The needs of our society are constantly changing. The sector of design is called to give solutions to these needs, thus being enriched with novel fields. It is essential that the new knowledge acquired be disseminated to the young students, a fact which the creative and educational community should cooperate on.
The way in which the knowledge is acquired and disseminated is continually changing too. The conventional educational methods cannot nowadays fulfill the new emerging needs. Education may no longer be restricted within the walls of a classroom, since the sources of information are more than ever before and the knowledge may very easily occur outside the educational institutions.
Technology plays a significant role in these changes. The young students and pupils have been familiarized with the new technologies. The portable devices and the services they offer, the social networks and the web culture constitute parts of their daily life and they themselves know how to handle them. Simultaneously, these technologies give the possibility of designing and creating new tools, which will take advantage of the opportunities emerged and will give solutions to the needs of information, communication and collaboration in the interests of education.
The concept of “out there”, the aid offered by technology and the dialogue regarding education of the 21st century were the main guides for this assignment.
Special emphasis will be given on visual communication so as to gather the main needs regarding the search for knowledge outside the traditional classroom. This does not entail that the suggestions and design may not fulfill the needs of the remaining fields of design.
As it has happened again and again in the past, nowadays we experience an era where significant changes occur and influence many aspects of our society. A big part of these changes is due to the constant and the increasingly fast progress of technology. As we have left behind the era of industrial revolution, the new technology brings us in front of a new revolution, that of information.
The advancements in the field of telecommunications, the development of the internet, the capabilities of portable devices and the continuous emergence of new technologies have greatly contributed to how the humans react and behave in their daily life (communication, workplace, free time, keeping updated etc.). Along with the inconceivably fast rhythms of technology, education is requested to be more quickly adapted to the new standards than ever before.
The traditional teaching methods dictate that the central axis should be the teacher. The information usually follows a one-way path and it is directed by the teacher towards the audience, which consists of the students. The students are required to adapt to the teaching pace of the classroom, a strategy which does not allow for many options since the lecture possesses a particular time limit. The time for discussion and answering to questions is restricted. At the same time, the students are dependent on the classroom. This place is directly linked to the learning process and what happens in real time, outside the building, is completely a matter of indifference and of no importance.
“ Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event..
— Heidi-Heyes Jacobs
The portable devices and the internet access were not welcome by the old teaching methods, as they were supposed to distract the student from the flow of the lesson. This probably makes sense, if we consider the amount of impressive things that can be found on the internet and the multiple ways to communicate with people inside and outside the classroom.
The educational institutions have never rejected technology as a means of education; on the contrary, they have always used it, they are using it and they often contribute to its evoluti on. Today, however, they are not able to control it because technology does not lie inside the laboratories and inside the classrooms but in the hands of the pupils and the students.
The teaching methods and curricula slowly but surely change and adapt to the new realities of the information age. Even the most conservative ones on the issue of changes in education do not deny the need for change.
“ education doesn’t need to be reformed -- it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it
— Sir Ken Robinson
The pioneers in education of the new millennium do not merely ask for the evolution of the existing system, but also for revolutionary changes from the base to the higher and upper levels. Many theories and suggestions have been heard. According to some of these, the curriculum should be individually adjusted, based on the talents and interests of every young person. The education should avoid subjugating and dominating young people, whereas it should foster curiosity and creativity1. Knowledge should be sought in more than one sources and areas so that the students will receive information beyond the boundaries of classroom, while the new technologies should be used to contribute positively to this pattern. The relationship between the teacher and the student has changed in the coming years, the classroom has become completely digitized and it has gradually lost its role as the center of education.
The most contemporary educational institutions and independent educational organizations have realized that the new technologies do not pose any danger to education, but on the contrary they are an ally. Modern systems serving the needs of entire universities, such as the blackboard2, have incorporated portable devices into their system and they use them as a key tool. Apple, the Information Technology Company, through iTunes U3, the new platform it has launched, is trying to establish its tablets as an essential tool for the contemporary education.
The prospects for interrelation, communication and collaboration have brought about new opportunities and ways to acquire knowledge. It is not a coincidence that in the recent years many institutions have emerged offering their courses online for free or upon payment. The tools are constantly updated and improved over the last years, offering solutions to many common problems. Duolingo4 is a platform that offers free high quality services on education. Coursera5 is one of the most important platforms, providing massive open online courses (MOOC), with courses from major universities worldwide. The sheer volume of students and the assignments to be corrected led to the introduction of new methods of online teaching and the creation of tools and correction methods that are incredibly helpful to the teachers. Skillshare6 removes the time pressure from the process of lesson and the delivery of assignments.
The social networks, the forums, the internet culture and search engines have affected the way we communicate, the form of work, the way we learn, even how we talk. It is taken for granted that the progress of technology, the changes in society and definitely the changes in the market needs will have an impact on the field of design and therefore on design education.
Education is about learning. It could be accepted that learning does not only lie within the context of a formal national educational system. Otherwise, our evolution as individuals and as professionals would stop upon our graduation. Learning continues and knowledge develops through experience, research and experimentation.
Regarding design education, dealing with the subject as well as the experience possessed are important steps for the acquisition of knowledge. For a design student to make progress, he has to design, to make mistakes, to learn and improve. The role of design education is not only to create practitioners. Also, the theoretical knowledge, the study of history and the acquisition of visual thinking, aesthetics, criticism and critique play a fundamental role. The study of the history of design (derived either from references or the study of real works) that continues to be written and updated in real-time is one of the tools that contribute in understanding design and they may establish much more creative designers.
All the fields of design, either being more related to the science or being closer to aesthetics and visual communication, are directly connected with the ever increasing needs of the audience and the various trends that come and go. The requirements covered by the fields of design are constantly changing thus the design being constantly changed. An industry that is changing at a very quick pace needs to be updated. Its basic principles remain stable, yet they can be taught through design works, either old or newer.
Design is out there. Almost everything around us, from an object to a poster, is the result of study, design and implementation. Behind each design work a story is hidden. Any such story may be an opportunity for knowledge. The setting is very important because it is a huge source of information. In fact, it constitutes a huge library of applied works of design. This library is incessantly updated, changing form and content.
While the space is full of opportunities, there is a fundamental gap: the lack of information. There is the need for information related to the works that exist around us, which will appeal to young designers. To fill this gap, there should be a bridging among the groups of students, artists and the educational community.
Communication and cooperation are elements that facilitate the process of producing knowledge. A community feels the need to share things. The wider creative industry needs nowadays to communicate and collaborate. As an example may be regarded the success met by online portfolios sites like Behance and the tendency of its users to display their projects in detail even though it is work in progress. The market is in need of creative minds and talented people. The designers themselves must engage in inspiring these minds before the latter come in the job market since they themselves know the needs of their industry. The educational community should improve its methods, open up a part of the content and the knowledge held and give the opportunity to the students to learn something beyond the boundaries and timetable of their school.
The need for communication, exchange of information and knowledge acquisition at every opportunity could be covered through a procedure comprising three main steps. The contact with the project will give the student a sense of it. Providing information about the project will answer to his possible questions. The discussion over the project, as well as a lesson spurred by it, will allow for experimentation and further knowledge.
The target is the students. It is the team that should come out of the restricted patterns of the classroom and move around a space where the visual communication is present and functions. On the road, on the walls, on signs, inside buildings and in general where there may be some kind of application.
The element on which special attention should be placed is the students’ curiosity. Curiosity triggers questions and questions trigger knowledge. One of the methods implemented by the students is to observe the projects of large companies, of creative groups or other designers. Their ideas at this nascent stage are reasonably not born from scratch but they need sources of inspiration. The first stages of a designer are necessarily research and imitation. The design students are a particular target group for the completion of a project, since they seek for further information compared to those presented for the general public through the project.
Regarding a project, the design student is curious to learn details about the creator’s work. What triggers the interest for instance on the poster of a festival is the concept of the project, the needs that should be fulfilled by the designer, the process of generating ideas, the research, the choices made, the decision making, possibly the experimentation, the design, more specific elements such as the palette, the typography, the composition or additionally the environment where the creator worked. The aim is not to attend a common tutorial which will show a technique but acquire a more comprehensive approach to the story of the project, which will give ideas and inspiration for work.
The direct contact with the piece of work is an important element in this process. Alternatively, someone could look for projects through electronic portfolios but there are huge differences between the depiction of an image through a screen and the result of the actual work on the field of application. In front of the piece of work, the student may wonder and observe things. How the project functions in the setting, whether it stands out from the surrounding competition, how it looks from a distance, whether it endures over time and how the audience interacts with it.
What follows the contact with the piece of work is the provision of information about it. The creator is chiefly competent at providing this information. He is the one who was given the problems, who investigated them and found solutions. The creator has distilled the knowledge resulting from his involvement with the project and he is able to render in a simple way a part from it.
Why would a professional desire to share knowledge and information that have emerged from his personal work? The most suitable response is because he wants to share it with young people. Besides, we may accept the fact that for someone to share something from his work and his knowledge is not so high a price to pay compared to the exposure gained among his colleagues and the opportunity hold to communicate, to learn and become popular.
Therefore through this process the creator should be given the opportunity to show his work. To talk about his innovations. To speak about his experience and to be able to communicate with the audience. To receive comments, questions, to be able to answer and discuss. Moreover, he can test out his work through a system of rewards concerning his project as a piece of work and also the presentation addressed to the audience of students.
The knowledge gained here is still static. The student has come into contact with the project so as to form an opinion and pose questions and he has been informed of the story through the designer. At this point, the student could ideally deal further with the project through discussion about the project or any issues that arise by it. A community that comments, asks and gives answers is the most ideal one. Dealing with and experimenting with similar issues to the project will provide an opportunity to the student to acquire his own experience. The most suitable one to raise issues triggered by the project is the educational community.
The educational institutions and the educational organizations may also take the opportunity to use the existence of design projects in order to motivate their students so that the latter will look for information or be occasionally updated for something new. Through technology, it is given the opportunity to offer a lesson or a course to those interested by posting somehow the lesson on the project. In addition to free knowledge, a sample of their work is given.
In recent years there have been dramatic changes in the way the information is transmitted in the midst of a new technological revolution. Through the development of telecommunications, the communication has become easier and more immediate than any other time in history. The modern society has been familiarized with the immediacy offered by the social networks, the forums, the information sources and the content search on the web.
Today we possess a technological breakthrough that is a very important tool for the development and improvement of education. The portable devices do not only contribute to communication. They are also equipped with a multitude of technologies and functions, which turn them into something more than a telephone device. Every new portable device is itself a station which can download, edit and display the information in very interesting ways such as graphics or augmented reality. With 1.4 billion smart phones users worldwide6, it is concluded that a huge number of people are in possession of devices that can be connected to the web.
A system that is intended to implement all the above should make use of the user’s curiosity and mood. The user should be able to scan through his device any piece is of his interest and obtain information about it. Practically speaking, there should be a kind of signal that informs about the content. Technologically speaking, a device nowadays can recognize patterns on the project itself without any barcode or QR code.
Also, the user should be able to search for projects. Through the search for content on the web and by using the capabilities of mobile devices, we can transform the setting into a search of field and the design projects into searchable content. Through a system of search, the user may search for projects of his utter interest and by navigating on his mobile device he may be directed to them.
“Opportunity” is equally an important factor. Something passed unnoticed to the user could be an opportunity for him. To avoid this, the design project should inform him somehow of its being present. A system could be updated in advance concerning the user’s interests. While it may know the location of some works (even interact with them), it can get smart decisions and inform the user about the presence of a project.
It is important that the user come into contact with the project. After the user’s being directed to the point of interest through a map, then it should be ascertained that he has seen it. To receive the information, he needs to scan the project through the camera of his mobile phone. So, he will have access to the information created by the designer of the project.
The screen of the mobile phone or the tablet is a very ideal tool for someone to gather some information. The designer is able in this way to describe his work using text, photos and video applications. Information navigation should be easy and its display simple, because the use of the device at that time will be performed in a noisy environment. Today, the users rarely read every detail on their screens. They tend to scroll down and look for interesting contents. So, ideally the information should be structured vertically, so that the user can see it while scrolling down. An even more interesting way is the display of information through the use of augmented reality.
After getting the necessary information, the user can then take advantage of the courses that have been created by official or independent educational agents. The courses may be online. The structure of information they contain may be similar to the form held by the information of the designer’s work. By signing up to any of these courses, the user should be offered the option to save it and watch it later on his device or on his desktop.
The type and methodology of the course is a matter of those creating it. It does not matter if it is just a static lecture through video, tutorials or if it is a more dynamic project-based course on which the user should upload his work to get feedback. The application should give the opportunity for all the above to function.
In any case it is important to provide an opportunity for communication. There should be forums of discussion on the project during the course and on the result of any student’s work.
An application based on imponderable factors concerning the services and information that offers should hold various security options.
Projects that circulate in the setting bear the impact of time. They may “get down” from the point of their display, they may fall or even expires the time of their posting. The user should avoid any unnecessary movements. So, it is necessary to have some kind of “reference” about whether a project that is searchable is still in place.
Moreover, the user should be able to choose between different projects on the map screen based on some criteria. It is permissible to have some sort of rating for the projects based on other users’ opinion so that the choice will be easier. To establish a way to share a project or a course via social networks or through a particular community constitutes an incentive for the designers. The user should be aware in advance of any courses available and of any discussion on the project to be seen.
The proposal was based on the needs posed by visual communication. This does not mean that it cannot be adapted to the needs of other fields of design. Such a system can be continuously upgraded, along with the needs and the technological advancements, since visual communication gradually moves from printing to more interactive media like screens on the streets. Respectively, it can be adapted to product design students, architecture or of any other field. Of course it is not necessary to function only for one field. Various fields may coexist within the same application.
Smart phones and tablets have already reached a significant level of sophistication and they are already taken for granted, while at the same time new technologies are introduced to give more options. Transparent and flexible7 screens on devices will provide a new form and new ways of displaying information in such a system. The idea can be adapted to new wearable technologies, such as Google Glass8, which can lead the user’s experience to new levels through the development of AR.
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