Unit 1, Blog Entry 2: Design Education

The content presented in the course notes reminded me of a paper I completed this past fall for my GRDS 502 course where I discussed the value of design education. It has been a subject I have been researching for a while, particularly in the area of graphic design. In Unit 1 we are provided with 5 criteria for an established profession: full-time occupation, formal training/educational programs, national professional organization, established code of ethics and licenses/certifications for practice. Graphic design covers all criteria with the exception of the last bit. This one of the main reasons design education has been place aside for many entering the field. Today it seems all you really need is a computer loaded with typefaces and the latest Adobe CS. Without certification the gates are wide open for anyone to use the title “designer”. This does not mean a formal education make someone a better designer, but I do believe some training particularly on the subjects of design thinking and theory are needed to develop the way designers create and solve problems.

On the other hand, I have also seen the need for more practice-based design to be pushed in the classroom – especially during undergrad. As an undergraduate student I had the opportunity to take an industrial design studio that provided real-world design problems and helped me apply my classroom experiences to solve them. We had a chance to work as teams with engineers, MBAs and directly with the clients to help develop products that would be presented to manufactures. The studio helped be see more of the design process, how to research and what questions to ask.

I can’t say if I am totally for a required license to practice push for graphic design – I can’t image a person being charged with designing without a license – but I do feel an educational base of some sort is needed to create a stronger designer. I used the following quote from Massimo Vignelli to close out my paper and I believe it provides a great point on what makes a good designer:

“There is no design without discipline. There is no discipline without intelligence.”

 

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Graphic Design Defined

My definition of graphic design has seen many changes and additions over the years. During my time as a undergrad majoring in Industrial design I saw graphic design as simply making posters. While simple by definition it intrigued me enough to pursue a minor in graphic design to supplement my ID background. As I stepped into my first graphic design course (Graphic Design Theory with Meredith Davis) I was exposed to a larger component of graphic design – the art of communication. This course almost made me change my mind about pursuing graphic design. It was more than posters or even logos and cool type, the “fun” stuff. As I read more and really listened, I bagan to have greater appreciation and respect for it. I saw graphic design as a tool to get messages across. I tried to keep this with me when I entered the work force after graduating. I started working in the newly formed marketing department at UNC Charlotte in their student union. I was also working as a freelance designer part time. Working provided me with another aspect of graphic design – problem solving. Unlike undergrad where we receive a project brief for a project that list expected outcomes and requirements, in the professional setting we are presented with a problem and left to determine the best method to communicate the idea or message. To solve these “problems” I need to understand culture, language, composition, even some areas of psychology to ensure the message reaches the audience. As a graduate student I am gaining a better understanding of the historic definition of design. From how revolution influenced how designers created and the impact it had on language (Fall of Imperial Russia) to the impact of technology on how we create and who can be deemed a “designer” (crowdsourcing, computers, etc). Graphic design is communication, influence, social change and more. Each reading, project and discussion contributes to my growing definition of the subject.