Design Studio 2015—17 Log in
  • Ê
  • Â



What do the technical choices we make say about our values and what we want from society?


The Internet age has accelerated the use of automated processes and machines at the expense of the one-off design artifact. How we choose to make our work, and the way it is consumed, is a choice designers need to own. This unit asks you to form an ethical stance with the technical choices that you make. What effects do these choices have on the way people interact and society in general?

Learning objectives

– Form an opinion about the role of technology
– Increase sensitivity to the integration of machines in everyday life
– Communicate ideas beyond your ability to execute it. Create a clear and coherent proposal/prototype
– Become aware of speculative or non-functional designs for rhetorical effect

4 Unit 10: John Caserta   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

B Unit 10: Optional Readings

Choose a manual action to automate, or choose an automated process to make manual.

This assignment asks you to consider how what we make as designers effects human interactions on the micro and macro scale.

Note your everyday actions; go out of your way to notice where technology is present. When do human interactions occur? How would the introduction of automation enhance or hinder the interaction. What would the advantages or disadvantages be if automation took over? How can you use sarcasm, exaggeration, appropriated voice to make a point?

For next week: Make a Keynote presentation showing your source material, and propose various possible re-envisionings. Your proposal may use: other designer’s work as reference, texts, sketches, actual designs, etc.

How are the scenarios different? What is your point of view about technology’s social role through the project you are proposing?

Extended portion

Given the feedback you received from this week, adjust your concept (reinforce your values, rereread learning objectives) and start working on a prototype of your proposal. Make a ton of work.

4 Assignments / Unit 10: John Caserta   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


w Unit 9: Lecture
March 10, 2016


How can we begin to communicate a complex idea or action using an economical
combination of words, type, and image?


Identity design is a critical skill practiced by graphic designers. Before an entity (be it a
company, organization, or cause) can create collateral, launch websites, pitch products
or conduct campaigns, that entity must have a well-conceived identity. A well-conceived
identity, however, is not just a memorable mark (logo), it is also a carefully considered
synthesis of language and typography, image and environment. For this unit, students will
attempt to encapsulate a socially responsible cause (e.g. light pollution, or eliminating
land mines) using a simple yet sophisticated combination of words, type, and image. The
resulting logos or logotypes may serve as a catalyst for further investigation into identity
systems, messaging, or audience engagement.

Learning Objectives

1 Week: Communicate a complex issue using minimal content and form (identity design)
3 Week: Add additional layers of content and form by creating an identity system or visual
language. Using your new visual language, explore unconventional methods and media for
communicating your cause.
Download write-up

Extended Portion

View pdf

4 Assignments / Unit 09: Rich Rose   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we make the intangible tangible?

Unit Summary
You will find 50 ways to lend form to a common action or gesture. Designers today are tasked with inventing forms that address large abstract problems and communicate across multiple contexts. We will examine what happens when we use iteration as a way of making the intangible tangible, and discover how the process itself can be a material to build meaning with. Ultimately, this method of repetitive formal inquiry is a means to clarify and convey a nuanced idea.

In class, you will receive an intangible action. Over the course of the week, investigate the action by creating 50 pieces that express, clarify the action to make it visible and tangible. Your goal is not only to explore multiple expressions of this action, but to force a reconsideration of its archetypal form through a process of iteration and experimentation.

In order to create a vast range of approaches, you should employ both traditional and non-traditional design tools—ranging from analog to digital—to create both static and dynamic executions. As you work, consider how each iteration and tool opens a unique opportunity to communicate something new and unexpected about this action, and do it in a novel way.

For next week, present all 50 visual expressions of your action in a 1920 x 1068 horizontal keynote presentation. Consider how the presentation of these iterations will work both individually and together, and potentially give insight into the tools and the process of how your worked.

Learning Objectives
—Use iteration as a means to understand/communicate nuanced content
—Create tangible form to convey intangible ideas
—Express an idea from multiple perspectives
—Gain comfort with a range of tools
—Present work and process to convey a story

Extended Portion (3 week portion)
How can we make the intangible into an app?

You will propose and design an app that uses your given action as its primary function. The app should deploy the action as a means to do something you care about in a faster, better, or more exciting way.

Approach the project in three steps:

1. Propose what the app does.
Write a brief description of what the app does, how it works, who it’s for, why it’s important.

2. Show what the app looks like.
Design the name and brand for the app (including the app icon, two basic screens and a poster announcing it.

3. Explain the use / outcome of the app.
Make short video or slideshow that presents and celebrates the use/outcome of the app. This will use elements from 1+2 above.

4 Assignments / Unit 08: Joe Marianek   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


How can designers distill a narrative to its essence?

Unit Summary

Designers are editors, interpreters, organizers, and remixers of meaning. In this content-rich world, we have the opportunity and obligation to communicate complex narratives using curated elements and visual shorthand; to infuse new meaning and point-of-view into the old; to capture something long and layered in an instant. In this unit, you will explore methods of making —including compression, deconstruction, abstraction, and translation—with the goal of telling a familiar story in a new way.


By the end of today’s class, pick a narrative (book, film, tv show, play, etc) that you know very well. Reduce it to three collections of core elements—including (but not limited to) characters, places, events, themes, symbols, language, tropes, narrative arcs. Using the collections as content, visually represent the chosen narrative three times.

The final format of each collection is up to you, but should respond to the content (eg a set of characters might be presented in a family tree) and should not be the same form as the original narrative (ie don’t make a book about The Catcher in the Rye).


—How much can you reduce the narrative and still capture the spirit of the original text?
—How can your point-of-view about the original be conveyed through your editing/design decisions?
—How could your narrative become information/data?
—How can your final output speak to audiences familiar and unfamiliar with the original?

Learning Objectives

—Edit content down to the most important components
—Embed a point-of-view into an existing piece of content
—Communicate complexity by applying economy
—Translate something old/familiar into something new/fresh

Extended Portion

Part 1: Extend, Develop, Refine
Option A (One): Develop your favorite approach from the first week into an extended narrative.
Option B (Many): Apply your favorite approach from the first week to a series (at least three) of additional narratives.

Part 2: Present, Document, Share
Title and document, and share your project with an audience (physically and online).

Timing /Deliverables:
Week 1
Option A:
—develop your approach into 3 distinct directions
—thoughts on final format

Option B:
—full list of new narratives
—design sketches for at least 3 (include at least 3 distinct design routes)
—thoughts on final format

Week 2
—project refinements
—format prototypes
—plan for part 2

Week 3

4 Assignments / Unit 07: Dinah Fried   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Question: How does form shape content? 

Unit summary: We will interpret an object by looking at it 13 different ways, thinking deeply about how its form shapes its meaning and content, and consider how form IS content in its own right. We will use Thomas McEvilley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” as the basis for exploring objects from different formal perspectives.

One Week portion:
Read Thomas McEvilley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Then go to the RISD Museum and pick one object on display. Using the 13 points in the essay as a basis, you will create 13 interpretations of this object in graphic form (graphic form is left deliberately open, and could mean posters, stamps, words on paper, marks on paper, video, photos, etc…). Each interpretation should be its own short quick project. Each interpretation should highlight that specific “way of looking” at each object.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an object in the RISD Museum:

  1. Content that arises from the aspect of the artwork that is understood as representational
  2. Content arising from verbal supplements supplied by the artist, designer, curator or institution
  3. Content arising from the genre or medium of the artwork
  4. Content arising from the material of which the artwork is made
  5. Content arising from the scale of the artwork
  6. Content arising from the temporal duration of the artwork
  7. Content arising from the context of the work
  8. Content arising from the work’s relationship with art history
  9. Content that accrues to the work as it progressively reveals its destiny through persisting in time
  10. Content arising from participation in a specific iconographic tradition
  11. Content arising directly from the formal properties of the work
  12. Content arising from attitudinal gestures (wit, irony, parody, and so on) that may appear as qualifiers of any of the categories already mentioned
  13. Content rooted in biological or physiological responses, or in cognitive awareness of them


Additional Readings:
Michael Rock, Designer as author
Michael Rock, Fuck Content


Learning Objectives:
– develop ways of looking deeply at the world and objects within it
– develop a more complex understanding of the relations between form and content
– develop complex ways of looking at and interpreting content
– develop habits of iteration
create a shared formal language
– create ways to approach the critique of work

Extended Portion
You will create a single work that communicates basic information (title, author, date, medium, dimension, any text available, etc…) about your selected object, along with at least two of your ways of looking. Use your one week explorations as the basis for your continued investigation, thinking about how some of these different explorations may be synthesized. Also think of what information you are communicating explicitly, and what aspects of the object you are communicating implicitly through your choice of form, typography, medium, distribution.

Week 1: Produce 3 different versions. Bring all three versions to class.
Week 2: Choose one version and refine it
Week 3: Final

4 Assignments / Unit 06: Clement Valla   b Add comment       

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *