Fellow Faculty, CO-LAB has an embedded mission to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary design education through relevant, critical inquiry and self-aware students. Below are a few ideas, however please email me with any other workshop/lecture requests.
Workshop 1: Wicked Invention
What makes a problem “wicked,” and what elements do their solutions share? Answering the first—building the world—will give a framework for devising a wicked problem of your own, while collaborative work will give structure to the proposals. Throughout the process, groups will use a together, mono, together, mono alternating process to take advantage of peer perspectives, while allowing room for individual (fringe) exploration away from the group. Some ballpark prompts and a few process crits will help move the projects forward.
Part 1: As a group, devise a wicked problem for the other group to solve. Spend some time researching wicked problems in general, and choose a roughly defined area of interest. Then start narrowing the parameters before coming together as a group to solidify a direction. The prompt can be in the future, present, or past; it can be an extremely local or personal issue, local manifestation of a broader issue, a global concern, or anything in between. It can be wildly hypothetical or extremely grounded. As the issue comes into shape, separate again and start to define “The World” or the problem. What background, information, and elements does the receiving group need to have defined in order to build a solution? Detail, references, and research are key. As a group, finalize the problem and prepare to to hand it off.
Crit 1: Problems will be pitched to everyone, with their worlds interrogated and parameters noted. Groups need to ask relevant questions in order to make sure their “brief” is complete.
Part 2: As a group, establish some initial directions. What resources or research or references would be applicable? What areas of interest or expertise are available? Most importantly, how will the group move forward in building solutions? Separate (or not) and tackle tasks, answer questions, and explore ideas. Establish proposals of directions and next steps. Then return to the group and start to build out the group proposal. This design challenge creates more depth to the world of the wicked problem, while not limiting the solution to One Answer, and merely defining the container of Some Answers. Individually, team members should start working toward their own solution, or piece of the puzzle, which can range from entirely theoretical to resolved production of a design object.
Crit 2: These new worlds / research / solutions will be presented, with feedback and questions from everyone as a whole. Individual design components will be pitched at whatever level of completeness they are at, to be finished afterward if necessary.
Workshop 2: New School
If you could design an American University from scratch, what would you do? What makes for a good faculty/instruction model, and what needs to happen to acquire the necessary people? What administrative structure would work well? Think about your own undergraduate experience and what elements were helpful or detrimental to your work and goals. What marks a “successful” life for yourself, and what do you need to do/learn/experience to achieve it? How would it be funded, and how would it be competitive? What does the world need from contemporary education? If you could speak to Congress, what education-based initiatives would you push? Culturally, what needs to shift for your plan to be successful? What makes for good students/peers, and how do you acquire them? How do you properly equip new students for your school?
Design is shifting away from a purely product/object/making discipline, to a more idea-based discipline, with Design Thinking spreading through multiple fields and Design acquiring a larger cultural footprint. Meanwhile, the ’90s arms race in education—and traditional degree structures in general—have boomed and busted. Even the future of “work” as a concept is being questioned, as robots replace more and more jobs. Pull the threads together and build the university you want/need.
Part 1: Individually, build a rough sketch of how you would improve your own university experience, tackling major topics like Programs, Faculty, Administration, and Facilities. Start mapping out areas to research for your proposal, and new objectives for education.
Crit 1: Quickly pitch your thoughts to the group. Together, decide on the quantity and makeup of groups going forward, then divide tasks and conquer.
Part 2: Research will be imperative as individuals tackle their aspects of the school, while moving toward proposals for the group. Pay special attention to how the various aspects of the proposal will overlap.
Crit 2: Within the groups, start to congeal the various aspects of the university proposal, draft a loose manifesto, and assign the next tasks leading to a full-proposal for a new school. Devise your own schedule for meeting.
Part 3: The group should be able to clearly articulate what makes their proposal specific, as well as the hierarchy and distribution of tasks in fully fleshing out the plan. Individually or in teams, the group should acquire the research, visualizations, and organizational structure of the school. While developing a proposal at complete detail level (including all aspects of funding, location, and construction) is unrealistic, prioritizing certain aspects will impact how the proposal is received.
Crit 3: Groups pitch their university proposals to each other. Questions should focus on undefined components, as well as clashes in priorities and ideology. Synthesize lists of how the proposals are similar and different.
Workshop 3: Startup
As the agency model shrinks, designers are finding opportunities in small startups, either as design-specific studios or attached in-house to a product/service. If you were to launch or contribute to a startup, what would it be? Is it a side gig or your day job? Are you the designer on a team, or is the entity a design shop? What makes it different from a traditional studio or agency? Underneath it all, what do you really want to do? Who would you hire or invite?
Part 1: Do some research and self-investigation to determine some general avenues and approaches, before settling on a product, service, or focus. Without getting into details regarding name and funding and structure, map out what makes this startup unique.
Crit 1: Pitch the startup concept to the group, including any rough research and a guess at how many people you would need on the team (at least two, and no more than ten), though don’t assign specific tasks beyond a general logic. Members of the group will vote for their preferred startups, and groups will be formed based on interest and overlap.
Part 2: Each team needs to develop a map for future steps, tasks, and research. The inventor of the startup is not a CEO, and every element about the nature of the startup is on the table. As a group, the team decides how to proceed so the startup can cohere and a pitch can be developed to secure funding. What makes the startup different? What needs to happen for it to launch?
Crit 2: Startup proposals are presented to the group as finished organizations ready to secure funding. As a group, spec out areas that are unclearly defined or overlap existing organizations. While shared DNA is not a deal-breaker, it needs to be recognized. What would you want to know about the startup as a prospective investor, or prospective Kickstarter?