Getting Flexible and Physical at Design Workshops


I love our office. Huge windows, great light, interesting people, and the periodic blast of traffic down Bryant. It’s a great place to work. But it’s always fun to shake up the routine. Two very different workshops last week did just that.

Tuesday afternoon had me out for the Design for Sustainability Workshop co-hosted by John Thackara of In the Bubble and Doors of Perception and the Stanford Design for Change Center. About forty designers, water specialists, academics and industry players came together to solve some pressing issues for water and energy management. It was so much fun to feed off the mix of creative energy and domain experts.

Here are  just a few of the things I learned (or relearned) from the workshop:

  • Design scrimmages are good for developing skills. I need be more explicit about making time for them.
  • Event planning, (like engineering) is hard. And at it’s best it becomes invisible
  • Designing flexible solutions will be the key to tackling emerging, complex problems.

The following day  I left for Dallas to conduct a visual design bootcamp for design researchers at Intuit. Two days isn’t much to cover the full history of graphic design, so suffice to say, I cut some corners. Here’s  a few things I took away from that experience.

  • Using physical objects to teach visual principals was far more effective than I thought. I used laser cut rectangles to help them organize grids and work through abstract compositions. You can easily create your own piece in illustrator, or just take the work I already did (I optimized it to reduce cutting time and cost). You can order the acrylic pieces from Ponoko. (costs about $43 with shipping).
  • This is a great book. Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips
  • So is this: Grid Systems: Principals of Organizing Type, by Kimberly Elam.
  • Flexible thinking always requires so much more discipline than I think it will.
  • Teaching design makes me a better designer