A Journey of Taking Industrial Design Students into Uncharted Territories. Designing Crowd-Sourced Playful Interactions for a Public Art Event
The field of industrial design is finding itself in a highly transitional state. While at its core, the traditional values of teaching visualization techniques, form, design research, human factors, and manufacturing methods remain critical to the creation of innovative artifacts of mostly singular nature, the world around us has changed both in added complexity and increased digitalization. The scope of designing future designers therefore calls for reevaluating better strategies to address a big picture approach of solving complex problems at the intersection of users, behaviors, and interactions, with a plurality of possible artifacts or systems. Traditional models of the underlying design process tend to treat the “Design” as a noun, emphasizing the final outcome (the artifact) as the ultimate goal of the undertaken creative process. In contrast to this approach, there is an increasing recognition towards embracing “design” as a verb, by shifting the focus and design contributions onto the process itself to ultimately leverage the realm of results .
Either approach to the “big-D” or “small-d” design process models represents an important learning experience to the students. I tend to treat them as complementary rather than as exclusive to each other.
As an industrial design educator, the gamut of my responsibilities towards learners therefore ranges from nurturing the skillset and mindset to embracing design thinking, practice, and understanding user behaviors and interactions at the very core of solving complex problems. One of these challenges presented itself for the 2018 Scottsdale Canal Convergence Event – An art festival along the downtown waterfront of the Arizona Canal drawing scores of internationally renowned artists to exhibit installations featuring light and sound. A grant was extended to the Arizona State University’s Design School to participate in an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Scottsdale Arts Commission, Interior Architecture, Industrial Design, and a local middle school, to envision interactive installations as reflections on the theme of community and water. While the field of Art is normally not considered to be a playground for industrial designers, this unique project collaboration served as an ideal model to exercise a fundamentally re-envisioned process-driven design studio course. This paper illustrates in-depth the classroom experience of an interdisciplinary design project centered around gathering crowd-sourced primary research, playful and explorative prototyping, form development, as well as the creation of functional interactive models. With an estimated 208.000 visitors after 10 days, the 2018 Scottsdale Canal Convergence event offered the students not only an opportunity to showcase their work to a broad audience, but also demonstrated the critical importance of observing and evaluating user-interactions of the created artifacts in the wild.
KeywordsDesign education Cross-disciplinary collaboration Crowd sourcing Playful interactions
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