An approach to formulating problems which is particularly
good at the Junior level is one used by Alvin Eisenman of
Yale University. He called this approach prototype education.
It gave students the experience of working with original processes
as a means for better understanding more complex contemporary
ones. When I was at Yale, Graphic Design students were required
to take short courses in printmaking. Students did woodcuts
(letterpress), lithography (offset) and intaglio (gravure),
the three basic printing processes. Another example would
be having students handset type, to learn spacing and leading,
prior to typesetting by computer. At Minneapolis and Kansas
City, we began our photography program by having students
construct and use pin-hole cameras. By working with original
processes, students could understand the function, and how
current technology and equipment evolved.
is nothing wrong in borrowing a problem from someone else
or formulating problems based on published or exhibited professional
work. While attending graduate school and knowing that I was
going into teaching, every problem given to me that seemed
to have merit was recorded in a notebook. This included Graphic
Design, Color, Drawing, Typography, Printmaking and Photography.
Any critical observations or remarks by the instructors that
impressed me were also noted. These notes were my manual when
I began teaching. Over a period of time, the notes were expanded,
modified, reinterpreted and combined with ideas of my own.
Gradually they were transformed with my personal interests,
objectives and teaching methodology. Borrowing problems only
entails defining them in personal terms, identifying student
learning goals and establishing pertinent criteria.
borrowing a problem, it is imperative to avoid simple image
imitations which are superficial and detrimental to student
learning. The most obvious indication of a weak Graphic Design
program is having students when presented with a problem,
regularly turning to design publications to find solutions.
My observation is that students who have a strong perceptual
base, rarely look to publications for guidance to problem
must anticipate where problems will go before presenting them.
No matter how thoroughly a problem is projected, it is guaranteed
that one or more students will move in directions which were
not expected. In such instances, if there is merit to the
student interpretation, the teacher should encourage it. However,
the teacher must have an idea of where the process is leading,
and stay ahead of students in order to be able to assist them
when they need it.
have reservations about giving so-called professional problems
because so often students have preconceived ideas about the
solutions. It approximates teaching through cliches that encourage
stereotypical thinking. I found it best to choose problems
in which students are less likely to find precedents that
influence their work. This challenges students to do more
research or analysis and to design independent of professional
examples. Sometimes, the same advantages can be gained by
having unusual problem content. I frequently turned to non-profit
public service organizations in the community that could benefit
from graphic design. While approaching these assignments that
had few if any parallels, students acquired the added experience
of working with clients. Design standards for student work
were set by teachers and never by the client. Many of our
senior projects were community projects.
When working with a senior community project, I regularly
divided the class into design teams. Students worked both
individually and as a member of a team. Most students did
not appreciate the group experience, but it was excellent
preparation for professional practice in which the team approach
to design is frequently used.
in the second semester of the Junior year, and throughout
the Senior year, there is a substantial body of collateral
information related to professional practice to be transmitted
to students. Some is technical, but much of it is related
to professional practice. Conveying this information must
be as carefully considered as formulating and presenting design
problems. Students are often overwhelmed by having to deal
with both design and professional practice at the same time.
information might involve establishing priorities, marketing
strategies, interpreting research, managing time and prioritizing
work, print or media production, design systems, technical
writing, and client presentation.
it is appropriate, these factors should be defined as generically
as possible. Then students can better apply what is learned
to other design applications. Projects can involve students
with unfamiliar technical processes and new materials or media
that create another type of learning situation.
teacher's role is to carefully plan large projects and organize
the learning steps for both design and professional practice
rather than expecting students to absorb everything at once.
The various design components are used merely as avenues to
reach broader objectives, and not as narrow ends in themselves.
is insufficient time in most graphic design programs to teach
everything that graduates should know for a professional career.
Within a three-year period, American students usually do approximately
sixty to eighty projects as preparation for professional practice.
In state universities, because of reduced credits in the major,
Graphic Design students may do as few as twenty to forty problems
in preparation for a career.