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K-State Today

September 21, 2016

Day and Orthel publish open access paper on student design process

Submitted by Anne Rubash

Julia Day and Bryan Orthel

In utilizing the forward-thinking open access paper concept, two interior design faculty have published a detailed paper about the role process plays in how students learn to design. The paper, "Process beyond drawing: a case study exploring ideation for teaching design," is available online with Sage Publications.

Julia Day and Bryan Orthel, both assistant professors of interior design in the apparel, textiles, and interior design department, have delved into the core of student design process. They are passionate and adamant that how we design can matter more than what we design. Put another way, they believe that helping students identify their personal design process and how to work within a creative team will better equip students to not only solve the design problems of today, but of the future as well.

The design thinking process is emphasized in all design courses in the interior design program and through "teaching" the process of design, Day and Orthel are providing students with the components to become excellent problem solvers. The components of a strong design process include a limitless ideation cycle in which they encourage students to spend time conceptualizing and thinking through the implications of proposed solutions. Being able to communicate ideas in colleagues and in team design environments also is of the utmost importance. Hand-based communication — drawing and writing — remain vital to successful communication, but, according to Orthel, digital tools cannot be underestimated. Successful students understand their process and realize how they are using tools to communicate their ideas to others.

In their small case study, Day and Orthel observed and documented four-person student design teams assigned to the same design project. The design teams each used their preferred design process, including combining digital work and hand work. The pair watched as the teams utilized graphics and words to communicate ideas. They were able to collect data about how each team interacted, what processes they utilized and what the end result was, be it successfully completing the task or positively communicating ideas and concepts. This small scale study was conducted because Day and Orthel are passionate about how students learn.

Process beyond drawing developed not only from Day and Orthel's research in the classroom, but from foundational research in design thinking and the value of design process that originated in England and Switzerland. Both countries shied away from the historical model of design process as a one-size-fits-all exercise.

Day and Orthel know that in educating strong designers, they are preparing their students to encounter the future's unknown design quandaries with a sound process and problem solving skills.