In my second year type class, I admit (right off the bat) that I can't TELL anyone how to be a designer. But I can impart thinking on the subject, ways to approach the process, and the importance of full life-immersion. Ultimately, being a designer is as much a mode of conduct as it is a way of thinking. Dabbling is fruitless. It becomes EVERYTHING.
In this class, there are a wide array of projects, each one introducing and illustrating the important balance of concept and execution. This past year, for example, students were assigned an LP packaging project. What made the assignment difficult was that the music act was chosen at random and HAD to be executed in the style of a noted designer (who was also chosen at random) who is heavily influenced by the use of grids. My favorite execution is by John Cox.
Another assignment was to design limited edition DVD packaging for one of the following movies: Bladerunner, Paper Moon, Network, Rashomon, Basquiat, or Being There. There were a bunch of great, conceptual, format-reconsidering executions from the class. Here are two, one from Kathryn for Paper Moon, and John's for Network.
One was a project in presenting narrative. Everyone read The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats, which is one of my favorite pieces of writing. Then, in whatever form that came naturally to their concept, they had to marry imagery with the language of the written piece. The imagery had to be an interpretive or photographic representation of commercial packaging. The main thrust being to present the prose in a way that the imagery enhanced the meaning of the words. And, to force the class to search and find poetry in the mundane. Here are a couple I particularly liked, the first by Olena Schmahalo, using photographs of a rubber cement canister. The second is by Kathryn Brylinsky, using incredibly detailed scans of a mailed package from overseas.
In a relatively direct project from early on, students had to use typographic elements ONLY to deliver a quote, phrase, or saying to maximize communication. Below is another one by Kathryn.
There were two massive projects, the scope and scale of which I had no preconceived notions for. They occurred at the end of each semester, and took several weeks to research, conceptualize and execute. The first originated with numbers, but delved into the research of numerology, religion, geometry, and numerical significance. This execution is by John, and deals with investigating the theory of interconnectivity between the golden ratio and the Amen Break (the world's most frequently, and famously, sampled drum break).
The big one from the second semester began with a form of Buddhist meditation/education known as a koan. Each student was assigned a different koan, the meaning of which they interpreted themselves, and which informed the direction they would take the project. During the first week, they had to come up with 100 concepts for their project, one of which was selected during a class discussion, to be further developed. The two below are from Olena, and Kenia del Rosario. Olena's, a block of time, became a multi-dimensional electronic portal, traveling exhibit and website. Kenia's, a pop-up book documenting the struggle with, and ultimate acceptance of her father's bi-polar disorder, titled The Dischord and Harmony of an Intricate Mind.