This semester I taught two new courses that I developed for our new Digital Fabrication and Design program. I had spent a bit of time during my sabbatical year trying to determine what the content of the courses would be, but had really only focussed on the course sequence for the program rather than goals, objectives, and content (this happens to be an issue with administration where they want the cart to happen before the horse- they ask for program first, then course sequence and then detailed syllabus). I just didn't really want to feel obligated to figure out all of the content during my year off; even though I probably should have. This meant that this new semester was really busy with me figuring out what content to cover.
I taught a Design for Digital Fabrication course that is one of the beginning courses for the Digital Fabrication and Design program as well as the follow-up course called Intro to Industrial Craft. In Intro to Industrial Craft I decided to focus on the students learning hand skills via industrial processes and using these to create functional objects. Although the students would be learning manual machining, basic cutting and grinding of aluminum, stainless steel, and various composites, it was my hope that I could train students to utilize digital processes to assist them in the ideation phase. I'm a firm believer that sketching and sampling is the key to design progression and that this constant "testing through model making" is what helps a design develop. In the first part of the class I stressed traditional drawing and the use of Illustrator or Rhino 2D drawing techniques to be able to create laser cut chipboard models. In the first four weeks we discussed a lot about making the transition from paper sketch to digital 2D drawing (outlines only/ nothing 3D) and how this could be used for making vinyl stencils for layout, etching on aluminum, or chipboard stencils that could be used for roller printing. We covered aluminum etching with non toxic etching solutions, layout, measuring, cutting, drilling, grinding and anodizing and dyeing aluminum as well.
Then students received their assignment for creating a set of flatware that would incorporate some of the techniques. Again I stressed the use of model making and how digital processes now allow us to "sketch in 3D". The use of digital technology allows students to present and test tons and tons of ideas, and by making models it also forces students to plan a bit more and figure out details that they wouldn't figure out if they were just working in a virtual design space or "making on the fly". The understanding of traditional techniques, materials, and process and the impact that these things have upon design and function are also imperative. I always felt this hybrid practice and understanding was missing from my experiences in art/design school as well as "the real world", when it came to designers talking to engineers, and engineers talking to fabricators. From my experience, there were always gaps and lack of understanding between these groups of people. It is my hope that my students will come out of school with an understanding and respect for the entire process and will be able to make the connections between these distinct areas of creation. I also hope this will allow them to design with production and function in mind.
Sorry for the long rant, I really just intended to post some model pics from my class. Anyway, the students this semester had to make refined models before starting work on the metal flatware. I usually don't document these models, but I thought it might be nice to do it this year as it's really cool to see the translation from model to final object. Look for the metal pieces to be posted soon...