Pratt School of Art & Design
Graduate Communicationa Design
Graduate Studio : Fall 2011 Transformation Design

Semester Overview

AS DESIGNERS, we are always working with someone in mind: an audience, a demographic, the public at large. We spend hours crafting ideas and structuring visual arguments in favor of them. We develop strategies based on the profiles we craft of them, and will fight tooth and nail in support of our decisions for them.

The irony, of course, is that we rarely get closure in this long-term relationship. We hardly come face to face with user, audience, or public, learning what they think of our work, let alone learning their names. Too often the people to whom we dedicate our practice remain numerical figures, bullet-points, or at best, a rough sketch or a mash-up of types. They always remain them.

Over the next sixteen weeks, we will hurdle robustly over this fact of our profession and go directly to the source. This semester, you will be working with a specific someone: you will design for a public of one.

Specifically, you will find a stranger who matches your thesis interests, you will get to know them, and you will seek solutions to their very specific problems. You will research their lives: they will become much more than an audience profile: they will have a past, a present and future aspirations. You will get to know them through design, and over the course of the semester, your public will become a dimensionalized body of complexity and surprise. Operating at this level of intimacy and detail will open up a new level of focus and dimension to your practice that should inform future projects beyond graduate school.

In addition to fulfilling the course goals and objectives, we will practice methods of outreach, modes of inquiry and address, and forms of design intervention beyond the page or screen.

This semester will be an exciting experiment in relational practice. Relational practice—or working with people—can be confusing or frustrating but is always wonderfully unpredictable and endlessly fascinating. Relationships, as you well know, are organic—with their own life and energy—and as we move through the loose structure of the semester, we will prioritize process above product, and surf your difficulties and triumphs together.

Our emphasis will be on the methods you develop to learn about, work with, and dream for your public. Over the course of the semester, you will be required to create two small interventions and one larger intervention based on the knowledge you acquire about your public. For each, you will choose the framework, scale, problem, and solution—and each project should be realizable within the scope of time given. All projects must be enacted, that is to say, realized and deployed for your public.

I would like you to make three promises this semester:

1. To me and your peers in this class that you will respect our time and efforts with your own: that you will work your hardest, and seek to be a better designer through trial and failure, offering enthusiastic criticism and accepting it.
2. To yourself: to push yourself beyond the bounds of your comfort zone, and to be brave, adventurous and surprising.
3. To your public: that you will respect them, their time, and the aspects of their lives they share with you* on behalf of your own personal development, and do your best to reciprocate with thoughtful and courageous work.