Spring Break Tours – Time To Get Started

Otis College of Art & Design

Otis College of Art & Design

Winter is hanging on, but warmer days will be here soon. Spring break means students can enjoy time away from classes. For moms and dads it offers an opportunity to explore college campuses with your teen.

So how do you start the “tour” process? Which campuses do you visit first? The answer is simpler than you think. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal here is to help your student begin to determine the best place for his or her future. That means your first objective is to help him differentiate one place from another. I like to begin by categorizing the size of each institution: small liberal arts college, large research university, art college.

Does your child like to feel part of a big crowd? Or do you think he needs a more intimate setting to fit in? The good news is there are options available at both ends of this spectrum, and many places in between.

At the suggestion of our high school’s college counselor (thank you Stephanie!), we took a road trip during my oldest son’s sophomore spring break. Our objective was to visit three different colleges, one small, one medium, and one large – kind of like Goldilocks. We also focused on different settings and ended up touring a large research university, a liberal arts college in a suburban setting, and a smaller college in the center of the city.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Our tours turned out to be great kick-starters for our college conversations at home, and helped us all begin to envision the best post-secondary environment for our teen. And, once he started narrowing down what he wanted, we then knew where our next campus tours would take place.

There is no substitute for walking around a college to get a true feel for campus life. But visiting numerous colleges can be time consuming and expensive. It’s best to tour when classes are in session, but that often conflicts with high school schedules. And visiting institutions across the country might seem like a waste of money, especially before applications have been submitted. For these reasons I’d make sure to check each campus’s website and take a virtual tour. Most, if not all, colleges offer them. They might even influence your next road trip.

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3 Resources Close To Home

colored pastels 2It starts in high school, or even middle school; that panicky feeling parents get as they consider their teen’s future. What college will my child attend? What will she study? What type of career can it lead to? And – here’s where the panic kicks in – how do I help him find the right place?

When my kids were beginning high school I felt like I needed to know all the answers to these questions, and more. Truth-be-told, I didn’t know where to start, and didn’t know which questions would help move me forward instead of just adding to the panic.

With that in mind, here are three places you can begin your own research. They’re simple, easily accessible, and right under your nose.

1. High School Counselor

These tireless advisors are true advocates for your children. Given the responsibility of guiding students through high school, they offer the ultimate in academic, personal, and developmental support. Traditionally they work with each student for four years, which gives them the chance to truly know your child and help with the transition to college. They’ll offer specific college suggestions based on your child’s strengths and interests, provide advice on grade point averages and standardized tests, and assist with the quagmire that is today’s application process.

2. High School Art Teacher

Your high school art teachers are tour guides for your child’s artistic exploration. They introduce students to the basic principles of art and design, and expand their comprehension of the subject by engaging students with a diverse variety of artistic styles, artists, and media. As up close observers they’ll assess your child’s artistic skills, guide for strengths, and make suggestions in the form of medium, career, and even school choices.

3. Neighbors

If you have children in high school then I’m guessing you have friends or neighbors with college age children as well. Although they haven’t walked in your exact shoes, they’ve been down this road before and should be a wealth of information. They can make recommendations based their own experiences and offer up personal tidbits that you might not have heard of otherwise. Most importantly – for that panicky feeling – they’ve survived the process, and lived to talk about it.

As a parent, you’re the one with the front row seat to your child’s artistic strengths and passions. If you want to know how you can guide them to the best college fit, start talking. Even asking “where do I begin?” or “how did you begin?” will get you going. After you’ve started these conversations I’d suggest you start checking out some colleges, but we can talk about that next week.

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Design Thinking: In The Classroom

design thinkingWhich colleges are integrating Design Thinking into their undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) programs?

Here’s one: The Methods of Design Research at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was offered this past fall semester for ID sophomores. Paired with a spring semester studio class, the two courses combine to help students grasp the strategic rationale behind the design of a product and the process required to get to that rationale, in order to design a more successful product. “The goal is to simulate a real-world project scenario that incorporates insights, strategy, and then design,” explained John Youger, Director of Insights and Strategy at WD Partners and CCAD Adjunct Professor. 

Last semester’s project: design a future gas station, something that will exist 5 – 10 years from now. The process includes understanding and defining the challenge, generating ideas, and conducting research, followed by prototyping and testing. The night I sat in on the class had students flushing through their methods for gathering their primary and secondary research.

As if responding to a real-world RFP, students considered myriad details including vehicles of the future, fuel types, technology, and spatial layout of a gas station. They also dialogued over how to conduct their primary research (teams of 2 – 3 were formed), and discussed the market groups that will feel the impact of a design change; consumers, employees, and stakeholders. Finally, they planned for the presentations of their findings.

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova's research presentation

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova’s research presentation

End of semester results and presentations for this collaborative group were impressive. Now, engaged in their studio courses, the same students are focusing on the impact their research has made on their design choices, and will have on the look and feel of their future fuel stations.

Their research and the process they utilized to obtain it have provided them with the tools to create good future design decisions, in class and throughout their careers. The process can be repeated and utilized to solve project after project. If ID is on your radar, inquire at other colleges. Ask how they integrate design thinking into their processes. For me, I can’t wait to see what the end of this semester brings.

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Design Thinking: Thinking Design

head of ideas - my colors

Art and design require strategy. Consider Industrial Design (ID); in order to successfully design and create a new product, or redesign an existing one, it’s necessary to understand the environment in which the product will exist. Studying that environment and incorporating what’s learned into the design of the product is commonly known as design research, strategic design, or design thinking. Put another way; take a look at a seat belt, a flash drive, a video game, or a recumbent bicycle. The marketplace in which each of these products exists had to be considered when it was designed. That’s obvious, but not necessarily simple.

 

If you’re considering studying ID in college, you know that it’s more than just drawing cool cars and contemporary coffee dispensers. How those products will be used is critical to their design and construction. Comfort, dexterity, scale, lightness or heaviness of materials used, and the ability to withstand high or low temperatures are just some of the considerations that go into their respective designs. Cultural norms need to be considered, as do the type and size of marketplace they’ll be sold in, material costs, distribution, and competition. And, once a product is created, it needs to be market-tested.

 

I’m guessing these aren’t the first things you’d consider relevant to creating good design. And they might not cross your mind when choosing ID college courses. But they are extremely relevant. Today, design thinking has become part of the vernacular in contemporary architecture, design and engineering practices, and is gaining recognition in the business community. It’s a way of understanding the context of a problem and designing a more innovative solution. design thinking

 

Professors and administrators at colleges across the country are incorporating design thinking into their curricula as well. By doing so, they’re providing students with a real-world view of the industrial design process, and setting them up for career success.

 

My suggestion: inquire about design thinking when you tour college campuses. It’ll show the ID professors that you know what you’re getting into, and that you’re serious about it. You’ll probably learn more about it along the way. I’ll share more of what I’ve learned on the subject next week.

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A New Tool For The Artist In You

pencil

Clearly I have some tech geek hidden somewhere in my soul. I just learned about a hot new app for the I-Pad, and I can’t sit still about it. Pencil is designed to communicate directly with the app, Paper, increasing opportunities for digital creativity in the real world.

Here, users get the chance to create endlessly without the mess of traditional materials. A stylus designed to look like an actual carpenter’s pencil; it uses Bluetooth technology to act like a pencil, paintbrush, or even charcoal. Without switching tools it provides the freedom to write, draw, sketch, color, and paint to your heart’s content. The added benefit of course, is that with digital drawing and painting you can experiment with new ideas and colors without affecting your original design. Want to try a different color? Experiment. Not the right medium for your creation? Switch it up. This new tool lets you erase it, smear it, smudge it, and try again.

Artists of every age can spend countless hours getting lost here. With no brushes to clean afterwards, no charcoal smears on your fingers and hands. And with the holidays around the corner, the designers and engineers at Fifty-Three might have just delivered the perfect gift for artist, student and teacher alike.

Go unleash your creativity, and let me know how you like it.

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