For the last couple months, we’ve been trying something a little different. Every week, the entire school meets in small groups for something we call “Design and Tell.” Although the name is inspired by the time-honored tradition of your old elementary school’s “Show and Tell” sessions, the reason we do it is anything but childish.
As any professional designer knows (and as our students quickly learn), design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rather, it’s a dialogue, a conversation that takes place without words between the designer(s) and the user.
That’s why we carved out time for a standing meeting every Wednesday night. Students are put into randomized teams to share whatever they’re working on, and get feedback from the group. Doesn’t matter if you’re putting the finishing touches on your client project or learning about wireframes for the first time. Whatever’s going on in your world, Design and Tell is a time to spin around your laptop or take out your sketchbook, and share a little taste of whatever you’re working on, no matter what state it’s in.
There are so, so many reasons we feel this is important for the designers in our program, but here are a few we really want to highlight:
There’s so much we do here that can’t be easily labeled right or wrong, black or white, this or that. It’s all about opinions and perspectives. So we make sure there are lots of opportunities for everyone to get a quick take from more than just their instructors or even just the peers in their cohort, but also the students in other cohorts as well.
A Taste of Things to Come
When students start in the Immersion Phase of the program, it can be overwhelming to say the least. That’s because it’s not just being thrown in the deep end, but more like being thrown in three deep ends simultaneously. So it’s awesome that the students from the incoming cohort can see what the more senior group is working on, what their client projects are like, and what it looks and feels like to do real, live client work.
Conversation as Ideation
It’s one thing to do the work, but a whole other thing to be able to talk about it intelligently. But that’s exactly what designers are expected to do every day in the real world. So Design and Tell is a great place to sharpen those presentation skills by sharing out loud a little bit of what you’re working on. To be able to articulate insights about your process, or any of the hundreds of little details or decisions that are part of the final product, is one of the most important skills a designer can have.
For a variety of reasons, although multiple cohorts run concurrently, students typically collaborate the most with peers from within their cohort. So Design and Tell is one of the best ways to get to know the other folks here in the program. And because we’re located in the extremely large (and incredible cool) facility here at 1871, there are lots of things happening all around that don’t involve Designation at all. So Design and Tell is just a great way to get to know everyone else who’s here at the program and undergoing the same experience.
And Oh Yeah, It’s Fun!
And last, let’s not take fun for granted. Seriously. Maintaining a sense of play is so critical to being successful in this industry that can otherwise be very demanding. There’s something undeniably cool about just checking in with a group of your peers, asking what they’re working on, and seeing all the amazing work (for clients or otherwise) everyone else is doing!