastic work. What happens when the customermay be things that can be done in film that can’t be buys “freedom,” and where does it take them? Howdone on stage, but the ideas represented by both art do we communicate the possible journeys containedforms remain the same. in a technology or service?By deeply exploring the similarities in representative Students will be building a foundation for things likesystems, we can more clearly understand and exploit developing personas, targeting demographics, andthose differences. The true power of a particular creating integrated campaigns—storytelling as aTeaching the Challenges: Execution 33
  • 34. professional discipline. But you don’t have to tell them Further Thoughtsthat. The first thing for them to master is how to actu- This is a practical challenge, because it deals with theally write a story, and that means that the work needs repercussions of research. In order to create a gooda beginning, a middle, and an end. On the surface, series, students are going to have to decide whatthis seems counter to everything that we do; we’re would be covered in each book. Philosophy is com-supposed to be letting the customer decide the story. plicated. There are hundreds of schools, philosophers,We give them choices and freedom and all of that. movements, and concepts to sort through. BeyondBut people don’t really work that way. They don’t exist the obvious task of making books that look goodin a vacuum. They communicate in stories. They need together, are the challenges of setting boundaries,inspiration. They compare. They can’t forge their own determining categories, and deciding what moves topath if they don’t feel like they know what the other the final product and what gets left behind.options are. Invariably, a student will ask “Should I includeStorytelling in design is a good way to communicate Philosopher X?” Here’s our answer:to your team and your client what you’re doing. It’s We screen out information all day long, usuallya good way to focus your research and narrow your because of efficiency. We don’t need to look at theapproach. But when you really push the concept, sky to know if it’s raining. We decide that the questionstorytelling is about giving your audience tools they of “Is it raining?” can be better answered by listeningcan apply. The children’s book in Creative Workshop is for the rain, or by looking for puddles, or other informa-about patience. Children take the story and apply it to tion. We prioritize the available options. The activity oftheir lives. If it’s not applicable, it won’t resonate. And if “looking at the sky” doesn’t make it to the final doesn’t resonate, it won’t create the most rewarding Does Philosopher X give you any information thatthing in our careers: meaning. couldn’t be obtained elsewhere? Or is Philosopher X the preferred way of acquiring that knowledge? If students need more work in this area, you can Dead Philosophers Rock dramatically increase the amount of time for the chal- lenge in order to ask for more detail in the execution and the overall editorial approach for the books. TheyThe Goal can produce a table of contents or a timeline for • Create a set of philosophy books that are each book. Have students compare their organiza- visually linked tional systems, so everyone receives broad exposure to the different ways that complex information can • se those concepts in an interactive timeline U be prioritized by different people. They should be pre- for a Web site pared to explain and defend their decisions in front of the class regarding what might be included in theThe True Goal individual books. • Learn to research and prioritize information • evelop boundaries to narrow focus within over- D whelming topics or fields Opposites Attract When To Use It The Goal • Designers that have only had to create single items—an ad here, a poster there • Design a book cover • Students that have developed style sheets and • epeat the process using a specific pre-deter- R visual systems, but may need help in applying mined constraint on the output (collage, type- that knowledge to more complicated approach- only, etc) es beyond just typefaces, colors, and margins34 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 35. The True Goal • Explore objectivity and control in representing these concepts Book Report • Determine individual opinions around cultural norms or restrictions The Goal • Turn a book synopsis into a book coverWhen To Use It • ither continue the design into front matter and E • Designers looking for ways to make their work chapter headings, or read the book and make more politically viable appropriate revisions • Around discussions regarding gender, discrimina- tion, idealism, and social agreement The True Goal • Efficient storytellingFurther Thoughts • Identifying single images to convey story themesWe carry a lot of cultural baggage. Our culture’sopinions about abstract ideas such as peace, beauty, When To Use Itgood, and bad can be seen in nearly everything,from the colors we use to identify gender to the prod- • Students who come from disparate educationalucts that television characters have in their homes. and cultural backgroundsWe’re faced with all sorts of subtle (and sometimes not • esigners who have worked alone for long Dso subtle) messages on a regular basis about how we periods of timeshould or shouldn’t interact with the world around us.This challenge is about learning to identify those influ- Further Thoughtsences. It’s about understanding what words really Book covers tell the story of a story. They have to bal-mean, to ourselves and to each other. It is not about ance representing another person’s view while alsobeing different or about rejecting the opinions of oth- justifying their presence as an essential contributor.ers. If two people disagree on what it means to be Just like a designer…beautiful, one of them is not “normal” while the otheris “subversive.” They simply view those concepts from Depending upon how advanced your students are,different perspectives, both of which are vital to a you can easily restrict this challenge to revolve aroundflourishing culture. its most basic lesson: listening to others. How much information can we glean about a topic from only aOn the other hand, this challenge isn’t carte blanche few minutes of explanation? How quickly can we iden-to put any old image on the cover because someone, tify and communicate the main topics and imagessomewhere, will find that it speaks to them. This project from a particular experience? How much does ourcan help people establish and explain “normal” relationship with a person influence the information(or demographically applicable) for a particular that we extract?project so they can build conceptual systems fromthat viewpoint. Once your students are ready to move this assignment beyond listening, you can start a discussion about“How much does our relationship with a person influence the information that we extract?”Teaching the Challenges: Execution 35
  • 36. balance in creative work. It’s frustrating to watch a then into the world as a 3D object again. This is themovie trailer that gives away the whole film. It’s irritat- first challenge in the book that exploits these com-ing when a commercial is too obvious. Designs can plexities, because unlike the “10 x 10” challenge, thiscareen out of control sooner than we think; suddenly requires three unified outcomes to the problem.a layout that casually informed now tells us far too On a side note, though the design examples in themuch. The push and pull of visual storytelling requires book involve the same product shape with slightlydelicate balance. different label options, remind your students that theAs designers, we want to be true to the vision and form need not be the same for each version of thevoice of our clients, but we don’t want to be parrots. product. Can they develop a consistent visual systemAfter all, we have our own unique talents to wield. How for a series of products where the container itselfdo we turn someone else’s experience into something defines its use rather than the label?universally appealing without it becoming exploitative,or worse, dishonest? And how do we do all of that in away that makes us look good? Totally Cereal He Shaves, She Shaves The Goal • Design a cereal package based on a brief mar- keting statementThe Goal • ketch a flattened view of the package that S • Design gender-specific and gender-neutral shows all of the panels packaging • lace these products in a display and incorpo- P The True Goal rate them into a point-of-purchase environment • ork on that old chestnut: showing, not telling— W and when to let this imperative drive the designThe True Goal process • earn to transition work from the page to the L • nderstand why certain products need to be U physical world seen rather than described • ncover how we interact with design elements U within 3D space When To Use It • Designers who need more experience withWhen To Use It designing a story around a parity product • Designers without product design experience • tudents who have trouble visualizing dimension- S • round introductions to form and how the shap- A al packaging concepts ing of a substrate can dictate a design direction Further ThoughtsFurther Thoughts Further on the product design front, this challenge letsWe’re trained to think of the page (or the screen) as a designers work with packaging’s role in visualizationlaunch pad, a space that allows us to realize our wild- rather than its role as “logo holder.”est designs. But the page is a flat surface, and design- What does that mean? In the previous challenge, weers need to be in a different headspace altogether looked at shaving cream, a product that doesn’twhen they use the page to design 3D products. need to be seen in order to be sold. The labelingThis is not about shading or drawing techniques; it’s merely has to describe the product from a functionalabout the mental complexities involved in moving a perspective. We need to know who makes it and3D shape from your head to the 2D space of the page, when to use it. No one’s going to eat it.36 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 37. Cereal packaging, like most food packaging, is a the audience guess” part of the challenge soundschallenge specifically because people do eat the fun, it’s actually the most important part. Like a bookcontents. There are very few boxes of the stuff out cover, DVD packaging has to sell the product inside.there that don’t have a picture of at least one or But a DVD is selling visual images rather than thetwo flakes on the front (enlarged to show detail). audience’s imagining of those images. As a result, aConsumers want to see what they eat, and a picture designer working with video or film has to communi-can easily tell them about the crisped rice, raisins, or cate a story with a greater degree of precision.choco-biscuits. Plus, pictures leave room on the box There’s an entire cinematic philosophy around howfor the nutritional information, which isn’t so easy to certain angles, motifs, and even wardrobes commu-convey in a photograph. nicate critical details to an audience. But a designerEncourage your students to play with the idea of doesn’t necessarily need to understand all of that toshowing as a way of telling about a product. Note that create an effective package. Students will need tothe examples in the book play with how the cereal come up with a good story and then design for thatis shown; some have illustrations, while others have story; generating their own ideas will be enough of aclear panels to display the actual product. What challenge without having to worry if the design reallydetermines a designer’s decision to show the actual says, “The butler did it!”product as opposed to a representation of it? There The Take It Further for this challenge will help studentsare many examples of this on the market with different work with a larger form, which of course means thatproducts. Why do we need to see the actual pencils they have to further refine their original output. Use thiswe buy but not fish sticks? poster constraint with students are struggling to sim- plify their designs. Imaginary Film Creature Feature The Goal • Design a DVD cover for an imaginary film The Goal • Design a movie poster for that film • esign a Web site about the history of monster D moviesThe True Goal • esign an interactive experience around a par- D • Learn how to make single images convey com- ticular monster movie plex stories, successfully • nderstand the vocabulary of images and text U within a cinematic contextWhen To Use It “Designs can careen out of • Designers who are coming from or moving into control sooner than we think; the realm of video suddenly a layout that casually • round conversations of visual complexity — A specifically when a design should be simplified informed now tells us far and how to do it too much. The push and pullFurther Thoughts of visual storytelling requiresThis challenge works very well with “Book Report.” delicate balance.”It’s the same concept in reverse. Though the “haveTeaching the Challenges: Execution 37
  • 38. The True Goal • Learn how to construct taxonomies for Web site information architecture Ten-Second Film Festival • xplore how to art direct Web sites to include E more immersive video content The Goal • reate the user interface for a short movie festival CWhen To Use It • onsider the ramifications of shorter movies— C • Designers ready to tackle larger Web sites with five seconds or even two more intricate information architecture • tudents looking to incorporate video into their S The True Goal Web site designs • hink about sequential content and how to orga- T nize itFurther Thoughts • inimize the amount of effort it takes for a user to MThis is another challenge that builds on the lessons move through a large volume of data to accesslearned in a previous challenge; this time, it’s “Dead content they wantPhilosophers Rock.” The key difference here is that,even at its most comprehensive, the history of monster When To Use Itmovies is relatively short and sweet when comparedto the history of philosophy. • henever your students have become compla- W cent or over-confident in their Web site designIt’s easy to put a lot of information on a Web site, but skillsit’s difficult to make the content useable, let aloneentertaining. Designers have to plan the journey of a • n discussions about effort and ease within inter- Iuser through a system. Each question in the construc- face designtion of the monster movie site points to a particularskill required for effective Web design. Further ThoughtsDeciding on an effective way to let a user search for a We don’t mean to bait-and-switch on you, but some-particular movie, for example, can lead a student in times it’s best to sneak up on a lesson in order toany number of directions. Are movies identified by title capture it. This challenge has nothing to do with theand year? What about theme or actor? Is there a way actual output. The Web site is secondary. This chal-to find movies that are based on classic horror novels? lenge is about determining how to deal with so manyDesigners can apply any organizational system they’d tiny pieces of to the site; they just have to defend their decisions.“Social media has transformed the way we thinkabout the effective length of a communicated idea.And while social networking tools are a nice placeto start for students that are stuck, they don’taddress the root of the problem.”38 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 39. Ten seconds isn’t very long. If your students think this Because the “more stuff” ideal can backfire, causingone is too easy, just ask them to quantify one key com- brand confusion or even indifference among consum-ponent of the user experience—exactly how many ers. The question here is whether you can design anclicks is it going to take to watch all of the movies in effective selling environment with a limited numberthe festival? What if there are 50 films? Over a hun- of products. Can your students conjure a spacedred? If they’re paying attention, your students will be that entices people to buy, simply by being a well-cowed by the cacophany of clicks filling their heads. designed space? Can a company’s product (andThe ideal user experience is going to take work. their store) become successful, not because it has blanketed every corner of the market with dozens ofSocial media has transformed the way that we think unique products, but because it does one thing andabout the effective length of a communicated idea. does it well?And while social networking tools are a nice place tostart for students that are stuck, they don’t address the If there are students struggling with environmentalroot of the problem. These short films have to be dis- design, send them back to “He Shaves, She Shaves.”played, rated, selected, and sorted with relative ease, Environmental design is a large can of shaving cream;and that has its own inherent complexity. well-thought out and elegant packaging design fits within it. We are already conditioned to think of a store as a place where you buy things, so thinking of the store itself as a large package shouldn’t be too much I’ve Got a Golden Ticket of a stretch.The Goal • Design a store experience with only three Flapping in the Wind products • ake a physical prototype of those products M The Goal • evelop a guerrilla marketing campaign DThe True Goal • rite an experience of this event from an “as-it- W • Begin to design for an experience rather than for happens” perspective to refine the overall idea individual content items • hink about overall brand decisions rather than T The True Goal specific pieces of merchandise • uild methods to communicate highly personal B experiences in objective termsWhen To Use It • earn to communicate anticipated outcomes L • As an introduction to environmental and interior that are not directly sales-related to clients design • tudents who are less experienced in brand or S When To Use It theme-driven designs • Designers needing to work on personal communi- cation skillsFurther Thoughts • tudents who have not done design work around SThe viability of a space is driven by market forces. If real-world experiencesyou aren’t buying something there, it’s a bad store.And the more product that you have in a store, the Further Thoughtsmore money you can make. Stores have stuff. Themore stuff, the more profit. It’s all pretty simple. And Guerrilla marketing events are just that: events.insidious. And like most events, we relate them to others inTeaching the Challenges: Execution 39
  • 40. photographs or status updates, because we under- inflexible. We sculpt our content to fit the grid, trim-stand that every person’s experience of that event is ming video windows and scooting menu bars aroundunique. From a marketing perspective, however, we like Tetris blocks. Designers are proud when theirhave to be focused. It has to raise brand awareness. Herculean efforts to “make it fit” yield a dizzying for-People can’t just have their own grand time while our tress of perfectly arranged rectangles and squares.client gets nothing. None of those strategies will work for this particularThe Take it Further will help students work with their client, whose entire brand goes against that aesthetic.own vocabulary around subjective events. Students Designers have to maintain the grid on Web sitesprobably won’t have a lot of experience in objectify- for obvious reasons, but it is possible to fold a senseing personal experience. It’s not a skill many of us of openness into the interface. Challenge your stu-have to begin with. When we communicate with dents to find other ways to keep their content straight.clients, however, we have to turn uniquely personal If your students have ever studied the Fibonacciexperiences with singular events into relatable stories sequence, they can tell you that it’s easy to see itfor our clients to invest in. Our target audiences have clearly in the nautilus shell. But do they know it’s alsoto be unique, but not so unique that they won’t fit into in the center of a sunflower, a structure few think ofa particular archetype or demographic. If we give as being orderly?a client too many individuals to design for, the eventlooks less like marketing genius and more like anentertaining distraction. Sell Me a Bridge Going to Seed The Goal • ake a compelling online banner for a low- M excitement placeThe Goal • evelop a rich media ad to romance the actual D • ake an online magazine with a unique grid M location • ransition this online experience into a print T solution The True Goal • earn how to finish assignments that you really LThe True Goal don’t want to do • Learn the difference between use of grid systems • ee above, this is a very difficult thing! S for the Internet and grid systems for the printed page—they each have their own quirks When To Use It • Find out how to make a grid feel invisible • Students who have not worked in the “real world”When To Use It • esigners overly attached to their politics, their D typefaces, or their hipster license • Designers transitioning to the Internet from print • tudents whose designs are overly strict or rigid S Further Thoughts in appearance It would great if our careers contained an endless stream of cool projects. We could be art directingFurther Thoughts photo shoots on exotic tropical islands, designingIt’s two dozen exercises later, and the grid is still posters for blockbuster movies, or spending longimportant. dreamy days putting the finishing touches on our 3,977th album cover design for artists like U2. But aOrganizationally speaking, the grid systems used career in design doesn’t always work that way.on the Internet are solid. They are consistent and40 Teaching the Challenges: Execution
  • 41. We sometimes have to take on projects we don’t Further Thoughtswant, working for clients we don’t like. We might not We’ve all got talent. And we all know where to find tal-even realize how terrible a project is until we’re several ent if we don’t have it: the people we know. But afterweeks into it. a while, we can sink into familiar relationships with ourFiguring out how to stay motivated during these dark- talents and our friends. We become known for thatest of hours is the number-one challenge for any one cell phone ad we did a few years back. We havecreative professional. And the fickle nature of creative the dog portrait lady on speed-dial. At first, it’s style.motivation means that we’re continually reassess- Then, we move on to what helps to motivate our best work. Barrelling Style is really about preferences and the decisionsthrough one project might require Pink Floyd’s “The we make that appeal to us. As designers, we tend toWall” on continuous loop, while the next late night have a greater technical mastery within the mediamight demand pounds of dark chocolate. we prefer. From the wonders of ravioli to the effort-Students develop a sense of their strengths and weak- lessness of Helvetica, we simply have a more robustnesses with particular skills and programs pretty fast. vocabulary for what we like. In this challenge, stu-But beyond those tools and skills, we always have a dents will first have to identify their preferences, thenclient who needs us to deliver a convincing final prod- decide on what would comprise its opposite. Areuct—no matter whether we’re disconnected from the hand-drawn scribbles really the opposite of sans-serifsubject matter at hand or just plain hung over. typefaces? Have them explain their choices, as subtle design preferences can permeate work when noSometimes our most powerful—and overlooked—tool one’s willpower. Sleeping is a good metaphor for discussions around style. When we step away from the daily grind to sleep, we encounter the weird and wonderful inside of us. Let’s Take a Nap The Goal • reate a poster using techniques that are in C “Figuring out how opposition to your usual style • rint the poster and observe people’s reactions P to stay motivated to it during these darkestThe True Goal of hours is the number- • Work to define your personal style and find ways to expand your repertoire one challenge for any • In Take it Further, begin to work with observing reactions to design in the general public creative professional…When To Use It Sometimes our • Students who have yet to develop a style, or those most powerful— in denial about the obviousness of their style • On the subject of the challenge: conversations and overlooked— about work-life balance tool is willpower.”Teaching the Challenges: Execution 41
  • 42. Teaching the Challenges:Materiality the readability of the quotation could easily devolve in Type Face order for the portrait itself to become more apparent. Controlling this balance between typographic leg- ibility and illustration fidelity is completely up to you.The Goal If you want the portrait to be perfectly clear, or vice • onstruct a typographic portrait out of C versa, be sure to specify. Of course, the ultimate chal- quotations lenge would be to ask your students to deliver both on equal terms. • onstruct a portrait of multiple people CThe True Goal • Think of type as an illustrative facet of design Lick it Good • Understand how legibility truly functions within a design The Goal • Make a set of six stampsWhen To Use It • esign a commemorative booklet for the stamps D • esigners who are weak illustrators—they prob- D ably know who they are The True Goal • tudents needing extra help in pairing images S • Develop a series within a limited style with copy elements • nderstand how size influences fidelity UFurther Thoughts When To Use ItThis challenge revisits the work begun in “Easy asABC” from earlier in the book. Students learned in • Around conversations about size and visibilitythat challenge to view and construct letterforms • tudents needing to learn how to be flexible Sfrom materials drawn from the outside world. Here, about when it’s appropriate to detail their workthey are being asked to mould those letters intoillustrative components, which seems easy. However, Further Thoughtswe’re frequently taught that the most important thingabout a typeface is its legibility and transparency for Designers face a steep learning curve when extremecontent. “If you can’t read it, you should change it… size enters their world. Working on the fringes, largemake it simpler!” and small, demands a more iconic style. Billboard ads don’t have the capacity to convey the volumeFor this challenge, that dictum is turned on its head. of content that a magazine ad can. This may seemDepending upon the chosen illustrative style and odd, at first, considering that one is substantially largertypeface selection (or creation) made by the student,42 Teaching the Challenges: Materiality
  • 43. than the other. The fact is, once we reduce or explode while powerful, is only as strong as the designer atsomething past a certain size, we lose fidelity. the keyboard. And while interacting with the real world is an important part of being a designer, itThe intricacy of the illustration styles can be tricky can be a tough sell for those born and bred usingfor students. They’ll watch as their seventeen-layer computer tools. Some people don’t want to dealcollage stamp loses all detail and dimension when with clients or be outside taking pictures of bridges.reduced to something less than an inch wide. This They’ll never have to ask a photographer to adjustlesson easily transfers to treatments involving things the depth of field to make the copy more legible orlike company logos and photographs. There are to tone down the contrast so the logo really pops.times when every pixel has to be perfect, and there These masters of post-production can do it all withare times when no one’s going to be able to see the Adobe Creative Suite.brown gecko perched on the second leaf from thetop of the first palm tree in that commemorative post- There is something to be said for staying inside andage stamp from Bali. working away. However, there comes a point in every designer’s career where she has to render a realisticBut realistically, the distances involved when viewing a object. And good rendering requires a completebillboard have the same effect. Whether big or small, understanding of the form in order to represent itthis design problem will show up eventually. realistically on screen. It could be an apple or a car;So if they teach the same lesson, why did we pick it really doesn’t matter. If she hasn’t manipulated andpostage stamps over billboards? observed three-dimensional objects in the real world, her attempts at reproducing them on a computerPostage stamps are a lot easier to fit in a classroom. don’t stand a chance. She’s a mouse-click away from the drop shadow of death. Never Tear Us Apart Trompe L’Oh Wow The Goal • Make a poster out of torn objects The Goal • ecide how the designs elements from the poster D • Make a logo that incorporates an optical illusion could be used in a live setting • reate a corresponding branding kit that C includes a magic trickThe True Goal • Work in three dimensions, without a computer The True Goal • ain a vocabulary for discussing representations G • Fail as a group (probably) of real objects—especially via the medium of • elebrate individual genius (hopefully) C photography When To Use ItWhen To Use It • round discussions of easy projects A • Designers lacking photography skills or the abil- ity to talk about photography (especially texture, • henever your class needs to fail, or whenever W lighting, and dimensionality) they need a class hero • tudents who are too attached to their computers S Further ThoughtsFurther Thoughts This challenge can be deceiving. We know a lot of individual optical illusions, but it’s difficult to finesseIt’s another anti-computer challenge! By now, your those into workable designs.students should have discovered that the computer,Teaching the Challenges: Materiality 43
  • 44. So as the instructor, your job is a simple one: let your between eye-catching and plain old ugly?students fail. This will probably be the first challenge The second path is a little more time-consuming,that few can complete in the time limit to a level of but it can be a great way to introduce people to thesatisfaction. Plus, depending on the experience of concept of responsibility in design without requiringyour students, this may be the first project that any of a sermon.them have ever failed. Most designers don’t get theopportunity to think about how to process failure and We design things with sustainability in mind, usetalk to clients under those circumstances. soy-based inks, and try to keep unethical companies out of our portfolios. Many a designer has vowed toThen again, you might have a student who really never work for an oil company. Appropriation can bedelivers. In that case, it’s a great opportunity for a dirty word.your class to learn how to celebrate inspired design.Recognizing the efforts of others, especially when What about plaid, though? Historically, the tartan isthey’re doing better work than you are, is an essential representative of a particular culture, and the colorskill for any designer. We learn a lot when we combinations are unique to each clan. Will your stu-make mistakes, but we can learn just as much dents research this to find an arrangement that hasn’twhen others don’t. been used? Are alcohol companies off-limits while their selected plaid is fine? This is a great opportunity for students to understand what cultural meanings may be hidden within the patterns they select, and I Heart Plaid Candles their limits around what they include in their work.The Goal • esign a high-end candle whose package incor- D Outdoor Wedding porates a plaid pattern • Expand to paisley, or design an advertisement for The Goal release of the candles • ake a set of wedding invitations out of natural M materialsThe True Goal • ake decisions regarding mass production of the M • Challenge notions of attractiveness cards • egin to explore ethics and responsibility in B design The True Goal • Work within a tight series, without taking copy ele-When To Use It ments for granted in terms of consistency • tudents who frequently borrow motifs from other S • egin to plan assembly timetables and learn how B sources as “inspiration” to adjust them • Designers who need to explore more linear • nderstand the complexities around how we U designs or that need more work with color theory describe and label artFurther Thoughts When To Use ItThere are two main paths for this challenge; feel free • tudents lacking significant prototyping or assem- Sto choose according to the needs of your class. bly experienceThe first path is more obvious. Plaid can be garish and • tudents requiring work in designing a tightly con- Shard to coordinate with. Of course, a lot of people trolled seriesfind plaid brands, such as Burberry, not only attractivebut also collectible. Can your students toe this line44 Teaching the Challenges: Materiality
  • 45. Further ThoughtsThere are many different things happening in thischallenge. We’ll briefly touch on just three. Crane Promotion First, some students may have had experience design-ing a series, but this challenge is a little tighter in The Goalscope. Each invitation they create has to convey the • esign a brochure that incorporates origami Dsame information, and it’s only the decorative detailsthat differ. Because of this, your students may take • Design brochures that interlockconsistency for granted. The True Goal • hink of paper-crafting and prototyping in a new, T different light“A brochure that doubles • ncover multiple uses for a single design, incor- U porating layered thinking as origami can imply When To Use It complexity and precision • tudents who have had little experience in work- S in the same way as ing with the medium of paper • tudents who think they know print design S the architecture of inside out, and need to learn what they don’t know about the complexities of dimensional an elegant building.” paper design Further Thoughts We’re halfway through the book; it’s time for some-Next, from a timetable perspective—this may be one thing really cool!of the first projects where a student is having to com- Origami has a rich history, and it has recently expe-plete multiple pieces for a project with a production rienced a renaissance of sorts. Paper-manipulationmindset. As you finesse the assignment, they’ll have and folding isn’t just for kids anymore; scientists use itto decide how to best develop a flow for assembling for atomic modeling. It’s a unique way to talk abouteach finished piece. Help them make any adjust- multiplicity in design. Can a piece work on multiplements necessary for them to focus on shoring up levels, not only from a functionality perspective butweaknesses in their production skills. also on a representation level?And finally, while we make a lot of unique works as Students may struggle with the origami mechanismdesigners, very little could ever be considered art. This itself, and that’s okay. We don’t have to master everychallenge, including the Take it Further, can open challenge thrown at us. The important thing for thesignificant discussions around how we label art. Each students who fumble their folds is that they internalizeinvitation is unique, but it’s being mass-produced for how form can provide another level of meaning to ourcommercial purposes. Is it design? Is it art? What if work. A brochure that doubles as origami can implyone person assembles them all? What about three? complexity and precision in the same way as theHow are their answers influenced by the classic studio architecture of an elegant building, or the unfoldingart system, in which a single artist employs multiple of a delightful user interface design.workers to execute proprietary designs?Teaching the Challenges: Materiality 45
  • 46. quickly if they expended the time and energy to fully execute every interface concept that came to mind. Just My Prototype The Goal Reduce, Reuse, • enerate a web site redesign through paper G Redecorate prototyping • Move a user interface design in a more functional The Goal direction by incorporating tool tips, menus, or • esign a piece of furniture out of bulk recyclable D other navigation materialsThe True Goal • Show how the piece would be sold online • egin thinking about usability and functionality, B The True Goal and how those ideas might be compromised without exploring physical representations of a • tart discussions about waste and sustainability in S system design with clients • Discuss the differences between screen testing • ducate ourselves about reusability strategies, as E and physical testing methods most of us are already familiar with strategies for reducing resource impact at the start of a projectWhen To Use It When To Use It • round instruction about prototyping A • tudents with little practical experience in S • hen discussing the importance of usability W sustainabilityFurther Thoughts • esigners accustomed to producing interfaces, D where concerns about disposability and reuseMuch like “I’m Feeling Really, Really Lucky,” this chal- may be minimizedlenge will force designers to play with the informationarchitecture and overall organization of content for a Further Thoughtsuser interface. The use of physical prototyping allowsthe students to go through an easy-to-understand The actual output of this challenge is less importantprocess before they jump onto the computer to apply than your students understanding that there is a realspit and polish. physical cost to producing material for clients. A sim- ple red-and-white swirling holiday design on a paperThis also provides a venue for students to begin think- cup for a powerful client can introduce thousands ofing about how to test their organizational ideas before pounds of waste in a very short time, depending uponthey fully execute any interface design. Encourage the scope of the project. How do you measure theyour students to take their raw, interim paper pro- impact of the cup’s manufacture, usage, and dispos-totypes and put them in front of people. Does the al, and more importantly, can you take some measurearrangement of content make sense? What would of responsibility for it?those people expect if they were to click on one of theitems on the page? Do the words on each sticky note While we may not be able to convince our clients tomake sense to them? hold off on sending a million pieces of direct market- ing through the mail, as opposed to only announc-The lower the fidelity in a user interface design, the ing their big annual sale on their Web site, we canmore a designer can focus on meeting your user’s encourage them to use recycled or reclaimed materi-expectations regarding content arrangement. This als in production. We can educate them about reus-is information students may not be able to glean as ability strategies for their particular product. We can46 Teaching the Challenges: Materiality
  • 47. “Some clients will never consider (or even beaware of) alternatives until we suggest them.Sustainability efforts are most effective whenthey are part of the overall design strategy, rather than treated as an afterthought.”start the conversation and be informed about the might call craft-only tools, which do not lend them-available options. Some clients will never consider (or selves to the individual artist looking to quickly mass-even be aware of) alternatives until we suggest them. produce a design idea in a cost-effective manner.Sustainability efforts are most effective when they are Can you imagine making 10,000 business cards out ofpart of the overall design strategy, rather than treated needle, thread, and cloth?as an afterthought. This challenge will help designers understand the time cost that comes from wanting to place individual flour- ishes onto items that are mass produced—either for Printed and Sewn efficiency of production, to minimize overall cost, or to achieve effects that can’t be made easily in the home, like embossing and debossing.The Goal Such treatments often help a design idea transcend • raft an identity system that incorporates sewn C the ordinary and truly stand out for a client, but every elements designer must be aware of the cost of each flourish, both in person-hours, hard costs, and corners that • Extend that motif into a Web-based system can’t be cut without degrading the original idea into a ghost of its former glory. After all, who wantsThe True Goal a sublime design idea to unravel before their very • Determine how to incorporate individual flourishes eyes because of a detail that the client didn’t want into an identity system to pay for? • hink about the small ways that our style perme- T ates our work Record StoreWhen To Use It Puppet Theatre • Students who would like “craftier” projects • esigners feeling as though most of their projects D The Goal can’t be influenced by their personal style • evelop a 30-second commercial shot in one DFurther Thoughts take with no effects—with puppets!There are standard tools we reach for that are part of • Design an in-store event with the puppetsour artist’s arsenal: pencil, eraser, pen, whiteboard,paintbrush, and so forth. Then, there are what weTeaching the Challenges: Materiality 47
  • 48. The True Goal • Start building a framework for video prototyping • ork within the frame, and learn about how to W actualize what you are pre-visualizing in your mindWhen To Use It • Students without extensive film production experience • esigners lacking the eye to develop high quality D executions the first time outFurther ThoughtsMany a photography instructor laments the digitalage. Computer programs give us the ability to donearly anything with our images, but we lose a lotof discipline in the initial stages of creation when wecan “fix it in post.” We sacrifice quality for the bells andwhistles of the finishing touches.We can also lose the ability to see what’s in front of us,because we’re always looking to the future. Imaginehow powerful our photographs, layouts, and logoswould be if we stopped thinking about fixing our mis-takes after the fact. How much more effective wouldour ideas be if they were already there in what wecaptured, if they were—using trendy slang—“real”and authentic?In raw video, especially how it’s handled in thischallenge, students can’t hide a flawed concept.Impromptu video exchanges like this reveal the holesin any raw ideas, because without the shine of post-production, students are forced to process exactlywhat they see during filming. They may think they’remaking the puppets talk while on camera, but thetruth is the opposite once they start to watch what’sbeen recorded.48 Teaching the Challenges: Materiality
  • 49. Teaching the Challenges:Instruction On the other hand, when anyone and everyone is Robot Army telling us what to do, we can lose sight of exactly what goes into effective teaching and instruction. We also Mail-Order Kit might not have time to explain our work in the same way that we did at college.The Goal In this challenge, students have to figure out exactly how to tell someone what to do within a very short • Design a robot that can be assembled in time period. Instructions must be precise and effec- 10 minutes with instructions tive; don’t allow them to provide any extra screws in • xtend that design into a robot that can be E this project. There should be no waste in the process personalized that each student defines.The True Goal • Work within time constraints and learn to appre- Poster by Numbers ciate skilled and unskilled approaches to those constraints The Goal • Determine instructions for what you create for others to follow—and how to write them • Design a set of instructions to make a poster • rovide feedback to your designer based on the PWhen To Use It product • esigners who have just left school or are new to D an agency setting The True Goal • Older and more experienced students ready to • Learn to balance control and direction in design improve mentoring skills when dealing with other people • eaching students how to consider the creation TFurther Thoughts of a creative briefDesigners don’t often get to order people around,at least not at the beginning of their careers. We’re When To Use Italways someone’s lackey. • Students who have never supervised anotherOn the one hand, this is a good thing. In those first designerfew years, we’re unlearning a lot of bad habits from • tudents who have supervised other designers, Sschool. Almost every situation is a process or fea- but that are uncomfortable with the processture of an application that is new to us. We’re beinginstructed all the time.Teaching the Challenges: Instruction 49
  • 50. Further Thoughts than making pasta. As soon as you give in to students complaining about how pasta is too simple, you’llThis challenge is less about creating more robots (a lá invite all sorts of trouble into this challenge. A studentthe previous challenge) and more about control and who can’t manage to construct a visual narrativeart direction. In effect, this challenge is about con- around a simple task has no business asking forstructing a creative brief. something more difficult. This is about observation, notWithin a short period of time, students will need to execution, and we don’t know how anyone can bedetermine not only the instructions for assembling a “too good” at observing behavior.poster, but also how to negotiate the aspects of those As designers, we can’t try to change a process unlessinstructions that they can’t (or don’t want to) control. we understand it. We need to know it inside and out,Are they really going to specify where each line of and there are relatively few that we can simply imag-copy will go by using measurements in millimeters? Or ine in our heads. We have to see it and watch howis their approach more freeform, which can also be things play out. Simple tasks like pasta preparationa minefield if their instructions involve too many ele- are straightforward, but they still incorporate the indi-ments and not enough direction? vidual style and flair of the user. If we miss these details,If you have a little more time, you can have each assuming that it’s just a simple task, we miss most ofstudent create their poster and then write the instruc- the opportunities for improving an experience.tions from it. Have them withhold their own poster until Further on that last point…this is also a good experi-another student has finished following their directions. ence for students to talk about cultural fixations onThen, have them analyze the differences to see where improvement. If we’re constantly looking to improvethey are comfortable in giving up control, and where something, how will we ever appreciate what we havetheir instructions may need to be finessed. when it really is perfect? This isn’t about allowing mis- takes; it’s about understanding the essential nature of certain ways that we work as humans. There are Seeing What Sticks things about who we are and how we function that don’t need to be fixed.The Goal • xecute a one-page visual that explains how you E Check Me Out make pasta • se that visual to improve one or more steps in U The Goal your process • mprove the checkout experience at a local gro- IThe True Goal cery store by developing a user flow • Learning to observe before adjusting behavior • sk test subjects to interact with your ideas A through prototyping • nderstanding process before attempting to U improve it The True GoalWhen To Use It • Learn to incorporate and explain significant vari- ables within a user flow • Students who are quick to critique work • ield observational methods in a bustling live W • Designers who need more observation-based setting experience When To Use ItFurther Thoughts • Students beginning work in user experience andWhatever you do, don’t make this more complicated ready to move into the field of design research50 Teaching the Challenges: Instruction
  • 51. • round discussions about outliers and unpredict- A ability in design—how many people do we have to compensate for in what we create? The Sustainability Game Further Thoughts The GoalThis challenge is a direct application of the lessonslearned from “Seeing What Sticks,” the previous chal- • reate a simple game for children about Clenge. This is a complex interactive system, and it will sustainabilityhave to be observed in the wild. While the student • hink about distribution strategies that are also Tis still the subject, she’ll have a lot more exposure to sustainablerandom elements, including other customers, variedgoods, and multiple technologies. The True GoalThis is a great opportunity for students to compare • Think about game design as system designuser flows to begin to grasp just how different peopleare when it comes to how they fulfill complicated • nderstanding the exponential relationship of Utasks. Everyone’s user flow will have some similarities adding variables to a complex systemthough, and that’s how students should approach theproblem. By casting a wide net over the system, they When To Use Itwill have to let some eccentric users escape, but their • Designers with a propensity for overdevelopedimprovements will have a greater impact. Talk to stu- systems or designsdents about how they can take all of their user flowsand synthesize them into a single flow that accommo- • n discussions around simplicity and efficacy Idates all of the major observed behaviors. Further ThoughtsAnd don’t let your students move on to this challengeunless they’ve made significant progress with their You could easily make this challenge all about thepasta. It’s never smart to go shopping on an empty content. How do you explain sustainability to a child?stomach. How do you get an audience excited about a topic over which they have little to no control? How do you make something simple yet effective? It’s this last question that’s really the focus of this“Designing a game is challenge. Designing a game is very systematic. There are a number of paths a player can take and systematic. There are a certain number of obstacles that they will encounter a number of paths a player along the way. What we often forget is that each additional variable or feature that we include has can take and a certain number major repercussions. of obstacles that they will For each element we add to our game, we add encounter along the way. another layer of exponential complexity to the system. Each token or card needs an explanation and eachWhat we often forget is that one can move the game in a different direction, even each additional variable or when the end goal doesn’t change. The challenge for students will be to design a system that represents feature that we include has a multi-faceted idea. The system will have to balance major repercussions.” between glossing over content when appropriate and not confusing the user with too much detail.Teaching the Challenges: Instruction 51
  • 52. Teaching the Challenges:Observation So, in a sense, this challenge will help make your Patience, Grasshopper students more sensitive and empathetic. They’ll be primed to suspend judgment and make associative leaps from data wherever they are, even when theyThe Goal aren’t “designing.” • Design a greeting card • reate a series of cards or other printed C sentiments Tour de Home The True Goal The Goal • Teach in-depth observation skills • Create signage for your neighborhood • Focus on how observed moments can become • esign walking tour materials D insights The True GoalWhen To Use It • Improve in-depth observation skills • f students aren’t paying close attention to impor- I tant details • onstruct effective wayfinding systems that repre- C sent more subtle landscapes • s an introduction to design research techniques A When To Use ItFurther Thoughts • Students interested in map design andDesigners like to make things. They walk around with informaticssketchbooks, mechanical pencils, mobile phones,and other tools that help them capture the details that • n a class where important details are consistently Isurround them. These tools become extensions of how overlooked by the studentswe make sense of the world: through words, sketches,photos, and other artifacts. Further ThoughtsBy tearing these tools out of the designer’s hands, How many trees are across the street from your frontand forcing them to make sense of the world without door?recording their thoughts in a tangible form, they must You see them every day, so you should know, right?become aware of what they are thinking and feel- You probably don’t because you might be on autopi-ing. We hope that this challenge will help them find lot, desensitized to the surroundings that you see mosta greater capacity to consider potentially conflicting frequently. Yes, you are paying attention; it’s moreand divergent observations. likely that you’ve got more important things on your52 Teaching the Challenges: Observation
  • 53. mind. If you’re focusing on tuning in a Pandora sta- In a few short minutes, your students could producetion or chatting with your friend about tonight’s dinner absurd sketches of all sorts of off-the-wall vendingplans, you don’t really need to count the trees. They machine ideas.just aren’t a priority. Or, with some initial research and planning, theyThis challenge forces students to observe things could generate truly innovative concepts that facili-they’re already familiar with in their neighborhood, tate anything from providing food to homeless peoplewith a fresh perspective. It makes them learn how to offering them customized automatic MP3 down-to “other” themselves, seeing how the people in their loads to their iPads. You could even have studentscommunity value the things around them. That coffee tackle the mechanical and industrial engineeringshop may have better coffee, but that other shop is necessary to build their ideas out.closer to the dog park. Students will have to observe Either way, the overall premise is wacky enough thatnot only the surroundings they see every day, but also students won’t take it too seriously—which makes it ahow their neighbors prioritize those spaces. great way to introduce the core skills necessary for theEncourage students to flex their poetic muscles larger interaction and industrial design challengeswith their signage. Every neighborhood has a great they’ll be working on later in the and a quirky jeweler. But not every streethides a beautiful bench overwhelmed with ivy—thebest place in the city to watch fire-engine red leaveswavering in the autumn wind. It’s these hidden gems Excuse Me, I’m Lost that make a place worth visiting. The Goal • Redesign local hospital signage Wacky Vendo • reate a complete wayfinding system CThe Goal The True Goal • Make a vending machine • Begin to empathize with a target audience • how it in the context of a photograph S • ranslate observed customer problems into T design improvementsThe True Goal When To Use It • Learn to design for interaction and how self-con- tained products may influence flow in a public • Any time there is a question about whether space design problems can be solved in the mind without direct observation; by now, your students • xplore basic principles of industrial design in E should know this is a trick question action • esigners interested in wayfinding and informa- DWhen To Use It tion design • Students wanting to explore the interplay Further Thoughts between industrial and interaction design An improvement in finding the emergency room can • As a lighter moment between more difficult save lives. For students concerned about “making a challenges difference” with their work, this challenge is a great start. But alongside manipulating motivation, makeFurther Thoughts sure that your students stay grounded in the prac-This challenge can be as deep or as shallow as you ticalities of this assignment. Efficient flow through aneed it to be. public space is the result of many factors; signageTeaching the Challenges: Observation 53
  • 54. immediately springs to mind, but what about the When To Use Itlanguage of those signs, or things like lighting, arrows, • Designers who are beginning to work with diaryfurniture, and paint? studies or more personal research methodsIf you have extra time, consider splitting your class into • tudents transitioning from school or from free- Stwo teams. Give half of your class photos of specific lance to agency commitmentsproblem areas at a local hospital and ask them toredesign it with no other information. Send the other Further Thoughtsteam directly to the hospital to observe the same areafor an hour or two before attempting a redesign. Then, This challenge can work on two different levels. Ifhave each half of the class present. Let them discuss if you’ve got a group of designers fresh out of schoolthere are any perceived differences in the output. or moving into an agency from the freelance world, have them work on this as a time management lesson. When we’re in school or working for ourselves, we can Thinking Outside stay up until 3:00 am to finish a project. We can gener- ate sketches on weekends and walk the dog during the Wrist client meetings. In these situations, our work time spreads throughout the days and we lose the ability to track when we’re actually working. It takes a lot ofThe Goal discipline to prevent this freedom from turning into • Design a wristwatch anarchy. Worst-case scenario? We don’t bill properly, we lose money, and we lose sleep. This challenge will • ake a prototype and see how it changes M help designers understand how they’re whittling away behavior the hours.The True Goal If your students have been out of the classroom for a while, the time management portion of this assign- • Find unique design opportunities within a well- ment may not be as applicable. If this is the case, served market have them focus more on the personal research por- • einforce the concept of effective time R tion of the challenge. management We often think about design research as the observa- tion and analysis of other people’s behavior, revealing how those behaviors are influenced by their attitudes, beliefs, needs, and desires. When we have to observe our own behaviors, we tend to lose the ability to pin-“When we’re in school or point those same factors. A week-long diary study will help designers gain empathy for their future subjects.working for ourselves, we canstay up until 3:00 am to finisha project… It takes a lot ofdiscipline to prevent thisfreedom from turninginto anarchy.”54 Teaching the Challenges: Observation
  • 55. Teaching the Challenges:Innovation have a set of artifacts that explain what their solution CD, LP, EP, DP would tangibly look like to a music buyer. You can leave it open-ended, and see where your students take it, or you can force them down one ofThe Goal the above paths. • Create a new product for the music industry Either way, don’t let them just press it on 40-gram fus- • ake a business plan for it M chia vinyl and call it a day. It’s not really a solution if it just sits there looking cool.The True Goal • Introduce the themes of systems thinking • Learn to identify and explain design opportunities iPhone Americana to clients The GoalWhen To Use It • Create an iPhone app • Students who require too much instruction to get them moving • xtend it to another platform E • As an excuse to lecture about “design thinking” The True Goal rather than just “design doing” • Learn information architecture methods for appli-Further Thoughts cation designThis is a tiny big problem. • rovide an emotional heft to an otherwise func- P tional experience within a strong cultural motifIt’s tiny because if you just take the problem state-ment at face value, you could design any number of When To Use Itbeautiful, functional executions that consumers wouldprobably buy. • esigners who haven’t learned to objectively rep- D resent aspects of different cultures or with groupsIt’s big because there’s a complex set of interrelation- that are from wildly different backgroundsships between the actual actors in the system you’reworking within: the music companies, music publish- • tudents transitioning into mobile design from Sers, distributors and wholesalers, artists, existing music other platformsecosystems, and on and on. Further ThoughtsAny student wishing to provide a tiny solution musthave a big rationale to explain its viability. If the class Interactive products can have a personality. They cangravitates toward bigger solution, each student must dance, breathe, laugh, stretch their arms, and yawn.Teaching the Challenges: Innovation 55
  • 56. They can have a tone of voice, a way of holding your Further Thoughtshand as you cross the street, and sometimes even Which came first: the compost or the composter?giggle when you tickle them. While this challenge may seem like a 100% net posi-When designing products that have both a body tive for any designer solving it—making things thatand a soul, we can dive so deeply into the functional unmake themselves, contributing to a healthier planet,details that we lose sight of what people want to and all that falderal—a better approach to solving thisaccomplish with our application—make it easier to challenge may emerge from a more holistic a novel, or play their favorite songs like a jukeboxin an old honky-tonk. We have to balance functional- Have your students look at the entire lifecycle of aity with delight. product. They should examine its manufacture, pur- chase, utilization, obsolecence, and potential reuseProd your students to describe, when explaining their before it is composted or degrades. What are theapplication ideas, not only what it can do for its user, tradeoffs for a selected approach? Pros or cons? Is thebut also how it will establish an emotional connec- product using more energy before it hits the shelf thantion. Those explanations should also include a strong it gains by biodegrading after its use?analysis of the cultural component of this challenge.We are all products of our upbringing, and mobile If your students can’t answer these questions, thenapplications are moving quickly to become exten- send them back for deeper digging on these issues.sions of those relationships. If we can’t define cultural Otherwise, their designs may be feasible, but poten-quirks and eccentricities, we certainly can’t capture tially have a net-negative impact.them…or eliminate them. Biodegradable Backyard “Interactive products can have a personality… They canThe Goal have a tone of voice, a way of • Make backyard products intended to biodegrade holding your hand as you cross • uild a prototype or design a marketing strategy B for the product the street, and sometimes even giggle when you tickle them.”The True Goal • Analyze the environmental impacts of substrate selection • Reimagine how a product serves a specific set of use cases over time More Is Less When To Use It • Students who believe sustainability is easy, or The Goal those that need more experience understanding • edesign the packaging for a durable consum- R the environmental impact of product construc- able product tion and use • evelop a prototype and observe others using it D • esigners who have worked with a limited palette D of materials The True Goal • Change people’s behavior through product presentation56 Teaching the Challenges: Innovation
  • 57. • nalyze the environmental impacts of design A When To Use It choices • s a fun in-class break between more difficult A challengesWhen To Use It • tudents struggling with price/aesthetic desirabil- S • Students having trouble believing they can per- ity dynamics within product design sonally contribute significant change to the world through their work Further Thoughts • Designers exploring different methods of behav- Really, you can look too good. ioral change, especially if they are transitioning from a background in sales or marketing When designing an annual report for a nonprofit, you don’t want it to look like they have no need for money.Further Thoughts And while a celebrity can wear a thousand dollar skirt with a no-name tank top, if you’re selling a $200 bottleThis isn’t a challenge about designing snack packs. of wine to the masses, it had better not look like youBuilding off the lessons from “Biodegradable dragged it from the back aisle of a convenience store.Backyard,” students should be able to analyze the Students solving this challenge will need to determinesupply chain for their product. Now they’ll have to how the nuances of their design, from typeface toapply those same analytic skills to understand how illustration style to materials used, speak to its value.and why people consume their product. This chal- Describing these key decision points will help themlenge starts with the supply chain and throws in to make a case for why their concept will work onconsumer motivation. The students can control the the shelf.components in a product, but can they influence howpeople use that product?If the class isn’t taking a systems-thinking approach totheir solutions, their ideas will still have an impact—but E.V.O.O. to Go it won’t be the right kind of impact. People will just buymore of less, rather than consume less of less. The GoalThis is harder than it sounds. But if students do a great • ake a container for olive oil Mjob, it’s likely they will have strong concepts that theycould potentially produce. • esign an ad for selling the product D The True Goal Veni, Vidi, Vino • Grapple with unusual materials-based constraints • lace function squarely before form PThe Goal When To Use It • Create a wine package • esigners without experience in industrial or D • how what it would look like when sold in bulk S packaging design, especially if they are uncom- fortable with incorporating science into their workThe True Goal • hose more used to focusing on aesthetics than T • Learn how aesthetic and material choices convey utility affordability and luxury Further Thoughts • Understand when to apply wit as part of a design solution Olive oil is a viscous substance prone to spoil more quickly than many other oils on the market. It can go rancid quickly, especially if left out at highTeaching the Challenges: Innovation 57
  • 58. temperature. It can’t be heated over medium-high As a further complication, it requires the designer toheat without beginning to smoke. Its flavor profiles can have a functioning knowledge about the practicevary wildly, based on how and where it is produced. of yoga: the taxonomy of yoga poses that any suchUnlike salt, which is stable at a range of temperatures application would draw from; the different types ofaway from water, oil is a nightmare to contain. yoga, and the teaching styles that accompany them; as well as the physical props and rituals that accom-Don’t let your students know that. Even if they read pany each practitioner’s efforts. Otherwise, a designthe words above, they’ll need to do the appropriate solution would be completely off the mark. Figuringbackground research to make sure that any proposed out how to pool collective knowledge is useful forsolution will reduce post-pour oozing and not taint any designer.the flavor of the oil over time. This is the true bar they’llneed to hit for their product to be successful in market. We also recommend limiting your student teams to 30 to 45 minutes to create a rough physical prototype,If you’re feeling feisty, ask your students to make a then have them demonstrate it to the class by actingpresentation about the science behind the challenge out how the application would interact with a practi-before the class starts sketching. The best framing tioner over a series of poses. The students would haveof the challenge can then be used to evaluate to draw out the necessary screens or interfaces thateach solution. would describe each interaction. The real power in this challenge comes from having designers physically move through the space to real- TechnoYoga ize the success (or failure) of their solution. From this point forward in the book, a large portion of the chal- lenges will require this type of active visualization. IfThe Goal students start here, they’ll definitely be limber enough • reate an interactive application that tracks C for the later work. yoga • esign the mat D I Think, Therefore I Shop The True Goal • Begin to grapple with gestural and touch The Goal affordances • Create a store that doesn’t sell products • s a way to think about the future of connectivity A • uild a prototype of the store experience B • rovide practical experience in physically proto- P typing interactions The True GoalWhen To Use It • Wrestle with the concept of what a “store” really is • hen introducing the notion of interaction mod- W • Consider how people consume ideas as part of a els or frameworks real world experience • Students or designers who are accustomed to or When To Use It are more comfortable with solitary work • s a back-door introduction to social innovation AFurther Thoughts • hen explaining the notion of “customer WThis challenge embodies the complexity inherent in touchpoints” in the context of retail or environ-creating an application that tracks gestural input— mental designwhich is one of the primary futures for any designerinterested in pursuing a career in user experience.58 Teaching the Challenges: Innovation
  • 59. • tudents and designers transitioning from S open. That will probably the hardest data point for sales-based disciplines, such as advertising them to generate. But if they can’t provide such data or marketing to potential investors, than why would they consider any such idea viable? • o directly address any lingering personality T issuesFurther Thoughts Ready When You Are This challenge is philosophical in nature, but practicalin the desired output from students. It should be con- The Goalducted in groups, as opposed to individual output—the final product will be richer as a result. • reate an application for your coffee needs CAs one approach: Simply arrange your students into • ecide how you’d promote the new functionality Dgroups, feed them this challenge, then stand back in product marketingand let them reach an endpoint before providing anycritique. This is a good opportunity for you to assign The True Goalspecific people to teams, especially if there are any • Convey the fundamentals of mobile applicationcontinuing issues among students. When designers designon a team have to focus on ideas instead of beingdistracted by a shiny prototype, they’ll need to deal • earn about systems thinking—with a drug most Lwith each other as people rather than as a means to designers are already invested inproduce an end. They’re exploring how people think,and that includes their teammates. When To Use ItOr, alternatively, if everyone is playing well with others, • tudents deeply rooted in visual design that Syou can push the work to explore the same themes have little experience in defining a controlledof cooperation. As the students are moving from their set of use casesbig ideas to executing their tangible store designs, • Designers needing work with building user flowshelp guide them towards exploring what technolo- for application designgies or unique moments are constructed within theinfrastructure of the store experience, rather than just Further Thoughtsadapting existing technologies that people will bringinto the store (i.e. mobile devices or computers). When starting to teach application design, it can be tempting to throw the kitchen sink at design-Your students should also be able to justify the cost of ers. User flows! Use cases! Functional requirements!investment in the store, and how it will afford staying“When designing an annual report for a nonprofit,you don’t want it to look like they have no need formoney… if you’re selling a $200 bottle of wine tothe masses, it had better not look like you dragged itfrom the back aisle of a convenience store.”Teaching the Challenges: Innovation 59
  • 60. Specifications! Wireframes! The list could go on • Learn how to summarize the most importantand on. effects of an interactive, service-oriented experienceThis challenge was intended as a way for students toapproach the discipline from an alternative direction: When To Use Itvia considering the fulfillment of a critical everydaytask that usually has little connection to a mobile • tudents with little to no experience with industrial Sdevice. By starting with a contained set of use cases designand limited functionality, it’s easier for students to • esigners with a solid background in fine art who Dunderstand the basic components necessary to also are feeling neglectedgenerate much larger systems. • hen introducing the conceptual notion of archi- WWhen David has taught this challenge in class, he’s tectural formasked the students to role-play utilizing the applica-tion, with one person being the “voice of the app,” • ith a class needing a fresh perspective on what Wwhile another person pretends to interact with the constitutes usability and functionactual phone, speaking out loud what they’re doing.The rest of the class takes notes, capturing what the Further Thoughtsscreens may look like as they move step-by-step We design things for a reason. We make a car to drivetowards their perfect cappucino. in. We make forks to eat with. On very rare occasions, we design products for a reason that runs counter to their usual purpose. We might craft a chair that no one can sit in, perhaps to make a political statement“On very rare occasions, or as a memorial. But the marketability of a chair that we design products for a reason no one can sit in is questionable. that runs counter to their usual This challenge is about particularity. Students are designing a single object for a very specific task, and purpose. We might craft a chair it’s an object that is expected to have multiple uses. that no one can sit in… But the Realistically, we don’t really think about usability with dishes. It’s a dish. That’s just what it does. Getting marketability of a chair that the class to explore how function informs design in no one can sit in is questionable.” this context will require them to look at how they feel about individuality, ritual, even sustainability. If students can grasp how to think purposefully about the specific uses of a product, there’s nothing stop- Let’s Dish ping them from applying those principles to the larger world. Single purpose inventions like the Hippo Water Roller and the Embrace Infant Warmer are only a fewThe Goal steps away from Tithi Kutchamuch’s cups in the book. • Design a dish • etermine how to brand the dish for release to D market Listen Up, Write It Off The True Goal The Goal • Experience how to sketch and prototype atypi- • esign a bus shelter ad D cal shape languages—i.e. families of physical objects that work together and feel like a family • reate a radio spot C60 Teaching the Challenges: Innovation
  • 61. The True Goal • Think through the requirements for an interactive product • earn how to summarize the most important L effects of an interactive, service-oriented experienceWhen To Use It • o push students focused on communica- T tion design into thinking about what elements truly comprise the products and services they describe in marketing vehicles • Designers still struggling with the “making a differ- ence” part of their jobsFurther ThoughtsStudents may consider it critical to fully explore howtheir “volunteer bank” would work before they candesign the bus shelter. Others may immediatelybrainstorm concepts for the bank via the medium ofadvertising.While both are valid approaches, we advocate thatstudents work through the logistics and user experi-ence of the actual online experience before craftingtheir ad—spending 60 minutes of the 90-minute timeperiod on that task alone. This will provide them witha greater depth of understanding for not only the ad,but also the holistic reason why people would want totake part in utilizing such a service.And isn’t that what a designer would want to under-stand before crafting a solution?Teaching the Challenges: Innovation 61
  • 62. Teaching the Challenges:Interpretation they’ve undergone alongside the development of I’d Buy That for a Dollar their design ideas. Of course, they have to make those principles work with their strategy for how the business will make money, even if students desire to twist orThe Goal subvert notions of consumption. When presenting to the class, these rationales can be explicitly called out • Create a new dollar store chain and debated. • esign packaging for what it sells DThe True Goal What’s in Store? • Understand the implications for having holistic control over a whole retail experience The Goal • Consider sustainability impacts for an entire business • Create a window display for a store • lan the space for the whole store, including your PWhen To Use It display • s a major class project, bridging product and A service design disciplines The True Goal • With more cause-oriented students, to help them • nderstand what gives great store displays their U explode notions of how design impacts capital- stopping power ism and consumption • rovide designers a taste of the visual mer- P chandising, interior design, and architectureFurther Thoughts disciplinesThis challenge has plenty of space for interpretation,both on the part of the student and the teacher. When To Use ItDepending on how the students approach the chal- • convey the elements of planning a store space Tolenge, they could design the outside of the store, the in a fun mannerinterior floor plan, the suite of products they’d want to • ith designers who have not had a lot of experi- Woffer, the online experience for the store—practically ence with product or window displays, or that areany combination of details to comprise a final output. looking to move from point-of-purchase displaysBe sure to ask students to define at the end of their to something largerideation phase what materials would be required to • s a breather between harder challenges Acreate a well-rounded solution. Students should bevery clear about what depth of sustainability thinking62 Teaching the Challenges: Interpretation
  • 63. Further Thoughts of a final solution. Otherwise, the student work may be well-designed, but not catering to (or creating) desireLike some design work in the domain of fashion, this on the part of their audience.challenge is intentionally shallow and fleeting. As a shout-out: the design professor Jill VartenigianBut if anyone challenges you on whether or not win- suggested the basis of this challenge when she co-dow displays qualify as design, we highly recommend taught a Creative Workshop class with us.Simon Doonan’s Confessions of a Window Dresser totip the scales in your favor. Out of Gamut Urban Diapers The GoalThe Goal • Design an identity for a nonprofit association • Create diaper packaging • reate a color study C • hink about how to tie marketability to the T The True Goal packaging • onsider color interaction beyond just making CThe True Goal things look nice • Understand what it means to craft a brand that • earn about colors that may provide trouble for L “zags” against an established product category the colorblind • Learn the essential components of product and • ncorporate accessibility into “common” design I packaging design workWhen To Use It When To Use It • help students learn how to approach the pro- To • help students learn how to approach the pro- To cess of crafting an identity system cess of crafting an identity system • Designers who need more work in developing • esigners who are lacking experience in acces- D archetypes or understanding demographics sibility design • s an introduction to researching color interac- AFurther Thoughts tion as a part of accessibility considerationsWhenever a client says, “I want an idea that risesabove all that other crap in the market,” they may not Further Thoughtsbe asking for the output of this challenge. While this may seem on the surface like an improb-However, the whole premise of “Urban Diapers” is that able design scenario, the reality is that a percentageif you’re going to be cleaning up after all sorts of crap, of the people who look at or use every one of youryou might as well do it with a punk-rock smile on your designs will be colorblind. This audience is every-face. Capturing the lifestyle and attitude of a defined where and nowhere, rarely vocal unless they observeaudience is the major focus for any designer tackling a major faux pas that could cause great harm. (Wethis challenge. can’t imagine what would happen if we did a switch- eroo on color position inside traffic lights.) In short,Don’t be afraid to task your students with additional accessibility considerations in design are as pressingdeliverables, such as mood boards, documented as they are prevalent, even when they aren’t immedi-conversations with new parents, an audit of existing ately apparent.packaging and advertising from competitors, andany other data that may help to steer the approachTeaching the Challenges: Interpretation 63
  • 64. Your students will need to do two types of research. As you ease your students into the beginning of a newThey will need to understand the various types of col- decade, be prepared for them to explode with ideas.orblindness, and they will need to validate their work What will need to ground their ideas, however, is avia third-party online tools, gauging its effectiveness. clear rationale around their execution that explainsPush your students to justify their decisions when why their exhibit relates to a five-year vision of thethey present in class. Make them render versions future—not two or three or seven or more. There mustof their work as those who are colorblind would see be some unique attribute in the exhibit, whetherthem. Group the whole classes’ work on the board technological or social in nature, that clearly maps toby colorblindness type before judging which solutions where our society will be in that possible best. Or, if you have the ability, bring in a The specificity of the timeframe is precisely the kind ofspecial guest—a colorblind person—to have him detail that makes a beautiful solution to this challengeor her comment on the class’s work. Such input easy enough to produce, but hard to conceptuallywould be invaluable. defend in a rigorous critique. Future-Casting Don Norman says, “DesignersThe Goal fall prey to the two ailments of • Create an art exhibit not knowing what they don’t know • etermine what it would cost to produce D and, worse, thinking they know the exhibit things they don’t.”The True Goal • Discern the fine line between art and design in client assignments • ake a trend and project its future effects via T This Is For Your Health design artifacts • hen done in teams, brush up on and solidify W The Goal brainstorming techniques • Draw three illustrations in a specific styleWhen To Use It • evelop spreads to connect layout to the illustra- D • When students are struggling to dream big tion style • Around conversations about durability in design The True GoalFurther Thoughts • reate hand-crafted illustrations within a speci- C fied art directionEvery designer spends time thinking about the future.For some students, the future is big, bright, shiny, retro: • hink editorially about how illustration connects to Tkind of like the Jetsons. For others, it’s steampunk. written contentAnd let’s not forget the coming apocalypse of 2012,followed by a new Ice Age. Somewhere along the When To Use Itway, we might encounter Tron. • Designers who are fresh out of school or whoEvery project we fulfill is about the future—the time have been freelancing for a long period of time,horizon is the only variable that consistently changes. as this challenge will help them learn how to64 Teaching the Challenges: Interpretation
  • 65. interface with creative directors, art directors, edi- continent is a protected eco-zone, with little precipita- tors, and writers tion year over year. • tudents with a very narrow illustrative style S For your students to understand the trade-offs inherent in bottling water from this continent, they will need toFurther Thoughts dig into a wide range of research sources. As a result, they will become more educated about both theLearning to work under editorial direction takes protected resources and the systems that have beenpractice. It’s not something you’re born with—it takes created worldwide to try and deliver potable waterassignment after assignment to learn to read the mind to an ever-increasing population. You may need toof your editor, as it’s unlikely they’ll give you more input clarify that they will need to research both subjects tothan what is included in this challenge description. provide a well-reasoned solution to this challenge.Though this isn’t a real assignment for a publication, While few students have argued in my classes for bot-pretend you’re an editor when you deliver it to your tling water from Antarctica, some companies do existstudents. When they start asking you for input and that are working to extract water near Antarctica. Thisdirection, let them know you’re too busy to respond, is an ethical grey area that may make for heatedand that you’re looking forward to their work. class discussion (no pun intended).If you’re teaching this as an in-class assignment, con-sider providing them new inputs or constraints halfwaythrough the time period. Free Tibet Blog Paper, Plastic, The Goal Glass, Vapor • Create an official blog for a celebrity • djust your design for localization worldwide AThe Goal The True Goal • Create a brand position for bottled water • reate hand-crafted illustrations within a speci- C • raft a vision document for venture funding C fied art direction • nderstand how deeply an interactive experience UThe True Goal can reflect the spirit of a person through history • Learn to force consideration of sustainabil- ity issues in advance of agreeing to a design When To Use It problem • Demonstrating that designing seemingly small • evelop an opinion and take a stand when a D things can require great attention to detail and a project opens itself to personal vision sophisticated underlying rationale • s a good introduction to localization concerns AWhen To Use It • With a group that is ecologically minded Further Thoughts • hen students are struggling to deliver articulate W This challenge can seem like a lark. Students may be rationales around their design concepts tempted to treat it as merely a fun aesthetic problem to solve. But what would those same students do ifFurther Thoughts they were seated before the Dalai Lama, and such a personage of renown were outlining for them theOutside of March of the Penguins, few people expend overall ethos and import of the venture they weremuch energy thinking about life on Antarctica. This about to undertake?Teaching the Challenges: Interpretation 65
  • 66. For students to generate deep and meaningful solu- Essentially, no matter which path your studentstions, they will have to take this challenge seriously. choose, within two hours it’s unlikely they’ll feel goodConsider having another teacher play a representa- about what they create.tive of the Dalai Lama when the class presents This is one of the hardest lessons that any producttheir solutions, to ensure that they will not describe designer can learn: without the appropriate researchwhat they designed, but why they designed it in and validation, any well-intended solution canthat fashion and how it relates to the heritage be a poor fit for the needs of a poorly understoodof Tibetan Buddhism. audience. Blinded by the Light Touch Screen of Deaf Rock The Goal • Help visually impaired people track sun exposure The Goal • ee if your solution would work for people with S • Create an exhibit for deaf children other disabilities • Create a physical prototype of the exhibit at sizeThe True Goal The True Goal • Learn what types of research are appropriate to frame an approach for a design solution • earn how to envision an interactive experience L without the use of all five senses • iscern how to design for populations with radi- D cally different limitations on how they might use a • xplore a range of approaches for creating arti- E particular product or service facts that describe touch and gestural interactionWhen To Use It When To Use It • an entry point into designing for those with As • hen teaching students about touch and ges- W disabilities tural interfaces • If a class has trouble grappling with abstract • o teach the use of role-playing in quickly proto- T problems typing interactive experiencesFurther Thoughts Further ThoughtsDon Norman says, “Designers fall prey to the two This is one of our favorite challenges in the book. It’s aailments of not knowing what they don’t know and, ton of fun for designers to attempt in close collabora-worse, thinking they know things they don’t.” Students tion—and a fast way for students to learn the follies ofstruggle with this challenge for this very reason. designing touch and gestural user interfaces.If you don’t let them talk with visually impaired people An interesting spin on this challenge is to design theas part of their research, they have trouble justifying exhibit for a deaf child and a potentially hearingtheir solutions. parent (or friends). The walkthrough would require two or more people interacting with the exhibitIf you do let them talk with visually impaired people, simultaneously.they have very little time to formulate the right kinds ofquestions to ask them or to observe what their needs We recommend that, as the teacher, you create time-might be. This may not help them deliver the most boxes for the students to brainstorm big-picture con-effective solution. cepts, a set time period for creating a solution at size, and then serve as a third-party who walks through a66 Teaching the Challenges: Interpretation
  • 67. draft of the space and asks simple, open-ended ques- • tudents needing additional work with collabora- Stions about what details may not make sense. This will tive design practiceshelp students bounce quickly between making thedesign and reflecting on what elements of the design Further Thoughtsmay not be effective for a deaf child. Trying to manage perfume within a public space, withAs a side note, keep a close eye on how the walk- potentially thousands of visitors seeking to samplethroughs are enacted by the teams. If you don’t serve those scents, could be a nightmare scenario. Fromas the third-party reviewer, encourage students to act managing olfactory fatigue on the part of exhibitnormally when they go through the exhibit, speaking visitors to constructing airtight spaces (or other novelout loud. Deaf people aren’t stupid; they can read, solutions that we’ve seen to this challenge), your stu-intuit interactions, and learn from exhibits just like dents will have lots of thinking to do.everyone else. When you design with empathy, you But before you provide the challenge to them, you’llmust also design with respect. need to decide: Can a solution be “magic,” not con- strained by the laws of chemistry and physics? Or must your students do the appropriate research to back up their solutions with a rationale around the feasibility and costs of implementation?“It’s always easier to fit a Depending on which path you choose, the type of really big idea into a smaller box effort your students will put into the challenge may than to take a tiny idea and vary. We recommend having them do some big- picture brainstorming, then researching which of their try to inflate it. In the case of range of ideas may be most feasible, then moving the latter, it’ll usually go pop!” from there. It’s always easier to fit a really big idea into a smaller box than to take a tiny idea and try to inflate it. In the case of the latter, it’ll usually go pop! Sniff Test Can You Hear Me Now? The Goal The Goal • Create an exhibit that contains scents • Storyboard a TV spot • esign the materials required to market the D • Translate your idea into other media exhibit The True GoalThe True Goal • xplore in TV and video how sound is closely inter- E • esign for the sense of smell—which is rarely con- D twined with image sidered by designers • ain empathy regarding communication design G • Learn to work within unusual physical constraints for the disabledWhen To Use It When To Use It • round lessons that demonstrate various meth- A • tudents with a firm grasp of advertising design S ods of designing for environments that need to be pushed outside of their comfort zoneTeaching the Challenges: Interpretation 67
  • 68. • hen teaching how to design for the disabled W • Manage a high volume of detail in an illustrationFurther Thoughts When To Use ItWe take sound for granted. We don’t realize how inte- • hen teaching best practices for wayfinding and Wgral it is to most experiences of the world. That is, until map-makingit isn’t there. • tudents who a bit too obsessed with Edward SAn effective execution for this challenge will essentially Tuftebe a moving print ad. You might want to considerhaving your students act out their ads, sans voiceover. Further ThoughtsOtherwise, they’re just going to describe out loud Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map. Not just anywhat happens in each panel of their storyboard, Google Map with the appropriate pins and turn-by-and that might get in the way of fully expressing turn directions. Moving from Point A to Point B is justwhat they’re trying to communicate conceptually one use of the map, and we’ve become addicted towith their spot. our phones, GPS devices, and other tools that we useConsider filming each performance, so the students for traveling to all sorts of places. But there are situa-can compare their ideas after class. Then, show the tions where using those mapping systems become afilms to people who are not aware of the challenge or bit ineffective: inside buildings, within out-of-the-waythe constraints. Do the ads communicate the ideas districts, and when attempting to understand the vari-that the students intended? ous neighborhoods and suburbs of a downtown core. Students may feel like they’re beholden to cram as much as they can into their maps—and they should Bending Geography resist this impulse. Less detail allows more finesse in how a viewer of such a map understands the high-lev- el relationships between roads, rivers, bodies of water,The Goal and critical landmarks. • Create a simplified map If you’re feeling spry, cover the city and task each of your students with a neighborhood to render. Then, • Abstract your map until it becomes decorative art piece all of the maps together like a patchwork quilt, demonstrating to your students how many differentThe True Goal approaches there may be to rendering a simplified • Understand how good information design can view of a complex world. require finessing factual detail“‘You want me to create something for myself,that I’ll benefit from?’ Yes, that’s right: design can be a self-affirming, rewarding actthat’s solely for your benefit.”68 Teaching the Challenges: Interpretation
  • 69. time limit. This is intentional. Your students will need to agree upon what problem they need to solve What Do I Know? before they can provide a solution at the end of their time limit. If they don’t, there is no way to win.The Goal • Make Twitter and Wikipedia have a baby • reate the user interface for what experience you C think should be made Well, My Book… In The True Goal • Work collaboratively to frame a highly complex The Goal problem in a group • Design a book of personal wisdom • earn to identify when a provided problem is wick- L • Reconsider what form the book should take edly complex The True GoalWhen To Use It • earn how to be your own client L • s a final in-class “unsolvable problem” A • nderstand how to create space for reflection U • or students who consistently overestimate F their skills When To Use ItFurther Thoughts • s a final take-home exercise for a Creative A Workshop classIn Star Trek lore, there is a definitive test that StarfleetAcademy students need to take in order to graduate. • or students who need a break from “client work” FIn this test, each person is role-playing as the captainof a Starfleet vessel, attempting to rescue a stalled-out Further Thoughtsship called the Kobiyashi Maru. This challenge is a reward for every student’s hardWhile each student initially thinks they can carry out effort. It will force them to allocate time and spacea rescue mission to save the people on the stranded for reflecting upon who they are and what they’vevessel, they quickly discover that it’s a no-win scenario, accomplished—with a tangible output that they canas the vessel is in the Klingon Neutral Zone. No matter return to again and again.what they do during the scenario, either their vessel or This challenge should feel like an antidote to thethe Kobiyashi Maru is destroyed. self-sacrifice and service orientation that is imprintedThe test, as Captain Kirk so impishly avoided by hack- strongly upon designers of every skill level. “You wanting the test computer’s code, is not about winning. me to create something for myself, that I’ll benefitIt’s about how students think about the problem and from?” Yes, that’s right: design can be a self-affirming,about grace in the face of powerlessness. It’s about rewarding act that’s solely for your benefit.what it really means to be a leader. What Kirk did was If you fear that the subject matter may be too broadengineer the problem in such a way as to allow suc- for your class, consider this variant: have your classcess, which served as a testament to his understand- generate books that highlight what they’d learneding of leadership. That’s what your students should over the course of the class. They can be illustratedapply to this challenge. with a select number of the challenge executions.Place your students in groups and have them attempt Regardless of your approach, this should feel less likethis challenge. On its surface, the problem statement a portfolio, and more like a manifesto.for this challenge is too broad to solve within theTeaching the Challenges: Interpretation 69
  • 70. 70 Exercise #
  • 71. About the authors David Sherwin is an interaction designer and art director with a depth of expertise in developing compelling creative solutions for challenging business problems. He is currently a Senior Interaction Designer at frog design, a global innovation firm, where he helps to guide the research, strategy, and design of novel products and services for some of today’s leading companies. David is author of the books Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills and the forthcoming Design Business from A to Z (2012). Both are published by HOW Design Press. David is an active speaker and teacher, and his writing has appeared in A List Apart, Design Mind,, Imprint, and other periodicals. In his free time, he maintains the blog ChangeOrder: Business + Process of Design at Mary Paynter Sherwin is a poet, writer, editor, and teacher of public speaking. Her poetry has been published by Richard Hugo House, Midway Journal, and Drash: Northwest Mosaic. She was recently includ- ed in an online anthology on, where she was named one of the Pacific Northwest’s Most Innovative Poets. Mary holds a degree in Commercial Photography from Art Institute of Seattle, a certificate in Editing from University of Washington, and is about to complete a Liberal Arts degree in writing at Evergreen State College.About the Authors 71
  • 72. For University Bookstore sales, contact FW Media at 1-800-289-0963.My Design Shop: Amazon: The first 24 pages are available free on Scribd: 72 Exercise #