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LEVERAGING VOICES FROM WITHIN THE COMMUNITY INTO PLAYFUL EXPERIENCES AND AWARENESS. CROSS DISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION BETWEEN STUDENTS OF DESIGN AND MIDDLE SCHOOLERS TO CREATE PUBLIC ART INSTALLATIONS

M. Feil, M. Zingoni

Arizona State University (UNITED STATES)
Design is generally taught both in theory and practice. Lecture based courses provide the learners with a broad conceptual understanding of theory, history, and methods of practice relevant to their dedicated fields. Design studios offer students in design the opportunity to translate theoretical knowledge into practice by creating tangible artifacts under the close mentorship of instructors. Based on skill level and experience, the scope of each design studio progressively increases in difficulty and challenges year by year. At the beginning of this path, students are tasked to tackle simple, or partial, aspects of mostly singular nature. Toward the end of their undergraduate experience, or by entering graduate school, the have risen towards addressing a multitude of complex problems at the intersection of people, technology, and work. More specifically, by rising up Klaus Krippendorff’s Trajectory of Artificiality, the aspiring designers gradually expand the scope of their conducted projects starting with simple aesthetics (products) towards user behaviors and interactions (interfaces), and ultimately enter the realm of projects for social viability to shape discourses for establishing broader impact through public awareness (Krippendorff, 2006).

Despite best efforts by instructors, the students’ work conducted in design studios often falls short of the potential that embedded academic settings should provide; it remains presumptive, artificial, hypothetical, and detached from opportunities to provide real impact to the world. It is therefore critical for the faculty to shape the conditions of the studio experience to leverage relevancy and influence on the outside world as one of the paramount scopes of the learning experience. This expanded vision affords new didactic strategies to nurture the students’ path of discovery and towards creation of meaningful concepts beyond the proverbial creation of castles in a sandbox.

This paper reflects on the recently concluded cross-disciplinary collaboration between graduate students of interior architecture and undergraduate industrial design students and their respective studio faculty. A grant provided by the City of Scottsdale Arts Commission facilitated unique access to 7th and 8th graders at one of the city’s most culturally diverse middle schools, situated in a low-income neighborhood.

This synergetic collaboration puts the spotlight on enabling the voices of the community through the creation of interactive installations for public awareness and impact analog to Krippendorff’s trajectory.

At the start of this semester, students of our university were challenged to both design and conduct various forms of engagements with the middle schoolers to research their unique voices on the subject of community and water. Emerging insights led to further opportunities of engagement with the K8 student cohort and pathed the way towards the development of multiple interactive installations to communicate the crowd-sourced voices in a playful fashion.

The 2018 Canal Convergence event, an internationally renowned arts festival along the Scottsdale downtown waterfront, became the public stage for displaying the resulting interactive installation to an audience exceeding 200.000 visitors over the course of 10 days during the month of November 2018.