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 selfdiscovery.
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. Followthrough
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 workhabits 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.
