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What does “Good” mean?

Some people (designer types mostly) call the carpets of Las Vegas “gaudy” or “eye sores”, while others describe them as “beautiful” and “lively”. Las Vegas businesses strike a great symbiosis between users’ aesthetic desires and a business’ need to disguise spills and other stain laden mishaps that might happen in a place like Las Vegas.

In my third week teaching at SVA Products of Design, I wanted the students to start fielding the challenges involved in communicating intent. We discussed how for every word that might describe where you intend to go, there will be a word that you should in-turn be walking away from directionally.

Several images of bright and abstract carpets with a label reading Good is Subjective.

Example: Let’s say you state that your intent is to “Create a System of Products” by doing so you are also identifying that this is walking away from the idea of just doing one individual product.

These language based decisions can fundamentally change the way we spend our energy, because by committing to a direction we can use language as a litmus test for discerning worthy pursuits that will get us to our goal from the distractions that will make us ever further from reaching our goal.

Have you moved away or towards the goal since last semester?

Continuum chart scaling from 5 to 0 to 5. Triangular mark labeled today on the left 2, triangular mark labeled Defense on 0, and a triangular mark labeled intent on the right 2.

The first step was having each student work through a set of performance continuums to visualize the directions they could go and how far they intend to go in the next 12 weeks.

Once continuum ideas were brainstormed in small groups about each person’s project, we broke into silent reflection. Each student was asked to choose 2-3 continuums to visualize their intent for their thesis work. They were then asked to rate their work this semester compared to where they felt they were at their defense presentations in December. It was heartening to have several of them tell themselves that they have been going backwards. Easier than me telling them.

Opinions are like….

The hardest thing I will continue to grapple with as a teacher of this class is holding back my opinions, of which I have many. I have already let one or two slip, and learned a lot about myself in the process. I think that whatever the subject matter, thesis work is dependent on the student surpassing the teacher in terms of their knowledge of a vertical, context or circumstance. They already know more then I ever will about the work that they are doing. I have to get ok with that, as do they.

Devil’s Advocate NOT Nay Sayer

It is not my job to tell these students what to do. I am not their manager. I am not their parent. What I am is their devil’s advocate. I play the part of the overly expectant and judgmental world that in 12 short weeks will be their stage. I am there to ask them questions and to encourage them to talk about their work with other humans.

Mostly I am there to make sure no one is making shit up in week 15.

Thanks as always for reading.

p.s for those interested in hearing even more about developing performance continuums, my colleague Dan Klyn has you covered with his awesome UIE session