Not To Be Missed: Design Meets Technology

3D printed arm, Artist Eric Kuester

3-D printed arm, Eric Kuester

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a variety of high school art groups during the past few months. A topic that has come up in each conversation has been the intersection where art and design meet engineering and technology, and the value added when these seemingly opposite fields combine.

These days, when thinking of technology and design our minds typically jump to smart gadgets: be they phones, watches or cars. An exhibit currently on display at Kent State University focuses on the more intimate and personal benefits of the times we live in; by highlighting the individual and life-changing enhancements that can be realized when left and right brain collaborate.

(Dis)Abled Beauty: The Evolution of Beauty, Disability, and Ability is a perfect depiction of this collective success. When working to improve life for the physically challenged, few in the past have paid close attention to aesthetics. But, to quote our newest Nobel Laureate in literature, “the times, they are a-changin’.” Thanks to both new technologies and greater attention given to creativity, newly available products include 3-D printed prosthetic arms and legs, custom-designed hearing aids, and garments that “button” magnetically to aid those with limited mobility and dexterity. Dresses have even been designed to aid the hearing impaired, and hearing aids have become unique artistic statements.

Clothing designs for disabled

Clothing designs for disabled

This is fashion forward thinking at its finest. (Dis)Abled Beauty provides a first-hand demonstration of the emerging creativity, beauty, and functionality that follow when art and design are considered part of the original development of a product.

Is the intersection of design and engineering something your teen finds intriguing? Then get their juices flowing by seeking out internships, summer programs, and colleges that offer both. In the meantime, check out the exhibit at the Kent State University Museum. It runs through March 2017.

Click on the catalog link for an expanded view of the exhibition.

In A Buckeye State of Mind

Student work - Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

Student work – Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

For many, searching for the right college begins with the question “art college or university?” The two choices lead to very different college experiences. And, true confessions here: I attended a state school and came away with an exceptional education. (Thank you, U Dub!) Unfortunately, I don’t live in Washington anymore, but Ohio offers some outstanding opportunities as well.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the largest land-grant, research universities in the country. I thought they only did “big” in Texas, but OSU proves that theory wrong. Think 49,000+ undergraduate students, ½ million alumni, and 175 majors. Those numbers translate into significant opportunities and support for the Departments of Art, Arts Administration, Design, and Art History.

I’ve had the chance to tour both the Art and Design Departments, and I came away impressed. You won’t need a portfolio to gain acceptance into the university. However, you’ll need one for acceptance into one of the 10 majors these two departments provide. With guidance from professors and your foundation classes you’ll create one during freshman year (Design) and your sophomore year (Art) to compete for acceptance into your major of choice.

Industrial Design class

Industrial Design class

The two departments reside in buildings adjacent to each other, providing plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination. Both are competitive to gain entry. Only 80 students are accepted into the Department of Design’s Pre-Design program, which is narrowed down to 54 after freshman year. That equates to 18 new students each year joining one of three majors; Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communications. The end result is small classes with highly motivated students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Design, and excellent career opportunities.

The Department of Art is slightly larger but no less competitive. Students complete five foundation courses before gaining acceptance into the rigorous and challenging program. Those admitted earn a BFA in Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, or Sculpture in a traditional studio environment. Also available is a Bachelor of Arts in Art, a more general degree for students wanting a career related to the arts.

Internships are highly encouraged, especially following sophomore year when students have more confidence in their skills. Study abroad opportunities are also encouraged, providing the chance to learn from other cultures and gain an international perspective.

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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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500 Days of Summer?

UC Boulder art building & art museum

Well, not exactly, so how about 300 days of sunshine?  Every year.

I had the chance to visit the beautiful town of Boulder, Colorado last month and that’s what I found. Not a bad place to attend college! OK, full disclosure: I considered attending the University of Colorado Boulder back in the day. But that’s a story for another time.

If you’re looking for an art school in Colorado you have a number of options to choose from. UC Boulder is a large, public, research university on a beautiful campus at the base of the Flatiron mountain range. The aptly named Art and Art History department offers degrees in Art History and Studio Arts in the new state-of-the-art Visual Arts Complex. BA’s are common; getting into the BFA program is more difficult. For a BFA you’ll need to be a UC student with a minimum of 30 hours of Art & Art History courses under your belt and then go through a rigorous selection process. Few are accepted. Studio Arts disciplines include: Ceramics, IMAP (photography, digital media, video, integrated arts), Painting and Drawing, Printmaking, and Sculpture and Post-Studio Practice.

Laura Shill, the IMAP lab coordinator gave me a tour of some of the labs and shared with me how influenced they are by changing technology. “Taking risks with new technology is what students want,” she said. With each new year of students come fresh ideas, and the program adapts to those requests. A New Directions of Photography class is blending 21st century technology with antiquated processes. It’s a “collapsing of the centuries” she added. Students produce contemporary work, yet because they incorporate old world techniques they become aware of the traditions that paved the way for today’s medium.

Around 1000 students are in the undergraduate program, plus an additional 50 grad students.