An assignment by David Reinfurt, from his Advanced Graphic Design at Princeton University. Reinfurt describes this assignment in the liner notes for an exhibition of student work, held at Hurley Gallery, Lewis Arts complex, in 2017:
The assignment is simple and lasts the full semester — design a new face for the apple watch which tells the time, and (by design) also changes the way you *read* the time. Simple, no? The students begin by considering, with a broad historical scope, how the representation of time affects the ways we understand it and use it.
For the past five years, I’ve taught a workshop for the graduate graphic design students at the Yale School of Art. The specific dates always change, but the basic assignment goes something like this:
Beginning Thursday, October 21, 2010, do a design operation that you are capable of repeating every day. Do it every day between today and up to and including Friday, January 28, 2011, the last day of the project, by which time you will have done the operation one hundred times. That afternoon, each student will have up to 15 minutes to present his or her one-hundred part project to the class.
The only restrictions on the operation you choose is that it must be repeated in some form every day, and that every iteration must be documented for eventual presentation. The medium is open, as is the final form of the presentation on the 100th day.
In the article, Bierut shares some of the most amazing outcomes.
Our first assignment is to set an assigned quote in 10pt. Frutiger (one weight only) in a 7″ square, horizontal type only. In at least 10 variations.
Strangely enough, my quote is from the Tao Te Ching, a book I have sitting on my desk beside all my design books. The passage I have to set begins, “A great square has no corners.” But just before that is a passage I am thinking about now, here in school:
The Way’s brightness looks like darkness; Advancing on the Way feels like retreating; the plain Way seems like hard going.
Journal Layout. For Graduate Typography, designing and laying out six pages of a fake journal. We got to choose the content, so mine is a literary journal whose theme is “20 Years of Don DeLillo’s White Noise.”
In an update on December 2004, Dan shares his work:
Above is an image from my final typography project: two spreads and the front and back cover of a fake literary/arts journal called Cadence. I chose the 20th anniversary of White Noise, Don DeLillo’s National Book Award-winning novel, as my subject matter.
The project was to come up with a “font” in which any letter can morph into any other letter. Mine is a “block and bubbles” alphabet, composed of bubbles inside blocks that move around. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get the bubbles to break out of the blocks while moving, but I never got it to work right.
We’ll be creating a poster about a place we’ve never visited. It can be a real or imaginary place.
The poster is supposed to be very impressionistic. That is, we’re not to get images of the actual place, but instead gather images and words about the texture, smell, architecture, and culture of the place. How we imagine it to be.
I’ve chosen a place I’ve always wanted to visit but have never gotten around to it: Iceland.
It’s a multi-tiered project that just starts with creating a type treatment of an onomatopoetic word in a 20″x20″ square. Words like “wow” or “hiss” or “plop.” My word, if the title of this post hasn’t already given it away: booYAH!
Dan Saffer, September 24, 2004
To recap, this poster involved combining an onomatopoetic word (pop, wow, zap) with another word and an image. The three things together were supposed to make some sort of statement. Mine is, not surprisingly, political.
The “The 1,000 Floor Elevator” is an infamous Interview Design Challenge by Google: “How do you design an interface for a 1000 floors elevator?”.
How do you design an interface for a 1000 floors elevator?
As a 2005 student assignment at CMU
The question has also made appearances in design curricula. Dan Saffer included it among a series of simple, foundational exercises “Five Easy Pieces” at the start of his 2005 Visual Interface Design class (at CMU). This is how he formulates the exercise:
Design an elevator for a building with 1000 floors. Not an elevator system, a single elevator that can travel from the ground floor to the 1000th floor. I expect you to address at least the following: – How a user selects a floor – How the floors are displayed to those in the elevator Your solution should be printed out and mounted on thick black paper for presentation. [Courtesy John Zimmerman]
As a student assignment at CCA
Other iterations of this assignment were given at CCA (California College of the Arts) as part of IxD Studio Foundations.
Over the course of 1 week, we had a design challenge to come up with an elevator interface that services 1000 floors in a building. The prompt states that the building is for mixed retail, commercial and residential inhabitants. Additionally, we must consider how a rider selects a floor, how progress and floors are displayed, and how to access a secure floor. Given this was my first assignment in the program, I learned a lot more about how interaction models work together in an ecosystem.
Another experiment by John Maeda, carried it out in 1996 (his first year of teaching computational design at the MIT Media Lab). Described in his book Creative Code (2004, p. 217):
I always wonder what a session with a panel of experts at a conference achieves. Having been on many and hosted a faire share of them, I decided to put students on the spot by making them experts in an impromptu schedule of panels. This role-playing activity forced students to contribute their own perspectives.