Students projects, and going back to school

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As an art and design teacher at a 6th form college I teach my students a way of working through a project, and they often argue that it is pointless, that they should just work on a finished “perfect” idea, and not have to explore all the different ideas, materials and techniques we make them do.
my main question, or issue is why creative people don’t want to explore and experiment with new materials, and what impact this perfectionist, non experimental, focus on achieving a qualification (over producing work they are interested or inspired by) approach to learning will have on the future of art and society. What is this idea they have of a certain type of finished outcome, all neat and precise, but very rarely new, or challenging, or exciting. They want to pass the course, not develop ideas and projects, it feels like something has been lost, about trying things out, and making mistakes. It all seems very serious.

We teach them all these different things, because it is part of the course, but more importantly, so they have a massive arsenal off tools to make work with, as well as a developed and sophisticated visual language. But I struggle with whether I am right, is it wasting their time to try things they don’t enjoy, or feel makes “good art”, or have they been programmed to create manicured art with no substance.

Is the way I teach through a project actually productive? To answer this, I am doing their latest project at the same time as them. It is a graphic design project, based on “life cycles”, with the final outcome being a leaflet of a set size, with some specific format requirements.
So here is the start of the project! Lets see what I come up with!

The process:
1) INITIAL STAGE: Explore the question, and possible subjects . Select a couple to explore further (using words and images). Select on to develop (further investigation into words and images)

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2) RESEARCH STAGE: Look at a range of artists, designers and styles to give inspiration

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3) DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE: develop ideas and get initial visual responses. Develop these using different materials and processes

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4) APPLICATION STAGE: Define final outcome. Make final outcome

5) REFLECTION STAGE: Evaluate project

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One Comment Add yours

  1. thoughtmuch says:

    I think you’re not alone in finding that some students prefer to take the shortcut, to produce design that seems to be predictable, lacks depth in conceptual thinking or follows the trend. It’s easier. Perhaps the economic slump and mainstream mindset that grades are everything might be contributing factors to their focus on grades. When I was in college pursuing a design course, I too have been exposed to a similar design process you have shared. I have seen classmates jumping into the first idea that comes to mind, some even skip the whole process to execution and do the sketchbook afterwards. I think it all depends on how much an individual wants to learn and grow as a designer. A design needs to first have a good concept followed by an execution that does justice to the work, that requires experience too. Whereas cookie cutter design that is beauty beyond skin deep might still bring in the bread and butter, but spoils the market into thinking design is simple sans the hardwork and is less satisfying.

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