Archive for January, 2010
13 January, 2010 – 12:54 am | Filed under daily life, design, music, personal, school | 3 Comments »
Back again, back again…
Winter break was restful and nice. Three weeks in the metro Atlanta suburbs was perhaps a bit long, but it was great seeing my friends and family again. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted to or should have–I did start on redesigning my professional portfolio, as well as ecomancer.net in general, so hopefully I can launch both of those before the end of the semester (the portfolio will have to be up by February, in anticipation of Confluence and the Creative Arts Opportunity Conference).
Speaking of which, now that I’ve attended all the classes I registered for initially, I’ve finally made my decisions about what to sign up for. Initial thoughts:
CPID seminar: should be very interesting and useful. It’s with the professor I spent a few hours with when I did my campus visit, the former head of the English department–my program is cross-listed between the Schools of Design and English–and beyond simply learning how to write about design, we’re learning how to design our written communication, to gear it for specific contexts and specific users. I definitely enjoy writing, and this should be really good for me.
Intermediate Japanese: will kick my ass. Good god. The class meets 4 times a week, they already assigned homework due Tuesday, there are quizzes and essays and research projects, we have to purchase a 300-page bundle of worksheets on sale at the bookstore…if I had the time to devote to it, it would be really, really good for me, especially since the professor seems really strict (far more so than anybody at Georgia Tech ever was) and demands a lot from the students. It’s geared more towards Japanese majors/minors, people who do have the ability to focus like that (which grad students cannot). Plus, it’s hard to be in a class with people who’ve learned Japanese for a while (at least 3 semesters, if not longer) and still say “annie-may” and “man-guh” (anime and manga, or Japanese animation and comics/graphic novels). I really had to fight not to wince out loud–my friends know I really campaigned hard (but nicely!) to get them all to say it properly, and this is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Design Studio: wow. This is our Major Effort of the year, which we all knew even in August, but the first day definitely reaffirmed that. This class has historically been sponsored by Microsoft to form semester-long teams that take part in their Design Challenge–we’re one of a small handful of universities they’ve selected for this–and the winning team (decided by a MS rep who comes to see the final presentations) presents their work at Microsoft’s Design Expo in the summer. This year, though, we have both Microsoft and Motorola sponsoring us, and the Mattress Factory, a local contemporary art museum, is keen on getting some students to work on something for them. The professor who taught the class in years past is actually working for Microsoft and is our corporate liaison; this year our instructors three CMU design alums who are all successful designers.
The theme for the Microsoft Design Challenge this year is Context: Service Meets Social. I’m trying to keep that in the back of my mind at all times.
Research Methods: should be interesting. I had some very brief experience with some of them during my last job, and it should be cool to learn more. This class is tied in with our studio–we’ll be learning methods and then applying them immediately to what we’re doing in studio. The professor is one of the two I TA’d for last semester, so I feel like I know him fairly well and we do get along, which is cool.
Communicating in the Global Marketplace: I’m impressed with the class and the professor. Even from how she got to know the various students in the course and handled pronouncing their names (which can be quite touchy at times, but which she did with admirable grace), I could tell that she really knows her stuff, and the fact that several students cited enjoying working with her in previous classes as a reason for enrolling definitely helped. Our final project actually involves finding a group or company of some kind and doing some cross-cultural communication consulting work for them (which I’ve been very interested in doing from a design standpoint)–should be amazing, but I’m just concerned about the timing, because studio is going to be mad in March and April.
Rhetoric and Information Design: I’m glad I’m auditing this, for two reasons: it’ll lessen my crazy workload, while still letting me attend this class and reap what I think are going to be some great benefits. (Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still do all the readings and do the projects, but I do have the option of possibly doing the projects later if I get busy, and I will be taking advantage of that flexibility.)
I had the realization last semester that in order to be a good designer, one must be a strong and effective communicator–not just in selling your work (a lesson I totally learned during my last job, and tried to pass on to some of my students in the class I TA’d last term, who were baffled that we were so strict with them and didn’t see what relevance writing and communication has to design), but in making your work say something and make an effective statement or argument. As information designers, this is especially crucial to us, since we aren’t just making “pretty things”–we’re organizing and presenting information (which, as we established briefly today, is by definition more subjective than raw data, as we’re taking it and filtering it somewhat in order to understand it as we compose/construct our work).
Anyway, long story short: I’ve dropped Japanese, and am keeping the other five. (CPID Seminar, Studio, and Research Methods are all required anyway.) I was gutted about losing Japanese, but there’s a conversation session at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on the 2nd and 3rd Tuesday of each month, and I got permission from Miso, the very kind and understanding Ph.D who’s teaching R&ID, to duck out 10-15 minutes early to get there on time. I went tonight, and it was actually a lot of fun, quite informative, with a friendly and eager group of adult students–essentially a reversed eikaiwa. Plus, I have the textbooks and can definitely study on my own, whenever I have the time.
There’s also my TA-ship: this semester I’ll be assisting with facilities and tech support. My first major project is setting up for the three-hour thesis paper presentation the second-years are giving on the 22nd of January. The guy who had this post last year assures me that it’s no sweat, which is a relief. (Well, that is, unless something goes wrong, haha.) Anyway, our first meeting to discuss this and my other duties is later this week.
And my campus orchestra ensembles start up this weekend. I already know I won’t have the time to stick it out with the All University Orchestra for the whole semester, but I’m the only 1st violinist who’s played (most of) Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade before, so maybe I can help out for a short while. String Theory, though, I will be sticking with, and we have our next concert in about six weeks, with another one combined with the AUO in April.
Oh, and there’s the letterpress project I worked on last semester but never finished. (It’s okay–I was just graded on what I’d done, and the instructor had no problem with my needing extra time to complete it.) I really hope I can find the time to wrap that up in the next few weeks.
Something else nice: I have very convenient breaks in my schedule that allow me to go home midday and/or hit the campus gym. I’ll definitely need the stress relief (and the exercise–it’s quite cold and snowy here, which prevents me from walking to campus (or even sprinting up the block to catch the bus, as the sidewalks may not be salted) most days, and I could stand to lose a few pounds).
For now, though, I really should sleep, as the downside of my schedule is that our Seminar course meets at 8:30 AM on Monday and Wednesday. Ugh.
Please wish me luck this semester–even tomorrow, as that’s when we’ll receive our group assignments in studio, and when we’ll learn who among our classmates we’ll be working very closely with for the next four months. I feel a lot better about this than I did about last term, now that I know how the system works here. But we’ll see how it goes. I hope I’m up for the challenge.