Eric Anderson
Eco Navigator Personal Cube Vessel Project Personal Device

My teaching and research evolution

The drawing construction and form exploration models and techniques that I have developed for the novice visualizer and use in teaching have quickly raised student confidence and paved the way for greater comprehension and accelerated abilities. These models have reduced the struggle that students often have with drawing systems (such as perspective) and transformed them from one-dimensional drawers into thinkers who use drawing as a tool. Success in this area is measured by the ability for novice students to confidently, efficiently, and consistently develop and represent visual concepts.

The challenges of the intermediate visualizer are typically less about their ability to express information visually. These students are often able to represent basic geometric forms and combinations well. However, they can often struggle to advance their form ideas beyond basic geometric representations because they lack a strategy for exploration and development. This capability is significant because as students begin to design with specific intent, they must be secure in their abilities to create appropriate form proposals. Recognizing that this was a limitation for many students, I developed a framework for exploring and creating new form possibilities titled “A Square to a Circle.” The concept was initially introduced as a short experience in a third year product design studio and later refined and presented as a paper. This framework continues to evolve as a metaphoric platform for discussion of form, and a strategy for exploration. During the fall 2002 semester, I introduced this concept to the Industrial Design Studio 1 (Generation of form). Tom Merriman and I (co-instructors) planned a project that applied the concept to drawing (figure b) and desktop making activities. The results, as is compared to previous classes, were a broader range of form possibilities, enhanced manual skills, an increased sensitivity to drawing and making relationships, and clearer markers for self assessment within the process.

Having successfully replicated positive form construction and exploration results in many courses, I explored the effectiveness of my approaches to visualization with non-design students. Industrial Design Fundamentals (IDF) is an elective course offered by the School of Design in the fall, which I began teaching in 2001. Typically eighteen students representing engineering, psychology, human computer interaction, business, chemistry, and various other programs across the university, are admitted into IDF, which simulates a studio environment. As with all studios in design, the larger goal for each project was to design creative solutions for given challenges. However, to achieve this goal students needed to learn about product design, which encompassed research, design and development. They also had to learn the basics of visualization: drawing and desktop modeling. In surveying the class, it was not surprising to discover that the students had little to no visual or making experiences, except for the engineers whose experiences were limited. Through several condensed exercises, students developed confidence and a basic ability to communicate ideas effectively. These experiences included the use of my drawing model and lectures on constructing and using imagery and desktop modeling. As the course progressed, and the complexity of information increased, students were able to respond reasonably with appropriate representations of their thinking, evident through their artifacts. The final project for the course introduced “real” consumers who were senior citizens from a local retirement community. Using the senior participants as a valuable resource, each student was responsible for conducting research, designing concepts, developing features & details, and proposing a new concept for a radio-alarm clock. As part of this process, they were required to use drawing, imaging, and modeling throughout their process to think and develop their ideas. These ideas were presented directly to the seniors and staff in preliminary and final presentations. In each case student presentations were understood and well-received. Additionally because the students were able to communicate their intentions clearly, they received insightful suggestions for concept improvements.
The success of visualization in this course has provided the opportunity for increased product development content and fuller learning experiences. It also offers confirmation of the effectiveness of my approach and tools with a diverse interdisciplinary audience outside of design. These students are now equipped with a basic knowledge that allows them to see problems differently, explore opportunities, and seek broader solutions. They also have the potential to expand an understanding of design in their respective disciplines, thereby giving design a stronger voice and presence. Although not planned, this course has evolved as a fitting pilot for the development of one similar in support of the new masters program, “New Product Development” in Mechanical Engineering, which I will begin instructing in the fall of 2004. This opportunity strengthens the collaboration between the School of Design and Mechanical Engineering and provides me the chance to further my research.


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