Assistant Professor Aaron Ganci and Associate Professor Youngbok Hong recently traveled to Finland to presented findings about the senior capstone course in Visual Communication Design they team-teach at Herron. They made their remarks during the NordDesign 2014 conference at Aalto University in Helsinki. Their scholarly trip was made possible by Herron Travel grants.
The central theme of the conference was innovation, said Hong. “In the area of innovation, design and product development, we quite often seem to know that something works in practice, but might lack understanding of the theoretical foundations of why. NordDesign 2014 organizers were looking for evidence-based academic work on topical issues of design, development and innovation to strengthen both our theoretical understanding and the connection between theory and practice.”
Hong focuses on Service Design and Ganci’s specialty is a subset called Interaction Design. They have identified these two fields as important to moving the design of new products forward and are using their experiences in these fields to design the coursework at Herron.
“Twenty years ago, products were physical objects that were mostly created by engineers, not designers,” Ganci said. “Today, we have a more diverse understanding of a product. It can be software or even a service experience. So this conference was a great place for us to share our ideas on how to prepare design students for 21st century careers in product design.
‘We’re trying to create an experience that better resembles the professional work that Visual Communication Design students might be doing. We recognize that you can’t make objects in isolation anymore,” Ganci said. “We’re predicting that the integration of several tracks into one is where the future of the visual communication design teaching lies. What we shared at this conference was the approach we are taking to help explain our vision of the design profession to our students.”
Ganci said this approach works well at Herron because “we are rooted in design thinking and people-centered design.”
Herron’s Visual Communication Design senior capstone provides a base of knowledge that can be applied to many different types of things a designer might make,” Ganci said. “We ask students to solve problems with a broad, integrated set of solutions, sometimes called touchpoints. We want our students to know how to identify these touchpoints and then design them at a high level.”
“Designers are great at seeing things through the eyes of the user,” he said. “A skilled visual communicator is a an asset when it comes to understanding and documenting an experience in order to improve it.”
In addition to traditional forms of visual communication design, Hong and Ganci believe “experience design is primarily what our students will be doing in the next five to 10 years.”