Learn Through Making

 Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Last year I heard Don Norman lecture at the University of Cincinnati. One thing stood out more than anything else he shared. He suggested design can be research and research can be design, that the two don’t have to be separate. In my experience, one usually follows the other, and typically it's research first, then design. My process often looks like this: Do a lot of research, collect a bunch of information, and glean loads inspiration that will inform the design (graphic design in my case). But if design can be research, and research can be design, as Norman suggested, why do I always lead with one over the other?

Something about starting with design (sketching, drawing, making) doesn’t feel right. It’s a lot like a painter beginning with a blank canvas. Where does one start? 

If I’m honest, I usually have an initial hunch at the beginning of a project. Why not follow that intuition? 

That’s certainly what I learned from the Soul Collage class at The Hive. To begin the creative process through intuition; by following the gut more so than the mind, at least to start. It was a fruitful and liberating process. Never before have I created so much in so little time. 

What if I started my design process, as the Soul Collage process, with intuition instead of information? That’s what I ended up doing this week. I began a couple of projects in my sketchbook with markers. It was hard. Several times I wanted to hop on the computer and make a project brief. I thought, “I should probably think about the audience, define my desired results, or see how others have approached similar challenges.” I ignored that urge. With a Crayola marker in hand, I began to make; I started to play. As intuition guided my hand, I observed with delight what showed up on the page. New ideas formed that I hadn’t considered. The imperfections of the medium led to happy accidents. I was able to quickly draw and explore different solutions rapidly. 

My experience in the sketchbook reminded me of what one of my wife’s professors, Sue LaPorte, at CCS used to tell her, “Learn through making.” Which is not unlike what Norman said about design being research and research being design.

In the end, I’m not suggesting one approach over the other (that would be dualistic). In reality, learning happens both through research and making. Whether one starts with research or design is determined case by case. As much as I wish there were, there’s no one size fits all approach. 

And now for the weekly links. 

Enjoy, 

D.J. 


How To Think Like An Anthropologist (Book)
While some argue that a designer should learn how to code, I'd like to learn how to think more like an Anthropologist. 

Architects without Architects (Book)
This quote struck me as incredibly pertinent for being written about a century ago: “the expectation that every new discovery or refinement of existing means must contain the promise of higher values or greater happiness is an extremely naive thought... It is not in the least paradoxical to say that a culture may founder on real and tangible progress.”  –  Johan Huizinga 

Death of Stalin (Movie)
During the credits, the lady in front of me turned around and said I had a wonderful laugh. That's because I couldn't stop laughing. The movie was hilarious. I highly recommended it in combination with the book "A Gentleman in Moscow." 

Kudos to Tyler for suggesting "How To Think Like An Anthropologist" and Megan for helping me hone and communicate my ideas.