Design Studio 101 (to 401, all in one!)

A friend of mine, Guita, is a teacher at the Department of Industrial Products Design at our university. It’s been quite a while now that I was looking for a chance to join her weekly design studio classes. Since “Design Studio” is a 8-hours-a-week course, I usually couldn’t join it because there were clashes with the courses that I had to teach at my own faculty. But after two semesters of waiting for the right time, finally lady luck smiled at me: There is no course clash this semester; I can join all 8 hours of her classes!

Today was the first day at the design studio and I must say that it was incredibly nice to be present there. I got up really very early with some big excitement, carefully prepared the stuff that I would need to use during conceptualisation and prototyping, and I was waiting ready in front of the studio gates at exactly 8.30. And then the big moment came: We entered the studio, took seats and the design lectures began.

We were a group of around 25 people: 3 teachers, me, and the rest were arichitecture, industrial design and interior design students. Some assignments had been given out mid-week and today we came with the ideas and concepts that we were asked to show up with. At the beginning the teachers held a brief lecture which was then followed by a brief general discussion. Then we stepped over into a brief discussion in which individual problems were addressed and help had been offered to those wo had suffered from “design block” during the week. And after that we were finally ready for the design work of the day and turned to our workdesks.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly… people would walk around freely, listen to the music they like, use their laptops etc, chat, doodle on the boards etc… it all looked very different from the classes that I am used from our faculty (were people usually sit and listen with serious faces) but actually you could see how the minds of the students where busy in the background with the design problem that was posed at them. It was nice to obverve: a student who walks around for a few minutes with her walkman, then would go and talk to someone else for two minutes, then would go an do a quick search on a lap top, and at some point this person would suddenly sit at the workdesk, quickly take some notes or start drawing a three-dimensional object. She would then go around for some feedback or for a bit more brainstorming.

While these individual processes would go on everywhere, at another corner, you would see a group holding a brief discussion round,  or talking to the teachers. People were free in both, being individuals or being members of groups. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

One of the nice things was that the studio was open to students from all years. New and old students were mixed and they knew each other from the studio works in previous years. In other words, everyone, from Design Studio 101 to 401 was there! This was actually a very nice way to keep the students connected to each other, have them discuss, exchange ideas and help each other out. The more experienced students would sometimes lend some of their know-how and give the newbies enough help to keep them on track. It also helped to maintain a relaxed informal atmosphere which had always room for some little jokes and funny conversations.

It was peaceful and creative. I liked it a lot. And I thought that we at the Faculty of Communication need to create similar environments that give students more freedom and chance for creative exchange.

I’m very happy to be part of the design studio this semester. I believe that until late January I will learn a lot from this experience (also as a teacher who is looking for new, more engaging teaching methods in his courses). Also the many assignments will keep me busy and I will stay in touch with some excellent teachers that know their branch very well. I believe that industrial design’s focus on usability and its way to approach the “product”, will contribute a lot to my individual goal to become a great game designer.

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