Graduated Skills: EGD Bridges & Progressions For Graphic Design Undergrads

From the SEGD Research Journal: Communication and Place, 2018

ISBN: 

978-1-940297-43-9

Graduated Skills:
EGD Bridges & Progressions For Graphic Design Undergrads
Deborah Beardslee
Rochester Institute of Technology

Abstract

This paper focuses on developing assignment and project experiences for undergraduate graphic design students that progressively fortify their understanding and skills related to experiential graphic design problem solving. The shifts from 2D to 3D goals and considerations, and from smaller-to larger-scale problems, can be challenging for many students. At schools where actual egd-focused coursework is a shorter overall experience (perhaps one or two courses within a larger graphic design curriculum), it’s useful to integrate assignments into other design courses that will strengthen design students’ general understanding while also supporting and bolstering egd-centered course(s) and project involvements. This can be achieved through the creation and expansion of potential “bridges” between the egd-specific courses and the content and assignment parameters in the non-egd design courses students are taking. Deliberately planning criteria that moves from simple to complex, and across diverse parameters and outcomes, helps to gradually demystify the overall realm of egd, and builds awareness, depth of understanding, and a range of transferable skills for undergraduate graphic design students.

 

This paper focuses on developing assignment and project experiences for undergraduate graphic design students that progressively fortify their understanding and skills related to experiential graphic design problem solving. The shifts from 2D to 3D goals and considerations, and from smaller- to larger-scale problems, can be challenging for many students. Finding good ways to gradually interject these considerations into design assignments is important. At schools where actual egd-focused coursework is a shorter overall experience (perhaps one or two courses within a larger graphic design curriculum), it’s useful to integrate key assignments into other design courses that will strengthen design students’ general understanding while also supporting and bolstering egd-centered course(s) and project involvements. 

 

This paper provides two overview suggestions for ways in which these objectives can be achieved: 

 

  1. Through the creation and expansion of potential “bridges” (between the egd-specific courses and the contentand assignment parameters in the non-egd design courses students are taking), and 
  2. By developing assignment parameters that progressively become more complex and demanding within actual egd-centered courses. 

 

Many principles, goals and criteria can be adapted to fit nicely across a range of different design assignments. Deliberately planning criteria that moves from simple to complex, and across diverse parameters and outcomes, helps to gradually demystify the overall realm of egd, and builds awareness, depth of understanding, and a range of transferable skills for undergraduate graphic design students. Various approaches to systems thinking and user/viewer experience and understanding are common denominators within many of these plans. 

 

Integrating systems thinking principles and objectives within design assignments provides students with opportunities to explore continuity and unity along with flexibility and the meaningful deviation of schema. Principles and strategies related to user experience and understanding cross reference and reinforce other key aspects of design problem solving such as addressing scale, viewing distance, visual hierarchy, etc.  

 

Bridges: GD < > EGD Themes and Strategy Prompts

Dimension / Process-Ideation / Emergent Meaning

Scale / Systems Thinking / Sequenced Content

Color Coding / Visual Organization / Viewing Distance(s)

Typographic Coding / Visual Hierarchy / User Experience

 

Here are sample “bridge” connections between Graphic Design projects and Experiential Graphic Design projects (listed top to bottom, simple to complex, in these paired lists):
 

GD > EGD                                                     
Package Labels > Product Displays
Poster Series or Book Design > Exhibit Panel or Banner System 
Poster Design or Package Design > Countertop POP Display
Brochure Design or Directory > Multi-Sided Informational Kiosk       
Visual Identity System or Packaging Series > Museum or Trade Exhibition

 

Methods related to sequencing content in meaningful ways are useful and adaptable for design problems such as hands-on brochure formats, on-screen website design navigation paths and other multi-part design problems. These can be specifically and deliberately connected to the planning involved for sequenced exhibition content, user interactions, and other kinds of visitor experiences within egd environments. For example, a project focused on packaging labels provides sophomore-level students with a 2-part systems challenge and the chance to improve an everyday front to back / side-to-side sequenced user experience. In junior year they can build on these skills and experiences through the process of developing countertop point-of-purchase displays that emphasize dimensional decisions and viewing distance considerations. 

The dimensionality, materiality, and user experience considerations that are integral to package design and multi-component identity systems provide good foundations and springboards for advancing students’ problem solving skills within egd project challenges. Skills gained in 2D design assignments such as brochure design and package labeling that involve color and typographic coding, visual organization and hierarchy, and sequenced content also have additional, and different, application value for egd problem solving for projects such as exhibition design, wayfinding and retail design. 

If in-depth process and ideation is required in numerous courses across a curriculum, project outcomes will benefit. Viewing distances, viewing angles, and related inherent emergent meaning considerations that surface in the development stages of a meaningful poster or banner design series also apply to design thinking for kiosks, signage systems, and exhibitions. In addition, hands-on model-making experiences, from preliminary small scale concept iteration to subsequent larger scale foamcore prototypes, increases students’ understanding of how to streamline material use, sort joinery considerations, and make other pragmatic decisions. 

Options for sequencing content in meaningful ways, and for integrating different kinds of user interactions, can be emphasized in both brochure (GD) or kiosk design (EGD) problems. Planning and designing brochures are intended for handheld viewing, while many kiosks are planned for larger, walk-around viewing. Brochure design expands students’ thinking related to storytelling and increases their awareness of the impact of different folded formats on a viewer’s experience and understanding. 

Asking students to explore more than one brochure format to strategize and “unfold” identical content is also very useful. Assessing and controlling how content is sequenced, paced and revealed are critical skills in design problem solving. Learning how to develop meaningful continuity and contrast, and skillfully interject the element of surprise also increases the impact of these assignments on student learning outcomes. 

In addition, providing diverse and unusual “outside content” choices for assignments increases student curiosity, bolsters research motivation and exposes design students to a broader awareness of non-design subject areas and ideas. Setting up assignments that allow students to interact and plan in teams, and work with actual on- or off-campus clients is also very enriching. 

 

Progressions: EDG >>> Advanced EGD 

simple to complex

Conceptual Strategies > Parameters Gradient > Materiality / Fabrication 

Dimensionality > Transferable Skills > Degree of Interactivity

Purpose(s) / Functionality > Evaluation Criteria > Cross-Program Collaboration

 

Here is an example of a specific simple-to-complex progression of EGD projects and objectives:

 

1. 2D Exhibit Panel or Banner Systems                       

  • large scale decision-making
  • range of different contexts and sites
  • range of different viewing distances

 

2. Countertop Point-of-Purchase Displays

  • multi-sided decision-making
  • on-site visibility priorities
  • dimensionally sequenced information

 

3. Retail Shop Kiosks                                                     

  • walk-around, multi-sided design thinking
  • planning for multiple purposes & functions
  • both interior and exterior viewing contexts

 

4. Museum or Trade Show Exhibits

  • visual and conceptual implication
  • greater use of flexible systems thinking
  • immersive viewing environments 

 

While the earlier section of this paper focuses on bridges across specific aspects of undergraduate students’ cumulative graphic design < > experiential graphic design experiences, planning progressions within the contexts of egd-focused courses and assignments also helps to build student skill and confidence as they advance within their overall design curriculums. These progressions are especially supportive as students learn to devise and analyze conceptual strategies, construct physical and digital models, and demonstrate and describe their egd design decision-making.

Deliberately planning from simple to more complex criteria, and across diverse projects, parameters and outcomes (i.e. wall-mounted systems > countertop POP displays > multi-sided kiosks > extendable exhibition or trade systems), serves to gradually demystify the overall realm of egd, and build awareness, depth of understanding, and transferable skills for graphic design students. Starting a longer assignment with a brief initial “charrette” experience provides a helpful launch for longer, more complex assignments. For example, asking sophomores to design a single larger scale “poster” for a public place can provide stepping stone experiences for more complex site-specific installations involving greater contrasts in scale and interior / exterior site opportunities and constraints. Incorporating criteria that focuses on less expected viewing surfaces, locations and intentionally limited color palettes also enhances skill-building. 

Progressively increased levels of cross-program collaboration (i.e. projects involving graphic designers and industrial designers, interior designers, and others) and “real-life” client-involved design problems strengthen students’ exposure and experience with egd contexts, purposes, and applications. In the first iteration of a “tandem trade show” booth design project, students worked in pairs to strengthen their teamwork skills. This hypothetical visitor experience was intentionally focused on connecting two diverse goals: developing a commercial / promotional space along with a coexisting educational topic and space. In addition to the conceptual clarity emphasized in this project, students were asked to explore other functional / pragmatic possibilities involving at least one piece of deliberately designed “furniture”, vertical components that turned at least one corner, and the meaningful integration of not-all-rectilinear “wall” decisions within their two-part tandem booth design concepts. 

Interior design professors were invited to a near-final critique for this project. This provided good reinforcement as well as new considerations and possibilities. More (and earlier) integration between GD and IntD in future would be beneficial – further extending project development and outcomes and providing a good chance for cross-program collaboration! As this project progressed, class discussions also revealed links to other, more advanced, walk-in / immersive experiences, such as themed museum exhibitions and extended retail environments.

 

Conclusion

Strategies related to conceptual depth and clarity, systems thinking and the enhancement of user / viewer experiences are key to the suggestions and examples described in this paper. These impact and benefit the future of EGD education in several ways: 

  • By contributing methods for devising and employing pedagogical bridges within the classroom
  • By suggesting methods for planning and integrating progressive skill-building for egd courses
  • By providing models and entry points for exposing different levels of design students to less familiar design contexts and assignment parameters
  • By sharing approaches for using timely examples, along with new methods and tools

 

Careful and deliberate curriculum planning yields results: higher design understanding, stronger project outcomes and better student readiness for other courses and assignments, as well professional design opportunities long term. This paper shares an overview of useful strategies and projects that create and expand potential pedagogical connections between GD and EGD courses and/or enhance the existing EGD coursework.

This paper includes multiple descriptions and visual examples of egd assignment phases and outcomes, along with specific related teaching materials. Examples and descriptions focus on the two different strategies described above: 

1. Curricular “bridges” between GD < > EGD courses, and 

2. Progressively planned EGD >>> Advanced EGD assignments

 

Description of Methodology Used 

  • Systematic and intuitive creation and development of GD / EGD bridge and EGD progression approaches
  • Creation and organization of strategies focused across sites, contexts and locations
  • Systematic selection and prioritization of key variables/considerations for meaningful progressive EGD exposure
  • Formulation of deliberately bridges between proposed experiences

 

Contribution to the EGD Design Education

  • New models for conceiving and employing assignment connections for EGD courses, and within larger GD curriculums
  • Methods for describing and illustrating “bridges” as design education strategies  
  • Methods for describing and integrating progressive skill-building as design education strategies
  • Additional approaches toward connecting students with less familiar experiences, sources and inspirations
  • Additional ways to integrate timely content and unexpected tools to inform and motivate young design students  
  • New conceptual approaches for using examples and methods, and for establishing educational priorities
  • New models and entry points for exposing design students to less familiar design contexts and assignment parameters

 

Implications for Theory & Practice

  • New theoretical approaches toward integrating systems thinking within experiential graphic design process  
  • New strategies for implementing systems thinking within the varied contexts of design practice
  • Additional demonstration of the value of deliberate bridged experiences in the development of new designers / collaborators
  • Additional demonstration of the value of deliberate progressive experiences in the development of new designers / collaborators
  • Illumination of useful strategies and connections within design problem solving – across types of EGD situations and solutions
  • Re-exploration of past projects to expand design process and enhance design outcomes
  • Exploration of affordances and constraints (across GD and EGD) as related to user interaction, experience and understanding
  • Exploration of affordances and constraints related to format, dimensionality, materiality, scale, viewing distance, etc.

 

 

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