Is the Aesthetics of Design course right for you?

This is the letter I’ve been sending to students, both enrolled and waitlisted. The idea is to clarify expectations.

Thanks for signing up for the Aesthetics in Design course. I’m writing to give you a bit more information about the course, and get you thinking about your design project for the course. An updated flyer describing the course is attached.

You might have already gotten this letter, but there are new folks registered, so I’m sending it again.

This is an experimental course. We will be studying how to improve the course for the future as well as its effect on you, so you will be asked to participate in surveys and interviews, and have your work published. If this is going to make you uncomfortable, this might not be the best course for you.

Its experimental nature also means that the content and structure of the course may change somewhat as we go along. Again, if this is going to make you uncomfortable, please reconsider. On the other hand, we will be very open to student input. Consider this a design process that you will be able to influence.

You will be placed on teams of three. You will have ownership of one design, and your teammates will help you with it. In return, you will help them with their projects. This is a resource-sharing arrangment, very different from traditional team projects where everybody shares ownership and gets the same credit. Here, you are the manager/auteur/artist, and you manage your resources, including your teammates’ labor. Then you labor for them. You will not be able to choose your teammates; we will use CATME (catme.org) to assemble the teams to distribute resources and skills. You’ll also have access to the resources of the ITLL and the Idea Forge, including the machine shops, electronics shops and access to technician advice.

This course will provide a venue to display your design work and process, to highlight your skills as a creative engineer and/or artist. You will be expected to document your progress on the class website, AesDes.Org, so if you are planning to create something that you want to keep proprietary, this course is not for you.

There will be no textbook required for the course, but you will be expected to contribute $125 towards any materials needed for your project.

Another unusual aspect of the course is that while you will get ongoing feedback about your progress, it won’t be in the form of points to be accumulated towards a grade. Instead we will use in-class critiques and written reviews. You’ll learn to both give and take constructive feedback in public. If you need a concrete grading structure, this course might not be for you.

On the positive side, this course is likely going to be a wonderful experience.

I’d like you to start thinking about what your main project will be designed to do. The only requirement is that it be a dynamic artifact; i.e. not static. It could be interactive with the environment or with people, but it could also just be changing on its own. It could serve a purpose, or just make an artistic or aesthetic statement. You’ll need to think about the scope of the project, based on the resources described to you.

Think about your goals, and what you would like to have at the end of the course.

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