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briefs

six pages of a fake journal

An assignment described by student Dan Saffer at CMU in November 2004:

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.

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briefs

Intermorphable Alphabet

An assignment by Golan Levin in his Introduction to Interactive Graphics course at CMU. Described in 2004 by student Dan Saffer in the following terms:

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.

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briefs

A Place You’ve Never Visited

Another assignment described by then-student Dan Saffer on his blog, on October 3 2004:

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.

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briefs

Onomatopoeia Poster

A brief from CMU, described in 2004 by Dan Saffer:

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.

Dans Saffer, November 16, 2004
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ideas

The 1000 Floor Elevator

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.

In 2011, William Clark published his version on his Behance profile, mentioning that “This was our first challenge in CCA’s Intro to IxD class”.

In 2015, designer Kristine Yuen shows the results in her portfolio. This is her description of the assignment:

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.

Further reading

Some articles on this design challenge:

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briefs

Role playing panel sessions

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.

Some of the session topics invented by Maeda:

  • Static, Physical, and Hyper-real
  • One shot performance vs. Continuum
  • Coding vs. Caching
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ideas

Interactive Video

Students will have to create an interactive video narrative, using the online tool Eko Studio.

They have to develop a storyboard with some branching narratives, shoot it, and edit it with the online tool.

Possible topics:

  • Exploration of different (famous or hidden) locations in their city.
  • Micro-decisions during an ordinary day in their life.

Original inspiration of this brief: an interactive video ad created by ImaginaStudio, Lausanne, and reported by CominMag.

Documentation:

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briefs

Operating System Project

An assignment by R.J. Thompson, discovered while listening to episode 51 of the DesignEduToday podcast. This project fills an entire semester in Graphic & Interactive Design at Youngstown State University.

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):

The Live Stream of the 2016 presentation

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.

Ometsys OS Controlled Walkthrough

Links

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briefs

Kinetic exercise for public broadcasting

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).

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briefs

Motion Design Poetry

A motion design assignment by Chris Pullman, published in 2014 on his website, given at the Graphic Design Masters Program at Yale.

One of the projects I assign, near the end of the semester, involves the visualization of poetry. I offer my students four or five audio files of poets reading their own poems. I ask them to listen to them all, then select one to work with.

He points out the objective of this assigment:

The objective is to shift the designer’s thinking from “composition” (getting all the elements into just the right spot and freezing them) to “choreography” (planning the path and behavior of multiple elements within the same time space).

Two examples are published on his website.