Courses Perceptual Studies page 2

 
 

Introduction to Line and Shape Exercises cont.
I had concerns that this sequence of problems might result in formulized solutions. However, watching student progress in later years, I found this was not true for most students. All the student work was similar in the beginning, but as they grasped criteria, they were more sensitive to line and shape, and the work became individualistic as they progressed through school and into the workplace. In my own experience, this has proven to be the most effective perceptual problem that I have worked with at the entry level. I also found that each year the problem was given, my own visual skills improved and something new was learned in the way of interpretive criteria, or in how to present the problem to students. I don’t think I ever taught problems exactly the same two years in a row. I think that success with line and shape exercises is due to sequencing a number of related problems with each step building on the ones preceding it. A series of related problems with incremental criteria and appropriate limitations set by the teacher are highly conducive to student learning. During the first three semesters, exercises in all courses should be related and sequential with expanding complexity and criteria. However, there should be consistent criteria and demands for all first year courses. During the last three semesters, problems should be diverse as possible with new areas of criteria based on professional practices and technology, but the basic, visual criteria should be continued from the introductory classes. Criteria for the very first exercise should be relevant to the last problem before graduation. Criteria should be limited, factual and understandable permitting students to make critical analysis of their work at all levels of the program. Problem limitations should be conceived by the teacher to keep students focused on problem objectives. As students acquire experience, imitations are gradually reduced.

Other critical factors are each student working at their own pace with emphasis on nuances. Nuances are identified as those minute refinements that make such a huge difference in the final image. Working on nuances accomplishes three important objectives. Refinements sharpen the eye, improve handskills and they lead to self-discovery.

Each stage of the problem demands exploration which requires students to make numerous critical judgements using criteria provided by the teacher. Teachers need to force student exploration as it is such an important part of the learning process. Because abstract exercises and applications are done simultaneously, I think students better understand the theoretical problems. At this level, students rarely understand abstract imagery or how it relates to what they want to do. Because applications deal with subjects that they can identify and comprehend, students make connections between abstract considerations and content. Most students acquire an ability to look at an image both as an abstraction as well as a representation. It helps them to better understand abstract imagery in general. The line and shape problems work extremely well in conjunction with other courses in visual communications, drawing, letterform or color theory. The same criteria applies to all areas and if teachers work together, there are tremendous opportunities for reinforcement which greatly enhance the educational experience for students. It is extremely important for teachers who next have the students to be aware of what students did in these problems, and that they reinforce what the student learned by demanding the same consideration for line quality, shape, composition and color. Equal demands on craft, studio discipline and professional demeanor have to be reinforced throughout the entire program of study. Without this reinforcement, students may not follow through with what they learn. Follow-through by other teachers is essential! When looking at student work produced for this sequence of problems, it is necessary to keep in mind that it is done in the first year of design studies. It is not perfect. Students come into the course with weak handskills, little experience with abstractions and no knowledge of design principles. Most have never been exposed to drawing, letterform, basic design or color. Students are undisciplined and work-habits tend to be poor. The first year of studies is the proper time to establish student attitudes, values and work habits.

It is not my intention to present a how to publication about teaching introductory classes in Graphic Design. Furthermore, I think it would be a serious mistake to make that interpretation. Each teacher must find content, problem definition and sequence with appropriate criteria according to their interests and objectives. My purpose is to convey as thoroughly as I can my own experiences and methods in teaching with the hope that they are helpful to other instructors.

Much of what is described here could be applied to teaching color, composition, drawing typography or other facets of Graphic Design. My failures and successes, insights and assessments might suggest directions,considerations and procedures which can be adapted to other approaches in basic studies. Over the years, I borrowed many concepts and problems from other teachers and this is fairly common and an acceptable practice. Most teachers begin their careers by using problems from teachers who taught them. It is only important that problem criteria and objectives are clearly understood because if the teacher does not understand them, there is no way students will ever benefit from doing the problems. Understanding precedes learning for both teachers and students. It is always necessary to interpret and redefine problems into personal terms. In the end, each teacher must find their own way. There can be considerable value to repeating worthwhile problems year after year. This is particularly so if the teacher stays in a learning mode and each year experiments with the problem searching for better ways to present, critique and evaluate it. Sometimes the content can change without changing the problem objectives. Teachers are expected to learn each year just as students are expected to expand their abilities and knowledge.

 

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