Interjection / Integration: Devising Charrettes and Critiques for EGD Classrooms

From the SEGD Research Journal: Communication and Place, 2016

ISBN: 

978-1-940297-29-3

Deborah Beardslee
Rochester Institute of Technology

Abstract

Charrettes and critiques can be devised specifically for experiential graphic design course goals and assignments in order to inform design process and final project outcomes in particular and unanticipated ways. For the purposes of this paper, charrette refers to a planned, intensive and timed experience that is strategically directed toward the investigation and solution of a specific design goal or objective. The term critique implies a group dialogue, analysis or assessment of work during a particular phase of design process. Each of these general formats, charrette or critique, can be planned and inserted as incongruous interjections or interruptions within an egd project. Each can also be deliberately orchestrated as congruous integrations to support projects in smoother, less abrupt ways. Diverse approaches to these considerations are explored and illustrated within this paper.

Eight unique activities that focus on experiential graphic design conceptualization and ideation, including systems thinking (concept, language, typography, color), sequencing, pacing and visual / informational hierarchy, and decision-making related to interactivity, dimensionality and materiality, are proposed and described. Interjection and Integration are examined through the tones they contribute, and the relationships and opportunities they offer.

Introduction

Interjection:  Meaningful Exclamation, Interruption
Integration: Deliberate Coordination, Orchestration

Charrettes and critiques can be devised specifically for experiential graphic design course goals and assignments in order to inform design process and final project outcomes in particular and unanticipated ways. For the purposes of this paper, charrette refers to a planned, intensive and timed experience that is strategically directed toward the investigation and solution of a specific design goal or objective. The term critique implies a group dialogue, analysis or assessment of work during a particular phase of design process. Each of these general formats, charrette or critique, can be planned and inserted as incongruous interjections or interruptions within an egd project. Each can also be deliberately orchestrated as congruous integrations to support projects in smoother, less abrupt ways. Diverse approaches to these considerations are explored and illustrated within this paper.

Eight unique activities that focus on experiential graphic design conceptualization and ideation, including systems thinking (concept, language, typography, color), sequencing, pacing and visual / informational hierarchy, and decision-making related to interactivity, dimensionality and materiality, are proposed and described. Interjection and Integration are examined through the tones they contribute, and the relationships and opportunities they offer.

This paper examines the use of alternative strategies, materials and expectations to interject and/or integrate new experiences while students are focusing on various aspects and phases of an egd-related challenge. Strategies for these in-class charrette / critique involvements are adapted from both design and non-design sources to offer students exposure to intriguing and unexpected influences. Formats incorporate brief timeframes (minutes, hours) and extended experiences (day, days, weeks), as well as solo, team or larger group interactions. Particular specs and processes within each charrette or critique are determined by the egd assignment’s parameters, objectives and relative timeframes.

Charrette and critique “equipment” is unlimited, including the use of unusual items and materials as inspiration and tools. Expectations for charrette and critique requirements range from fixed to flexible, and are prioritized to complement requirements for design students’ knowledge demonstration, levels of interaction, and event outcomes and deliverables. Depending on timing, deliverables can result in many physical and digital forms – fixed worksheet requests, flexible sketch ideation, installations, prototyping, photo documentation, etc. Feedback loops are critical – planned to select and employ the most valuable “discoveries” and results from each experience.

This elaboration of possible charrette / critique approaches (and interjection / integration strategies) supports an evolving discussion and generation of new pedagogical material related to design methods, process and content creation that prioritizes student curiosity, engagement and growth related to experiential graphic design education.

The eight charrette / critique activities highlighted in this paper are intended to explore aspects of design problem solving such as:

Content Creation
expanding and activating subject matter

Conceptualization
approaching and directing message formulation

Ideation
balancing depth and breadth of exploration

Systems Thinking
ways of affecting unification and exception

Hierarchy
evaluating and deciding priorities

Sequencing
planning and organizing messages and experiences

Pacing
addressing temporal needs and possibilities

Interactivity
experimenting with modes and degrees of engagement

Dimensionality
expanding ways to affect perception and interpretation

Materiality
influencing visual contrast and connection   
 

Highlighted Charrette / Critique Activities:

1. Visual Correspondence
2. Spatial Modularity
3. Concept Staging
4. Relational Assessment
5. Random Inspiration
6. Sequence and Hierarchy
7. Constants and Variables
8. Systems Implementation


1. Visual Correspondence

  • Planning and Noticing Connections
  • Out in the hallway, on the floor
  • Large rolls of paper, chunky markers
  • Hallway spaces
  • Working solo together
  • Ideation at a larger scale
  • Simple tools
  • More expansive vantage points
  • Seated, standing + walk-around crit

Figure 01.

School hallways provided refreshing alternatives to usual lab and classroom environments. Using a neutral square as the starting point for each response encourages an overall level of unity and allows the students to cycle back through their entries to borrow, modify and elaborate for new results. Resulting “systems” of squares can inspire spatial relationships, focal points and complexity decisions within diverse egd projects.
 

2. Spatial Modularity

  • Deciding Content Territories
  • Conceptual spaces for group continuity
  • Pre-established dimensions, overview guidelines
  • Digital or manual
  • Solo thinking for shared group guidelines
  • Vertical and horizontal planning
  • Less familiar available surfaces (floor, overhead, etc.)
  • Visual continuity (systems rules)
  • Meaningful interruption, difference (systems flex)

Figure 02.

Planning and sequencing complex subject matter was one area of emphasis for this charrette. Using an equal unit grid across vertical and horizontal surfaces assisted students in planning multi-topic, multi-surface projects and encouraged cohesive decision-making. Determining common lines of continuity and defining areas of visual emphasis enlightened team efforts and demonstrated the value of systems uniformity as well as systems flexibility.
 

3. Concept Staging

  • Valuing Outside Influences
  • Integrating past viewing experiences, perceptions
  • Introducing sources from other disciplines
  • Demonstrating through existing solutions
  • Translating potentials
  • Staging decisions (like film, theater)
  • Emphasizing drama and surprise

Adapted from Architecture from Without, Diana Agrest

Figure 03.

Adapting Diana Agrest’s film / theater themes toward other purposes prompted students to make intriguing comparisons across diverse designed experiences (films, ads, posters, packaging, kiosks, gateways, etc.) The handout shown requires students to seek out existing design solutions that demonstrate Agrest’s themes. In contrast, the visual examples are charrette results from one initial starting point (a soup ad).

4. Relational Assessment

  • Using Familiar Experiences
  • Chocolate! across sources, philosophies, intentions
  • Surprises – topic + extent of “collection”
  • Hands-on viewing, selecting
  • Cross-sensory inspiration
  • Shared conversations, experiences
  • Seeing macro relations
  • Paying closer attention to unique concept opportunities
  • Shuffling, re-shuffling possibilities

Included adapting the LATCH Organizing Method, Richard Saul Wireman

Figure 04.

The elements of quirk and surprise were important in this exercise. More than 100 chocolate wrappers across many companies, price ranges and countries were unexpectedly and randomly shared with students. Everyone first examined the wrappers to identify overall commonalities and differences. Overall findings were then used as inspiration to discuss potential themes, content organization and fabrication decisions for a hypothetical chocolate exhibit.
 

5. Random Inspiration

  • Applying the Unexpected
  • Repurposing + quick, unedited gathering
  • Looking at, looking across
  • Hands-on table experiences
  • Borrowing from classmates
  • Following hunches
  • Increasing systems understanding
  • Walk around crit / discussion

Adapted from “fast looking” in Learning by Heart, Corita Kent, Jan Steward

Figure 05.

In this activity students are asked to gather 100+ unplanned 3x2” trimmed rectangles from a range of recycled magazines. It’s important to focus on abstraction here, so any compositions that inadvertently contain complete or overly staged objects are removed. Each “collection” is casually set up for group viewing and can be borrowed from, or added to, by anyone in class. Initial goals involve identifying sets of two or more rectangles that have some degree and type(s) of visual correspondence (color, composition, visual emphasis, etc.), in order to apply these influences toward actual design systems.
 

6. Sequence and Hierarchy

  • Employing Objects from Other Contexts
  • Game pieces for prioritizing and planning
  • Hands-on exploration / conceptual application
  • Group exploration and discussion
  • Manual, then digital
  • Easily assembled, re-assembled
  • Simple color coding
  • Walk around crit / discussion
  • Small scale table space to large scale exhibit space

Figure 06.

Simple game pieces (or other sets of objects) can be used for brainstorming relationships and priorities. In this example, the concentric rings from the “RINGGZ” game was used to demonstrate content flow and emphasis within a designated exhibition space. These game pieces were simultaneously simple and profound in terms of the informational and visual hierarchies they could signal. The constrained system of colors and shapes provided adequate latitude for exploring both schema and meaningful deviation.

7. Constants and Variables

  • Taking Inspiration from Childhood
  • Team play with design intentions
  • Small inexpensive puzzles
  • Close observation and discussion
  • Teamwork + friendly competition
  • Macro / micro observations
  • Small multiples experienced hands-on
  • Different kinesthetic involvement
  • Break from solo digital

Figure 07.

Fortune Magazine Cover, March 15, 2016

Small teams of students worked to assemble puzzles that included multiple tiny images of graphic people with diverse physical characteristics, clothing and props. This playful alternative to more typical classroom and computer lab involvements initiated direct scrutiny, experience and discussion of “small multiples”. The overall strategy of planning meaningful constants and variables was discussed along with its relevance to aspects of problem solving in many egd contexts.

8. Systems Implementation

  • Focusing Ideation Variables
  • Supplied template and prompts
  • Quick digital thinking
  • Diverse considerations (overarching and details)
  • Structures upfront thinking, focus
  • Attention to less regarded aspects
  • Systems unity and flex
  • Expansive thinking... what if?
  • Application of findings to applied project

Figure 08.

This charrette involvement began with a class trip to the local public library. Based on an internal audit of the library’s current wayfinding and other existing signage solutions, categories of specific client needs and purposes were identified. Students were asked to select 4 of these categories as a consistent 4-part set throughout the charrette’s two pages of strategy requests. Requests included investigating aspects such as proportion, color, opacity, materiality and hardware. The worksheet was supplied as a digital file to enable changes to be made on screen. Students could also elect to work directly on printed hardcopies.  


SUMMARY

How can this impact and benefit the future of experiential graphic design (in education, practice, research)?

  • Expands range of tools – both expected and unusual
  • Expands exposure to strategies and options in design process
  • Encourages flexibility of design process, and an openness to influences and inspirations
  • Increases attention to meaningful concept selection, ideation and planning
  • Increases awareness of systems thinking and systems flexiblity 

Description of Methodology Used

  • Systematic and intuitive creation and determination of new and relevant charrette and critique approaches
  • Creation and organization of interjection and integration strategies focused across sites, contexts and locations
  • Systematic selection and prioritization of key variables/considerations for meaningful comparison
  • Formulation of deliberately different systems of vocabulary and goals for sets of proposed experiences

Contribution to Design Education

  • New models for conceiving and employing charrette / critique formats related to egd classrooms and assignments
  • Methods for prioritizing interjection as an important design education strategy
  • Methods for prioritizing integration as an important design education strategy
  • Additional approaches toward connecting students with less familiar 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 organizational categories
  • New models and entry points for analyzing / discussing particular parameters and constraints with design students


Implications for Theory and 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 and adapted / extended use of charrettes
  • Additional demonstration of the value and adapted / extended use of critiques
  • Illumination of unexpected sources and strategies for use during design problem solving – across types of experiential graphic design solutions, contexts and situations
  • Exploration of methods to extend and elaborate phases of design process to enhance design outcome
  • Exploration of the role(s) of interjection within design problem solving, including affordances and limitation
  • Exploration of the role(s) of integration within design problem solving, including affordances and limitations

Related Links: 

New Member Offer

Click to access the SEGD 2018 nenver been a member $185 sign up offer

Upcoming SEGD Events

2018 SEGD XLAB
SEGD Branded Environments 2019
2019 SEGD Business & Leadership Banner