are defined as standards for judging; they are the basis for
critical comment and evaluating student work. Within the context
of graphic design, criteria are determined by problem objectives.
At the introductory level, criteria are based on formal values
and craft. At upper levels, criteria encompass concepts as
well as formal values and craft. Inappropriate criteria normally
result in weak student performance. Asking students to make
a design that sells or looks professional are examples of
poor criteria. Teachers should use criteria they can explain
to students. Criticism is based on factors such as limitations,
mistakes, inconsistencies or weaknesses that can be pointed
out in the work. Options or corrective measures can be demonstrated
by the teacher. Rational criticism is always superior to imprecise
or intuitive judgments when dealing with students. Design
standards are grounded in relevant, appropriate and consistently
applied criteria that students absorb as they progress through
design programs should include three general categories of
problems; perceptual, transitional and professional, and in
that order. Time allocation for each is likely to vary between
programs. In the core design program, I have allowed three
semesters for perceptual studies, one semester for transition
and two for professional problems.
inclination is to concentrate on abstract perceptual exercises
in Sophomore level classes. The largest block of time is set
aside for basic design. Letterform design, color and drawing
are quite compatible with theoretical exercises. The establishment
of work habits begins with the first day of class.
the Junior level, transitional problems are presented which
might be practical in content, but hypothetical; they are
conceived as theoretical exercises with strong perceptual
reinforcement. The curriculum becomes more diverse in the
Junior year with different specializations and technical studies
in supporting classes and core design in the second semester.
This might include some combination of photography, printing
production, typography, computer graphics or courses in specific
design practices such as systems, publishing, packaging and
typography or letterform. Design problems and criteria gradually
become more complex as the year progresses.
classes are professional in both content and working procedures.
At this level, greater emphasis is put on concept, problem-solving
and independent work, with continued reinforcement of craft
and formal values. In upper division classes, objectives are
often complex and criteria tend to be more varied.
Albers compared learning to the process of crystallization
Ð an additive process. The student learns one thing and all
other learning is incrementally added until there is a body
of cumulative knowledge and experience. This premise strongly
suggests the learning value connected to sequential education.
I found myself designing problems in phases, with each exercise
building on preceding ones. Articulation of bridging as part
of the problem definition is important. Students cannot be
relied upon to make connections between assignments. Perceptual
problems might begin with one principle and its variations,
or transmute from one principle into others. The complexity
of work progressively increases, and students are accountable
for everything learned to the current stage. Phasing and overlapping
exercises are pedagogical decisions that aid student learning.
begin with a line problem. Students are asked to use a pencil
to design lines, to learn line quality and how to use a pencil.
The lines move into composition and figure ground. Brushes
are substituted for pencils and lines become contours. By
connecting the ends of lines, shapes are created. Some shapes
are flat, others appear dimensional. The exercises are further
explored through using content from nature or simple objects.
The course ends with one large project that requires students
to integrate everything they learned in preceding exercises.
experience is that to teach basic design principles and professional
practice in the same problem divides the objectives, and confuses
students trying to grasp principles. If content is introduced,
I generally elect imagery derived from nature rather than
professional applications. The so-called professional problems
should be in the sequence of learning that comes near the
end of the cumulative educational experience.
advanced levels, phasing multi-faceted problems introduces
students to methodology. This provides them with a format
for dealing with complex or multi-faceted problems in other
situations. An example would be an identity problem where
the first phase would focus on a symbol, then perhaps a logotype.
Simple office applications might be a second step. This could
be followed by architectural or vehicular identification and
signage. Promotional materials or packaging could constitute
a final stage.
Sophomore and Junior levels, the more successful learning
experiences were extended over one or two semesters, consisting
of a series of exercises leading to a body of related work
at the end. Senior problems are different. They might incorporate
staging, but it is not as structured. At the Senior level,
students are required to structure their own design work.
at the Sophomore and Junior levels that proved to be effective
in terms of student learning, were repeated from year to year.
I experimented with redefining problems, changing content,
refining criteria, or adding or subtracting from basic concepts.
The advantage was that over a period of time, problems became
stronger. The criteria and objectives were better understood
by me, and I was much sharper in knowing what to say to students,
and how to make critical observations more meaningful to them.
This was especially true with visual exercises leading to
perceptual learning for students.
addition to phasing student work, teachers should concentrate
on denominators that are basic to Graphic Design practice.
This is the primary justification for placing such importance
on visual relationships and process, because they apply to
any type or level of design. Far too many instructors refuse
to acknowledge that perceptual education precedes and underlies
concept. Formal values are the means for visually expressing
concepts and delineating content. At advanced levels, programs
might rely heavily on a conceptual approach to problem-solving,
but student performance will be no better than the educational
foundation grounded in visual theory.
the 1960s and 1970s, Yale, Basel and Philadelphia College
of Art (now the University of the Arts) placed emphasis on
visual theory and process. Graduates of these institutions
were employed in a variety of design fields, and their success
is overwhelming testimony to the value of this educational
approach. Students from our program that spent two years doing
theoretical and hypothetical problems, with only one year
of professional work, did not suffer when it came to finding
employment or achieving future success.