Aesthetics of Design is a course being developed at the University of Colorado Boulder by me, Prof. Jean Hertzberg (and thanks to Jiffer Harriman and Hunter Ewen, who co-taught with me the first time in May 2014). Grad and undergrad students from our Mechanical Engineering program, plus students from TAM and other programs will design and build artifacts with an aesthetic component, possibly useless things for art’s sake. Not your typical functional time-and-money oriented engineering project course, and not a traditional ‘industrial design’ product-oriented course either.
This blog will be co-created by the students as they document their progress each semester. I’m hoping that this will also be a forum for discussions and a place to share and browse for ideas at the intersection of art and engineering.
The course goal is to change students’ perception of design in the world around them via a creative aesthetic experience. This goal is inspired by another course I created (in 2003), Flow Visualization. Students make aesthetic images of gases and liquids, accompanied by short reports describing the fluid physics. I began hearing from students about how the course changed the way they look at the world, how they notice fluids everywhere, and enjoy doing so. Twelve proposals and one NSF grant later, I can recognize that these students have had a ‘transformative experience’, including expanded perception (they notice fluids), motivated use (of what they learned in the course), and affective value ( they like fluids) . I want this for all our students, in all our courses. Aesthetics of Design is designed to promote a transformative experience in design. Yes, it gets a bit meta. But like fluids, design is all around us, and any engineer will benefit from expanded perception, motivated use and affective value with respect to design. For example, I am taking a design-based approach to creating this course. However, there is no prescription for triggering a transformative experience; we are only starting to figure out what educational practices might create a fertile environment for them. In this course we will explore whether aesthetics plays a role.