Andy Loewy, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design | University of Louisiana, Lafayette
It is important for a design teacher to engage the students. Without a student’s sense of ownership, the activity of learning about the design process becomes a formidable, if not an impossible task. Most product designers are part inventor and are therefore involved with discovering new ideas. The act of discovery is in its very nature a thrilling experience. The exercise of finding an innovative solution to a design problem is an excellent way of initiating a design project and capturing a student’s enthusiasm.
The proposed project begins with discussions about innovation. Historical examples illustrate the process of innovative thinking. Readings about individual successes and failures throughout the history of Industrial Design are introduced to the class. Examples of products that illustrate design insights, often taken for granted, are used as teaching tools. Addressing user concerns and problems in relation to products becomes a major vehicle to uncovering innovative ideas. The teacher assigns a project appropriate in scope, so that the project not only has a degree of commonality, but also has the potential of carrying diverse interpretation.
Research is the starting point. Students are asked to interview and observe the users and collect information that establishes particular user problems. Brainstorming in groups can be a very beneficial method for students to consider a range of solutions to the user problem they have identified.
It is important for students to realize that a new idea doesn’t necessarily make for good design. It should be made clear to the students that after finding a good innovative idea, the work has really just begun. It has become increasingly evident to the author that the sense of ownership and excitement of design innovation feeds a designer with energy and enthusiasm and therefore is a very important part of the recipe for creating outstanding design.