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. Some samples:
Zak Klauck: “Over the course of 100 days, I made a poster each day in one minute. The posters were based on one word or short phrase collected from 100 different people. Anyone and everyone was invited to contribute.” The perfect exercise for a graphic designer.
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.
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.
Thompson describes the project at 15 minutes into the podcast:
I wanted a project that they could really sink their teeth into, completely wrap their head around and by the end of the semester, fully explain and articulate every design decision that they made. So, the OS project actually starts in Intermediate Interactive, it’s the last project in that class and it’s a five week long project where all they do is they design a universal operating system for smart-phones, tablets, desktops and laptops and video game consoles.
They effectively invent this concept and they use Photoshop and Illustrator to design the user interfaces for all of them.There are some specific caveats on what screens I want to see. Then they put all of that work into a presentation and we present it at the Youngstown Business Incubator. And we also globally live-stream those presentations so I really put the pressure on the students to excel here.
Here’s the live stream where students present their concepts (static mockups):
That’s only the first part. The project goes on:
They have to create a few different prototypes of their OS project. So generally, students create what I call a non-controlled walk-through. So they use Adobe Animate and they use the work that they had done previously with the OS project and they create a non-controlled walk-through of their operating systems, so boot up, type in your log-in, welcome screen loads, desktop loads, open a program, articulate a task in that program, close it and then shut down the OS. That’s the whole sequence and it could take a minute, it could take five minutes; it’s really up to student and what their narrative is.
Some of the non-controlled walk-throughs
The next step:
The non-controlled walk through leads to a controllable walk-through where we use Adobe XD and in some cases we use InVision. I leave that up to the students to determine which tool is best for them, but effectively they create a clickable walk-through, so we sit people down in front of an operating…an OS project and say, OK, here’s your task: you need to turn it on, log in, open a program, close the program and then close the OS. So, we bring in people to test.
An assignment found in a 1981 program of the Communication Design course, by Hans-Ulrich Allemann, at Philadelphia College of Art:
A kinetic exercise assignment of minimum five, maximum ten steps, for a Television station identification, using the existing Public Broadcasting System logo with a number twelve, the number of the Philadephia TV channel (1st-semester assignment).