Design in the real world is often a process of deliberate tinkering. Sometimes the goal may be clear, with timelines, budgets, and constraints. Or the goal may be less clear, as you struggle to come up with something “better” even though no one quite knows what that means. Sometimes you work for days or weeks, making small incremental steps, sometimes things come in a flash of brilliance.
Yet in school, there is often a rigid “design process” with stages that imply a linear progression from start to finish. Whether teaching writing, video production, the “scientific method”, or programming, it often seems most efficient to provide students with step-by-step assistance, tools, and tricks to organize their thoughts and get to a finished product.
However, this well-intentioned support may in fact have the effect of stifling creativity and forcing students into creating products that simply mirror the cookbook they have been given. In fact, some students, having been well-trained to follow directions, will simply march through the steps with little thought at all. On the other hand, students need some kind of support and structure, right?
So how do you combine the benefits of tinkering (creative chaos, brainstorming, time to reflect) with getting something done. I believe the answer lies in looking at the design process in the creative world – such as graphic artists and designers.
Presentation Zen is a website devoted to simplicity in design and a recent article provides some great direction for classroom projects: Presentation Zen: 10 Tips on how to think like a designer.
Here are the tips from the article:
(1) Embrace constraints. (2) Practice restraint. (3) Adopt the beginner’s mind. (4) Check your ego at the door. (5) Focus on the experience of the design. (6) Become a master storyteller. (7) Think communication not decoration. (8) Obsess about ideas not tools. (9) Clarify your intention. (10) Sharpen your vision & curiosity and learn from the lessons around you. (11) Learn all the “rules” and know when and why to break them.
I hope you read this article; it provides much food for thought.