Media and representations in product design education
Paper in proceedings, 2014
The creation of product form, involves embodying a potential function and intended use while defining geometrical, ordering principles. This paper aims to elaborate roles of different media and representations in design activities intended to externalise form ideas (e.g. sketching, building physical models, digital modelling, etc.). Understanding and explaining this is central to helping students and practitioners engage with, reflect on, and value the roles of media for externalising ideas.
To understand and explain the role of media in design activities, design diaries were analysed. These were documented as part of a course in Advanced Form Design (7,5 ECTS - master level) in spring terms 2011-2013 with a total of 38 participants. For course completion, the students were expected work in groups on a project seeking creative form ideas and solutions for a dinnerware product with a high level of novelty, aesthetic detail, and functionality. Design diaries were used as an educational method for initiating and documenting self-reflections on a weekly basis. The students were to reflect on their process and the underlying motivations behind their activities.
Design progress can be seen, as interplay of moving-seeing not only within one medium of externalizing, but also across different media. In the design diaries the students engaged in a dialectic process when translating their ideas from one medium to another. The results from diary analysis show how reframing prior ideas facilitates interpretation, discovery and correction of the assumptions that are not revealed in previous representations, and thereby, learning from previous mistakes. Creating educational situations to encourage the students iterate more often using different media, may result in reaching more well-reasoned solutions.
Further, the paper discusses issues regarding skill in manipulation of material and media. Eloquence in using media facilitates idea generation without necessarily being bounded to and distracted by technical problems. This accentuates a need to help design students become more skilled in using different media, thereby enabling a fluent exploration of novel solutions.
The paper provides a platform for students and, educators to engage with, reflect on and discuss how different media may support design, but in some cases also constrain creativity and ability to work with three-dimensional form.