From the Rhode Island – Discussion 8

In the rare moments of contemplation, I am sure all of us must have wondered at the sheer incredulity of the fact that the wonderful abundance around us arose from a single living cell. It is most humbling to realize that the tiniest blade of grass to the loftiest tree holds within, a part of you and me.

Design, i am inclined to believe is but, an extension of the laws of nature.  It was hence, a captivating session that showcased the beginning point of design as, Shruti presented before us the work completed in the course of her first 3 months at the Rhode Island School of Design.  The initial semester that would empower the students to decide the tributaries of design that they would like to specialize in.

The course of her study was structured around three studios – Design , Spatial dynamics and drawing. The design class included a 4 week long exercise that challenged the students to analyze any set of data and provide a graphical representation to it.  While a student chose to list the Oscar winners in the time span of the last 20 years with an interactive, computerized system, another chose to graphically create connections that would enable an observer to understand the number of rapes and murders in the different states in the  US.  Yet another student decided to “map the insanity” of her hometown creating  interesting patterns which would allow the user to understand the ratio of mentally deranged people to the normal population and trace the increase in it over the years.  Shruti had created a 3 dimensional tool that showed the differences in land area , population and  population density in various countries.

She described the system as being thought-based, and not grade-based. The main emphasis of the design studio being the critique sessions where each student is reviewed by his peers as well as the professors and offered suggestions to improve her design.  The process of design hence flows seamlessly, adapting and innovating.

This was evident in next project that shruti chose to describe, which was to create self-portrait sculpture out of chipboard and gluetgun – the challenge being the limited primary shapes that were allowed for experimentation . The result was a variety of sculptures, some abstract, while some, she said vaguely resembled their creators.

The next project in this short period was to create a body-suit sculpture that had to be inspired from the work of an architect or a sculptor with either a movable part of an element of surprise. This exercise was a delight to watch as the students provided a myriad of options.  One chose to create interesting shadows with the projectors while she wore her net-and wire body suit that reminded one of the lashing waves, inspired by a sculpture by Naum Gabo.  Yet another chose to be inspired from a sculptural water tank in his hometown creating a spherical suit that lit up with a tiny in-built projector. There was a Gaudi-inspired sculpture and one inspired by calatrava…and one that almost literally depicted the Bird’s nest in Beijing.

It is indeed a baby step towards the world of design where almost everything is an abstraction.  It was interesting that a time period of 4 weeks was provided for each project, which allowed a lot of flexibility and allowed experimentation unlike our schools where we rush to fit in maximum projects into limited time afforded by semesters.

Shruti also provided us a glimpse of work from her art class, where she experimented with charcoal. Drawings with eyes closed, on water and on themes that the students fancied – merely looking at the sketches filed me with the sense of freedom that they carried.

It was interesting to understand the way the design system works in other countries, and it is high time that we opened our eyes and our education systems to the world of new possibilities.

Shruti had not decided on the discipline that she was to chose.. .but then again , the branches of design are as accidental as the permutation and combination of molecules that created a rabbit , an elephant or you. .

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