The final project and presentation in this course are designed to facilitate independent research in contemporary design and design theory. Your goal will be to consider the theories discussed in class, and the contexts in which they emerged, then locate current design projects created within the framework established by these theories. The findings from this research will be shared with the class through a visual display and presentation.

Your research should explore the relationship between specific theories and the contemporary design that puts these theories into practice. Whether you begin with a particular writing or idea that you found compelling, or with an innovative, resonant design project, the objective is to draw connections between the two.

The design work that you address should be a project completed in the past 40 years, with a definite form and scope. You do not need to limit your research to a singular work, but it is not an examination of a designer’s full career. For example, “the work of Paula Scher” is far too broad. “Paula Scher’s environmental design” is a better topic, but should still be more exact. “Paula Scher’s brand identity campaign for the Public Theatre, from 1993 to 2004” or “Paula Scher’s environmental design for NJPAC” are both excellent premises.  

The theory that you apply can begin with one of our assigned readings, but should branch out to include related or derivative ideas and texts. Keeping with the “environmental design for NJPAC” example, you might explore the influence of Rodchenko’s manifesto, “Who We Are…,” on Scher’s conceptual approach and formal aesthetics. This is a good starting point, which opens the discussion to a wide range of possibilities; Rodchenko was a prolific writer who wrote many more texts; designer-writers such as Moholy-Nagy, Vladimir Tatlin or Sergei Eisenstein expanded Rodchenko’s ideas in new directions which are also relevant to Scher’s work; and Scher herself has written about and discussed the ways in which she applies Constructivist ideas to her own work. All of these should be considered. Or you might connect seemingly unrelated ideas; perhaps McLuhan’s media theory helps to identify ways in which Scher’s all-over graphics use Constructivist ideals to convey her message through the medium of architecture. 

From here you might develop a new theory, such as “Paula Scher utilizes Neo-Constructivist design strategies to reinvent the expressive potential of existing media.” Using the example of NJPAC to demonstrate this theory would make for an excellent presentation.

Research to this end should be conducted in a rigorous manner, as if completing a 10-12 page paper. In addition to assigned readings, you must cite at least 10 sources, including proper citation information and a bibliography in MLA format. You will submit your bibliography, along with a digital file containing your poster to our OpenLab site prior to the 14th class session on May 17.

Poster / Slide Deck
Instead of typing a research paper, the results of your investigation will be presented as an academic Poster Session. This format is well-suited for our purposes in that it allows you to present ideas and findings in a visually stimulating manner, while also provoking new discussions. 

Poster Sessions are commonly held in academic conferences, where recent research findings or studies-in-progress are presented, typically for a relatively small group of peers and colleagues. Information is generally presented as a network or web with different strains of thought branching out from one another, or in a linear progression from a starting point to a final outcome. The former often appears much like the outline for a paper, while the latter can be a sequence of presentation slides. Either of these approaches are fine for our purposes, as are combinations or derivations of the two.

As design students, you will be expected to create visually appealing posters or slide shows. Information should be organized clearly and succinctly, in a style evocative of the designs and ideas under consideration. Though the visuals are ostensibly an aid to your presentation, they should be interesting and engaging in their own right. 

The traditional format for a poster is exactly that – a large sheet of paper displaying information. Obviously distancing-learning has rendered this presentation format an impossibility, for both our class and for academia as a whole. Yet research continues around the world, and like those attending conferences online, we will adapt to our current environment.  

As designers, we must not only respond to this environment, but re-write some of the rules. This presentation should present an opportunity to explore the limits of visual representation in the online classroom. You could do this with an interesting slide deck. Or you could hold printed graphics in front of the camera. You might record a short video, experiment with a flow chart in Prezi, or create a simple interactive website. These sorts of ambitious visual aids can be powerful tools for delivering your message. 

You will be responsible for assembling and delivering a 10-15 minute presentation, during which you will present your topic, aided by your visual. You should consider the ways in which you will navigate information to outline your topic in a compelling, engaging manner. Again, this may need to be responsive to the online format of the presentation.

Every presentation will be followed by at least 5 minutes of Q&A. Presenters should invite conversation, and spectators should not be passive. Your grade for the presentation will be determined by the quality of your own presentation as well as your participation in every discussion.

Presentations will take place during our final three class sessions on May 10, May 17, and May 24. All are required to have their poster completed, and presentations ready, prior to class on May 17. Those who present on May 10 will be graded with preferential status.

You will be required to post versions of your presentation and bibliography to OpenLab in the weeks leading up to the final poster sessions.

– Visuals should present clear, coherent information, in a logically organized manner.
– Viewers should be able to readily identify your research questions, your method of inquiry, the literature employed, and your overarching thesis.
– It should be clear that original research has led to a synthesis unique to your subject.
– Your visuals should be neat and professional, utilizing design standards consistent with the topic at hand.
– Relevant images should be carefully selected and placed within your layout, with considerations made for reproduction quality.
– Organization and care in assembly will be taken into consideration.
– Presentations should be equally clear, with ideas confidently articulated.
– Presentations should be rehearsed, and should adhere to a planned narrative or script
– Pace and diction should be stimulating for your peers, offering information in a manner that can be grasped and processed in a thought-provoking manner.
– Presenters should pose questions intended to engage viewers with the ideas presented.
Viewers should ask questions that challenge assertions in a productive manner, inviting the possibility for further research or for applying theories in additional contexts.

We’ll begin discussing ideas for research topics in class on April 12. You will be expected to have some ideas for the project to share with the class on that day.