Short Program 2012 @ Pratt
by Atsuro Ueki
The first GID Short Program was held from July 29 to August 5, 2012 at Pratt Institute. Though only a week in length, the program allowed ten Japanese undergraduate students (9 students from Keio University, 1 student from another) to travel to Brooklyn, New York and explore a transcultural design scene they had never experienced before, develop their own design ideas and prototypes, and take their first step toward innovation design.
The short program brought together instructors from the three GID centers, and each center spent a day training students according to the design methods of the respective universities. Students absorbed these radically different methods, and their underlying philosophies, in a short period of time, all while they enjoyed the cross-cultural experience of living in New York City. They made it their goal to harness diversity, the core of innovation design, by using the bewildering flood of strange, new experiences as fuel for their ideas and incorporating these ideas into their work.
Despite the fact that most of the participating students did not have an academic background in design, all of the ideas they proposed over the course of the program were surprisingly creative.
Short Program Projects
On the first day of the short program, students went on a tour of Pratt and New York City. Pratt Institute is a center of design that sprung from the American Industrial Revolution. The school's buildings retain the distinctive imprint of that era and are lined with artworks by past graduates. After looking at a variety of machine tools and facilities for manufacturing, short program students took off for New York's Grand Central Terminal. They went on a journey led by Katarina Posch, a Pratt professor of design history, that traced the beginnings of the city of New York and its relationship to industry.
KMD designed the program for the second day. In the morning, Professor Inakage held a workshop on "storytelling" in which the students turned their cross-cultural experiences from the previous day into a story and went through several processes to develop the story into a delightful presentation. In the afternoon, Professors Okude and Uriu held a workshop on "design thinking," in which they trained students on how to develop perceptions and ideas drawn from fieldwork (observations in the field) into more concrete concepts.
On the third day, students experienced a "3D abstraction" workshop led by Pratt instructors. Under the guidance of Professor Karen Stone, students were trained in clay modeling and composition, learning through sensory experience how to create visual variety and comfort by combining simple objects. In the afternoon, students visited a Knoll showroom, where Professor Stone engages in her work, and saw how the modeling they had studied earlier could be used to make products at an actual furniture design company.
On the fourth day, Professors Miles Pennington and Ashley Hall from the RCA and Professor Peter Childs from Imperial College London jointly held a workshop on "Thinking While Creating." Students took apart real, commercially-sold electrical appliances with their own hands and reassembled them in different ways through a process of trial and error. Students learned about the configuration and mechanisms of products like toasters and electric fans by taking them apart, an unconventional activity that led to disruptive, unconventional ideas.
On the fifth and final day of the program, students were given the chance to create their own designs and give presentations on them at a workshop. Overcoming their shaky grasp of English and modeling technologies, each gave a presentation and discussed it with the teaching staff. In closing, each student received a certificate of completion from Professor Steve Diskin of Pratt.
The 2012 short program provided an excellent learning opportunity for not only the students, but also the teaching staff leading the program. Instructors from each university were exposed to the educational methods of the other GID partner institutions. It was the first opportunity they had ever had to actually operate and implement a program that was organically linked these diverse methods. Although the schedule and content of the program had been worked out beforehand, the teaching staff modified and shaped the content interactively as they observed the different activities offered by the other instructors and how students reacted. Thus the program itself was a design process, as well as a place where these kinds of possibilities could be experimented. In addition, we were able to accommodate hearing-impaired students who needed extra support—an experience that taught us a great deal about how to effectively and responsively assist students during a study abroad.
After the completion of the short program, we collected reports from each student, summarizing their experiences, and held a debriefing session to solicit more detailed feedback on improvements that could be made. The level of satisfaction among participants was very high, and we received a lot of comments like, "One week is too short. I wanted to spend more time there." We also received valuable feedback on specific areas for improvement. For example, some thought it would be good if participants could take a tutorial explaining the theoretical background of the design methods of each GID center before they left Japan, since there was not enough time to cover this during the program. Another suggestion was that they would have felt a greater sense of achievement if the entire program had been designed more around the goal of integrating the design methods of all three centers into a single project. Three of the students who participated in the program decided they wanted to continue studying at KMD and went on to do so.