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Friday, August 27, 2004

Once More, With Feeling
Orientation today, or for me, re-orientation. A day when we got our new laptops, seat assignments in grad studio, and eight new, first-year Master's students: six CPID, two interaction design. They seem like a nice bunch: a little wet-behind-the-ears, but eager. I'm looking forward to getting to know them.

It's amazing to me that I'm starting year two of school. My first orientation only seems like it was a few days ago. And now my last year of school--probably my last year of full-time school ever--begins. Being back on campus today for the first time in months and seeing my professors and classmates today really has put me in the mood to start up again. I forgot that I like school, as challenging as it is, and that there is still a lot to learn and do.

And so it begins again.

posted at 09:04 PM in classmates, student life | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Andy Ko on CNN
My classmate and teammate from the robot walker project Andy Ko is featured on CNN.com today for his new debugging program Whyline.

posted at 09:36 AM in classmates | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, June 28, 2004

A group of CPID students is starting the Communication Design Fundamentals class today. I remember that first day of school (and the night before) very vividly.

posted at 10:16 AM in classmates, cpid program | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Alumni News
More recent graduates have gotten jobs. Haven has accepted a position at Catapult Thinking in Boston. Catherine is off to my old haunt, Ameritrade with Sean, Dave, Tom, Patrick, Mel, Larry, and the gang. Kate is headed to New York to work at Addison. Sarah, Mathilde, and Cary are off to Ebay to work with Micah. Chad's already hard at work at Google.

One sign of a good program, to my mind, is the jobs its graduates get, so it's great to see this. Kudos to all!

posted at 02:41 PM in alumni, classmates | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Farewell, Craig
Craig Vogel, one of CMU Design's most well-known and respected professors, is leaving to head up the Design Research lab at The University of Cincinnati. As he ran the new master's program in product design and taught several innovative and award-winning courses like Integrated Product Development, he will be missed. Especially by those whose thesis advisor he was...

posted at 11:23 AM in classmates, faculty | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Comings and Goings
As May totters towards its close, I thought I'd update you on what my classmates, past, present, and future are up to. The graduating class have been getting job offers, from places like Microsoft, Ebay, and Google, preparing to (or already have) moved to other cities. Two are sticking around to do PhD work, one in design, one in HCI. One of the CPID graduates is sticking around to get her Master's in Interaction Design next year. Some are still job hunting and finishing up thesis work.

In my class, one of us is working at Motorola this summer, another at Procter & Gamble, another at Agnew, Moyer, Smith. A few students, both current and graduating, are working on the Domestic Mail project for the US Post Office.

Meanwhile, we've met many of the incoming students via email and some of them will be here in a few weeks to start CDF, just like I did last year.

To paraphrase The Cars, summer turns me upside down. Summer, summer, summer. It's like a merry-go-round.

posted at 02:45 PM in alumni, classmates | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Graduation Day 2004
Graduation day. All the second-year grad students who've finished (or nearly have) their classwork and thesis work got their diplomas today at a ceremony in the University Center.

I shall miss them. In some ways, I'm as attached to the new graduates as I am to my own class. Most of them are closer to me in age and experience than most of my class (who, it should be said, have their own charms). And since I deferred for a year, I've always thought of myself as the phantom member of their class, like Elijah at seder. But of course, I'm not.

And now, I am truly a second-year grad student.

posted at 08:09 PM in alumni, classmates, cmu | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Thesis Project Presentations 2004
I spent Monday watching the second-year students present their thesis projects. Being there was like being a guest at a wedding: you're glad for the celebration, but equally glad you aren't the one getting married. Next year, it'll be me and my first-year classmates up there...

I've collected the projects (or their descriptions) I could find online:

posted at 07:57 PM in classmates, cmu | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, May 9, 2004

SeeNote: Final Presenation
My team presented our final concept, specifications, and scenario of use (5.76mb ppt) for the Microsoft miLife project. We created a device (that could also be just a software platform) that combines the always-on, flexible nature of post-it notes with the intelligence of software. If you want to know what I've been up to for the last three months, this is it.

What you won't see in the PowerPoint is the 1.5 minute movie we shot as a sort of "commercial" for the device over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, it's way too big to post in its current, high-quality DVD state, but I'll see what I can do to post it later.

I can't tell you what a relief it is to have finished this project. It was a great project, but the workload, combined with three other classes, was pretty intense. Kudos to my teammates Jennifer Anderson, Chun-Yi Chen, and especially Phi-Hong Ha for putting up with me and for making my concept really come alive.

posted at 09:42 AM in classmates, projects | comments (4) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Student Circle of Life
They've chosen next year's Master's students and have sent out acceptance letters. Now it's just a matter of who will accept the offers--and who will show up once classes start. We got slightly less applicants this year (probably because the economy is marginally better), but it was still over 40 applicants for each program. We're all curious about who our classmates will be for next year.

Meanwhile, the second-year students are scrambling to finish their thesis projects and, at the same time, find jobs (or wait for PhD acceptances, if they are so inclined). Bilge Mutlu was already accepted to CMU's HCI PhD program. It's a hectic time for them. And frankly, I don't want them to go. I rely on many of them for their friendship and advice, so I will definitely feel it when they are gone.

For the first-years, it's time to decide on thesis papers, projects, and advisors. It is tough to pick something you want to work on for a year. You don't know what topic is going to be so interesting and rich that you'd want to spend a year of your life researching, writing about, and designing it. I've worked on year-long projects before, but never one I've chosen for myself. It's an interesting dilemma because it can be a hell of your own making.

posted at 08:24 AM in classmates, cmu, preparation, student life, thesis paper, thesis project | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Design and Intellectual Property
We got some legal advice/information from Sean O'Connor, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law and (not coincidentally) husband of CPID classmate Nikki O'Connor.

There are several types of intellectual property:

  • Patents. Protect products and processes at the Federal level for 20 years from the date of filing. You don't get the right to make or use what you've patented, you just get the right to exclude others from doing it. To get a patent, the product or patent has to be "useful, novel, and non-obvious." Non-obvious is the hardest to prove. As a side note, you can spend many thousands of dollars to patent something.
  • Copyright. Protects content (text, musical compositions, images, music, etc.) at a Federal level for the life of the creator, plus 70 years, or, if it is a corporate creator, 95 years from publication. When you create something, copyright automatically occurs on the creation of the content. You only need to register with the copyright office only before litigation and for enhanced damages. However, it is difficult to prove you created something on a certain date.

    To claim copyright, you need the original work in a fixed medium. (ie you can't just have had the idea for something). Note that you only get to copyright the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. You also can't copyright government works or, strangely, "useful" things.

    When copyrights are determined, the product is broken down into its basic components to judge what among them (if anything) is unique. If someone takes the same elements and puts them together in a similar, but not exact way (as, say Microsoft did to Apple with Windows (and what Apple did to PARC too)), it isn't copyright infringement.

    Copyright owners have exclusive control of copies, derivative works, distribution, and performance and display of their work. Transfers/assignments of copyright must be in writing.

    Designers typically work under two types of contracts: work-for-hire and (pre-)assignment of copyright. Work-for-hire basically means that the employer is considered the author of the work and owns the copyright. Assignment work means the designer is considered the author, but has given away ownership rights, but the rights can revert to the designer after 35 years. Obviously, assignment work is the better deal.

  • Trademarks. Protects at both a Federal and state ("commonlaw") level for 10 years (renewable). Trademarks are things like service marks, certifications and collective marks, and, yes, trademarks that can be composed on text, graphics, color, fragrances, and sounds. For federal registration, a trademark needs to be "inherently distinctive" or else have a"secondary meaning." You also have to use them (or intend to use them) in a commercial sense.

    You'll want to trademark each element of the trademark separately so that use can use them in various combinations and manifestations. You won't be able to trademark words like "coffee," but text strings like "Starbuck's coffee" are fair game.

Style is probably not protectable. The only time it would be is when people are made to believe the source of a product is someone else--ie if someone tries to replicate something exactly.

posted at 12:32 AM in classmates, design 101, special guest stars | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Bowling for Undergraduates
Thursday night, Haven and senior Chris Thomas arranged an evening of bowling for design grad students and seniors. Needless to say, the $8 buckets of beer did little to improve my already idiosyncratic bowling technique.

posted at 09:59 AM in classmates, extracurricular | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, January 24, 2004

2004 Thesis Paper Presentations
I spent most of yesterday in a small room listening to the second-year design students present their thesis paper topics and then field questions from the audience of students and faculty. As with previous years' thesis papers, it was a mixed bag of topics, but some of them seemed pretty interesting and I can't wait to read the final papers.

Unfortunately, I didn't see all of them, but of the ones I saw, there were some standouts: Maggie Breslin's Ziba/FedEx case study, Erin Eisinger's look at military leaflets, Ian Hargraves' idea of "dynamic commonality," Chad Thornton's examination of one-to-many communication systems, and Brian Haven's "Designing for Participation."

Watching the presentations is an interesting foreshadowing for this semester and next year. Later this semester, I'll have to pick a thesis paper topic (and a thesis project) of my own, plus faculty advisors for both. Half of the second year is spent working on them, so it's not a choice to be taken lightly. But seeing what the second years are doing gives you an idea of the scope of the paper and the types of papers that certain faculty advise.

posted at 09:10 AM in classmates, thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, November 16, 2003

Über Alles
I've thought a lot recently about something Graduate Student Assembly president Matt Cronin told us at orientation: the importance of having allies. I've become convinced that graduate school would be hellish without a set of peers with whom you can blow off steam, complain to, roll your eyes at, eat lunch with, have drinks with, spread gossip, admire and trust.

It's very interesting to watch these circles of allies--cliques some might say--form. To be honest, I'm not sure what allies a person to other people. Is it a similar approach to life? A mutual level of respect? Similar senses of humor? It's hard to say.

When John Maeda was here, he compared grad school with a vending machine that sells life-long friends. I hope it's true.

posted at 11:03 AM in classmates, student life | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, November 6, 2003

Rock and/or Roll
As it turns out, one of the second-year CPID students is dating a rock star. En route to Japan, the band stopped over in Pittsburgh last night, and some of us caught the show. Rock n roll, baby!

posted at 10:50 AM in classmates, extracurricular | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

School Pictures

The first year students' pictures and bios are finally up on CMU's website. It's interesting to note how people present themselves vs. how they actually are. But see for yourself: interaction design students and communication planning and information design.

posted at 03:58 PM in classmates | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

So it begins II

Today I started two more classes: Computing in Design and Interaction and Visual Interface.

Computing in Design used to be Intro to Programming for Designers, where they taught the design students the basics of Java. So many students complained about it that this year instead the focus is on Actionscript, the coding language used by Flash. Of course, the day we start class is the day after Macromedia announces a new version of Flash. Oh well. And I just bought my copy like two months ago too. Grrr...

In any case, the class uses Actionscript as a basis to teach us the basics of object-oriented programming while providing us with a tool we'll actually use in other classes and in professional practice. It's being taught by Ian Hargraves, a second-year interaction design student and TAed by Jeff Howard, one of the first-year ID students.

Chances are, I won't be writing overmuch about this class, since, while useful, probably a good portion of what I'm learning about can be learned elsewhere.

My other class was Interaction and Visual Interface Design, taught by professor Jodi Forlizzi. This class is going to be very project-based, with four longer projects and several one-day ones thrown in as "quizzes."

We talked about three trends in design over the last 50 years: a systematic way of breaking down design problems (human factors and HCI), then having users design (participatory design), and the most recent, a combination of user and a designer's knowledge.

What is interface design? Interfaces are the "skin between the product and the world it exists in." The skin can be a digital image or it can be an environment, like the inside of Starbuck's, or a physical set of controls like the dashboard of a car. Interfaces offer the user a "story of use." That is: here's how to experience/use me.

We then launched right into our first project: Expression and Physical Interaction. We're going to be looking at physical objects (like, say, an egg beater) and create from them a list of rich interactions that could be applied to a digital context. Then we're going to apply them to a simple scheduling application.

First, though, we're creating mood boards made of images based around various words: vision, hearing, touch, place, pose, movement, and facial expression. We'll use these throughout the course as a sort of pallete to refer to.

Homework tonight: working on my Studio and Seminar homeworks for class tomorrow. So it begins. My life isn't my own any more.

posted at 10:26 PM in big ideas, classes, classmates, faculty, interface design, projects, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, August 25, 2003

So it begins

Today was the first day of fall semester and, really, the first day of school. Yes, I did CDF in summer session, but today seemed so much more real somehow. Maybe it was that all my classmates were around. Maybe it was the several thousand undergraduates that appeared on campus. And maybe it was just that both professors talked about the experience of CMU and about being in graduate school. Whatever it was, it was an exciting, nerve-wracking day.

My first class was Design Seminar I, which is taught by the former head of the design department, Dick Buchanan. It's a rather infamous class, much talked about by alumni and the second-year grad students. And, three minutes into the class, it's not hard to see why. "I'm here," Dick introduced himself, "to change design in the world. I want to change the way design is taught and practiced." Then he turned to my classmate Jennifer Anderson. "Why are you here?" he bluntly asked. Then he went around the room, asking each person in turn. (My answer, in case you care, was that I want to make the world a better place by improving the tools we use.)

That done, he talked about the difference between undergraduate and graduate study. Graduate study focuses on themes, connecting (and mastering) a set of facts to create an approach to design practice. Graduate students are expected to become leaders of the industry, able not only to create good designs ("good" being defined by Dick as "well-designed and the right thing to do"), but also to discourse on them. Master's students aren't expected in their theses to contribute something new to the design field, but rather to deepen a theme. It is the doctoral students who are more concerned with inquiry into new design areas and research.

Interaction is at the heart of all of CMU's Masters of Design programs, even the new one in Product Development. Something he's obviously going to get into more is that interaction design relates to Poetics (creating emotionally satisfying experiences), while CPID relates to Rhetoric (creating persuasive products). I'd be lying if I told you I knew what that meant right now.

The stated goals of the class:

  • establish a common framework of the concepts of interaction design
  • provide a strategic perspective on the community of practice
  • find our place in the field of practice
  • encourage creativity
Grad students, Dick informed us, can be boring to teach. We have too many things built up inside us that we need to suspend in order to learn. We need to learn how to be inventive. Dick's main goal is "to provide [you with] enough stuff so that you see the world differently."

It's ok, he told us, if this is perplexing. Perplexity is a form of wonder. And when wonder occurs, the possibility for creativity emerges.

We then discussed the History of Design and the History of Interaction. In the 20th century, there were two great fields of design, graphic (symbols) and industrial (objects). About 40 years ago, the language of design began to change and it started to talk about human systems like environments (actions). Then, recently, design has concerned itself with what holds a system together (thought). These are the Four Orders of Design: symbol, thing, action, thought. New things can happen when you think of something outside its order. For example, a table. A table is not a thing. Think about it as a symbol or an action. ("Ceci n'est pas une pipe"?). I'm guessing we'll get a lot deeper into this as well.

Finally, we looked at the following fragment:

Interaction is a relationship between   in the process of   for the purpose of

Broken down, this becomes a series of questions:

  • What is the data we have? What do we look for? What is acceptable data and how do we interpret it?
  • What is it between?
  • How is the connection established?
  • Why? What is its purpose?
And that's where we left off. We have a homework assignment to select any example of interaction design and identify at least three types of data that one could investigate in order to understand or appreciate the design.

Reminder: this is all in the first hour and a half of fall semester.

Went to the on-campus Indian restaurant with Rob and Phi-Hong Ha, another first-year interaction design student. I like Sree's Indian food from the trucks better, I found.

The afternoon class was Graduate Studio, taught by the current head of the design department, Dan Boyarski. Studio is the yin to Seminar's yang. Seminar is mainly reading and discourse. Studio is project based and more nuts-and-bolts.

Dan started by saying that if the faculty don't change us, don't make us students different than what we were before we came, they haven't done their jobs. Grad school can be thought of as a retreat. It's not a smooth journey, however.

We talked about the need to be flexible: the environment we're working in is constantly changing. Often, part of the designer's job is simply to exercise common sense with clients.

Communication is what interaction is. We work with human-to-human communication, filtered through mediums (like computers). It's our job to turn data into meaningful information by providing form and structure to it.

We looked at Richard Saul Wurman's ways to organize data: LATCH. Location, alphabetical, time, category, hierachy. One of my classmates, Cheryl Gach, suggested one more: Random. Combining these ways, the information becomes even more meaningful. It's the designer's job to ask the right questions of the data.

Our first project for Studio is a self-portrait poster using Wurman's categories as the starting point.

Wow, quite a day. It took me an hour and half to get it all down. I can't promise detail like this every day, but today, being the first day, I thought it was special enough to record in detail.

posted at 10:18 PM in big ideas, classes, classmates, cmu, cpid program, design 101, faculty, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Friday, August 22, 2003


We had orientation yesterday, where the design faculty welcomed us, the ninth class to have gone through the Interaction Design program and our sister program, Communication Planning and Information Design. There are 14 of us first-year grads: six ID and eight CPID. Ten women, four men.

Orientation was led mainly by Dan Boyarski, head of the Design school, there was a lot of talk about the intensity of CMU and to prepare ourselves for that. He also implored us not to be too hard on ourselves while going through the program: there will be things we're good at and things we'll have to work harder at. And one inspirational message: writing and design together can change the world.

We also got to pick our seat in the graduate design studio and were assigned our assistantships. I got the unusual (for me) assistantship of tech support for the Smillie Lab, the new digital imaging lab. I'm also going to be doing a semi-TAship for Bob Swinehart's Corporate Identity class.

Refreshments were served.

I also managed to crash the HCI program's orientation party last night. Fun fun fun!

posted at 10:34 AM in assistantships, classmates, cpid program, extracurricular, faculty, hci program, student life | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, August 4, 2003

Information Design

This, our final week of CDF, is about information design, and is being taught by Bob Swinehart, soon to be the president of the International Institute for Information Design. [Ed. note: Maybe he can do something about the lousy information (and visual) design of their web site.]

Finally a topic I know something about! (Although, I am in school ostensibly to learn stuff I don't know.)

This week, like last week, is all based on completing a week-long project, in this case, redesigning the #2 form in America: the USPS Change of Address Form:

We broke into groups of three (randomly done so as to mix up the designers amidst the HCI folks), for two days of analysis and group discussions of the exisiting form and the user research that Bob and his researchers have collected about the form over the last year. I'm teamed with HCI master's student Rob and English master's student Sue for this analysis section. Each group is posting their "results" up on big sheets of paper like so:

After today and tomorrow, we head to InDesign to create prototypes of the new forms.

posted at 09:39 PM in classmates, info design, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, July 28, 2003

Forms in Space

This week's instructor is Craig Vogel, Director of Graduate Studies here in the college of fine arts and former president of IDSA. We're learning about 3D objects: how to create and manipulate forms in space. To that end, we're working on one individual project that stretches the week. It's some kind of small sculpture built out of foamcore and paper. We don't know what it is we're building yet, except that some of the pieces are taken from measurements we did of each other's bodies today. Neema got the pleasure of measuring yours truly.

But today's class was a pretty high-level overview of some of the theories, people, and processes of industrial design. We examined two cars, the Aztek and the PT Cruiser, to see why the Cruiser worked (from a design perspective) and why the Aztek did not. Products, it turns out, can be driven from either a quantitative point of view, or from a qualitative point of view. Too often, as with the ugly Aztek, the quantitative has been the driving force. But in the new world of product design, there needs to be a shared understanding of what the engineers (the quantitatives) and the designers (qualitatives) do to create better products. The best products are the ones where all the elements of it work seamlessly together to form a gestalt. Hybrids fuse different perspectives into new gestalts.

In preparation for our fieldtrip tomorrow to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, we talked a little about Frank Lloyd's Wright's notion of "Subliminal Mathematics," which is about using underlying, invisible math as a starting point for form.

We looked at the work of notable product designers like the Eames, and Raymond Loewy. Loewy came up with the idea of MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable, which is the underlying thought behind innovative designs such as the Cruiser. We also looked at Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim as an example of qualitative design leading quantitative.

Briefly noted was the influence of Japanese design on products and architecture and the Japanese notion of asymmetrical balance.

We also talked about how previously, products were designed for men whose body shapes were in the 50th percentile range as far as shape, height, weight, etc. Now, products are designed with both men and women in mind, ranging down to the 1st percentile of women and up to the 95th percentile of men.

If this entry seems crammed full of stuff (and I've only mentioned half the things that were tossed at us today), it's because the class was as well. As we've seen from previous weeks, it's a trail to get everything in about a topic in only a week.

Tomorrow is our field trip to "one of the greatest and most sophisticated uses of space and form ever made."

posted at 09:08 PM in big ideas, classmates, design 101, faculty, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Social Animals

Just in case you thought all we grad students do was sit around and talk design, I should let you know that we often do it in a social setting with beverages of choice in hand. Every week I've been here, there's been at least one or two off-campus gatherings. Cinema in the Park is a Design School tradition. Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch was fun for the whole family. And tonight is Micah's goodbye bash before he heads off to eBay.

posted at 05:14 PM in alumni, classmates, extracurricular | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, July 7, 2003

Introduction to Photography

Week Two of CDF began with a new instructor (Charlee Brodsky) and a new topic: photography. It's reportedly the first time photography has been included as part of this course and it should be an interesting subject to explore.

Photography, Charlee explained, is in one sense easy to study because photographs are a part of our culture. They are used to sell things, to document news, and to document personal history. Photography is "the mind and they eye working together, with some heart thrown in." Photographs "stop time and are a sliver of space," and provide a frame through which to view what is important. A photograph shouldn't show everything however. If it does, Charlee contents, the viewer doesn't ask himself the important questions.

Photography is all about light. Light reveals the subject, lets us make an image, record something.

There are two main ways of representing subject matter: documentary images (which Charlee likened to nouns) and abstract images, which use surface qualities of subjects to make another kind of image. They can be likened to music in that they are more easily described as feelings.

Similar subject matter can be presented in a miriad of different ways. We looked at two views of suburbia, Mark Rader's Scanscape and Bill Owens' Suburbia as an example of this. We also viewed The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald and Shopping by Merry Alpern for different styles in portraiture.

And indeed, our first project is in portraiture, where we pair up with a partner to photograph and, in turn, be photographed. First-year CPID grad student Jenni Miehle was my partner and got to endure not only taking photos of yours truly but also my bad Austen Powers impression ("Work it baby, work it! Yeah!") as I took her picture. Here's an outtake (155k) that I'm not using as part of my "best-of" selection for class critique tomorrow.

In software bootcamp, CPID alumnus Matt Mowczko is taking us through the ins and outs of Illustrator this week.

posted at 10:50 PM in classmates, faculty, photography, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, July 3, 2003

CDF Week 1 Wrap-Up

Our introduction to display typography ended today after reviewing the final set of exercises exploring typographic variations. [Note: it is going to be exercises like these, and the accompanying critiques (and hopefully the learning that goes along with them), that will be nearly impossible to capture and document in a blog. But aside from the raw knowledge that you gain in school, this is what you are ultimately paying your money for: the training. This blog is free (for readers at least).] Some notes:

  • Distinctions can be subtle or bold...but shouldn't be too subtle, nor too bold.
  • Using two typographic variables at once can overemphasize text.
  • This from Ian: The "rules" of typography are dependent completely on the context and the content.
  • Karen Moyer recommends finding a set of fonts (around 10) that you use all the time and understand well.

Next week: photography! And in software bootcamp: Illustrator!

posted at 12:53 PM in classmates, design 101, techniques, typography | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, June 30, 2003

First Day of D School

I survived my first day at school! Hooray! My two classes are Communication Design Fundamentals and the accompanying "software bootcamp."

Communication Design Fundamentals is a six-week course designed to teach Design 101. Each week is a different instructor to teach a different aspect of design. This week is Introduction to Display Typography, taught by Karen Moyer.

There's about 13 students in the class, a majority of them from the HCI program. We spent the first day arranging a pile of kitchen utensils and art supplies into a pattern that would make sense. The purpose being not only to show that this is what designers do--make order out of disorder--but also to show the process of design, from familiarization to development to refinement. The key points:

  • Form carries meaning.
  • Space carries meaning--even empty space.
  • Structure carries meaning.
  • Everything has a form, including (especially) typography.
  • Appropriate, engaging, and clear presentation of content: this is the purpose of communication design.
Another key point: let the visual display do what it can do and nothing more. It must be well-thought out, but it cannot do the thinking/processing for the viewer.

The first program we're learning in software bootcamp (taught by second-year second year interaction design grad student Ian Hargraves), is Adobe's InDesign. It's a smaller class (about 8 of us) and for some of us (like me) the beginning of the class was just getting used to the Mac machines as opposed to the PC (what do you mean there's no right mouse click?). Since I've never used InDesign, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to learn it.

In other news, I got the key to the Graduate Design Studio, my new (working) G4 Powerbook, and my summer student ID card. I'm a student again! So strange, but so great, to be back in school. I'm glad this first, awkward day is over though.

posted at 07:35 PM in classes, classmates, design 101, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Taking the Plunge

I've been reading a lot of the blogs of my soon-to-be classmates and recent CMU alumni, and an entry from Kevin Fox reminded me how difficult it has been for me to return to graduate school. I deferred for a year to be sure of my decision and to get my life in enough order (sell my house, find a new place to live, find a school for my daughter, try to find my wife a job in Pittsburgh) to attend. And even now, less than three weeks from all our belongings being loaded onto a moving truck headed for Western PA, not everything is in place. I can only hope the boost CMU gives to my career is worth all this effort and expense. As moving day gets closer, my feet get colder...

posted at 08:13 PM in alumni, classmates, preparation | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans