Archive for January, 2008

I on Design or Me in Miami: Conferencing

January 20, 2008

View from the Hyatt South Beach Buildings

The advent of this new year took me to Miami for my first academic conference of the year: The Second International Conference on Design Principles & Practices from January 9-11. This international conference was a cross-disciplinary forum for researchers, teachers, and practitioners interested in and working with the nature of design and its future. Early Friday afternoon, I presented my paper entitled Information Design Finally Defined: The Art, Science, and Technology of Rhetorical Diligence in Media Discourse for Schematic Evidence of Cognitive Structures in Representational Display. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but this paper does successfully address the issues surrounding the multidisciplinary fields and disciplines that seek to take a definitive yet elusive hold on information design today.

The conference consisted of typical plenary sessions and seminars, but it also included talking circles and garden sessions, the latter of which, oddly enough, were not held in a garden. As is customary, I attended the seminars that most interested me. I highlight below why these particular sessions I found to be the most memorable events of this conference.

1. Immersion /Illusion: Space, Place & Complicity at the San Francisco Zoo by Camelia George of the Visual & Critical Studies Department & Design Department, California College of the Arts, California. This was just a fascinating approach to considering the power and decision-making behind the design of zoo facades, the company that creates them, and the venues that immerse visitors into the illusion that they enjoy without consideration of reality or environmental consequence.

2. Ethics of a Designer in a Global Economy: A Class on Contemporary Design Issues by Eric Benson, UCDA, AIGA, CAA, and John Jennings, Graphic Design, Illinois. An STS-related concept but the presenters didn’t seem to think that was its area of importance. Nice quality student work, not much to bring home but the presentation was clear and clean.

3. Creativity in Engineering: Entertainment Engineering & Design by Robert Wysocki of the Art Department and Daniel Cook of the Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada. The University of Nevada now is offering a degree in Entertainment Engineering and these two professors noted the practical issues that surrounded that decision, based largely on the multi-million dollar design sets for Cirque de Soleil and other interactive multimedia performance venues, and including the world-famous fountains at the Bellagio.

4. Hearing Type and Seeing Music: Multisensory Harmonies in Digital Communication by Soo C. Hostetler, Department of Art, University of Northern Iowa, Iowa. I am always intrigued by the poetic use of Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash software and have always been a fan of This session highlighted some of the instructor’s methodologies for having students work with audio and animated type to produce emotional responses.

5. Building the Maverick Student by Christine Gallagher, Graphic Design, Western Oregon University, Oregon, and Susie Nielsen, MA, USA. This was by far the most powerful session and several people made comment to that effect. These two professors have collaborated with a pedagogical style and exploratory approach to build learning environments that defy the norm. It was evident that all of us assigned the responsibility of helping others learn could improve with techniques learned fom these two women who made such memorable comments indicative of their classroom strategies as they “guide, point, and let the student lead,” they “pull out instead of pour in,” and most importantly, quoting one of their own sources of revelation, that “the thinking comes from the making.” The entire conference trip was truly worth this one presentation and — already a big fan and user of self-directed pedagogies — I have returned and already begun this semester using some of what I took away from this session.

While all of these sessions were uniquely rewarding, and some certainly provided great ideas to consider for my classrooms, the event that most contributed to my area of research in iconics was a garden session and large chunk of time afterwards spent talking with Mario Antonio Minichiello, Head of Department and Chair of Visual Communications at Birmingham City University BIAD in Great Britain. and with Daniel Cook and Robert Wysocki of the University of Nevada. We had a great ‘meeting of the minds’ chat on a patio at the Hyatt. It was evident that the four of us enjoyed our rapport with each other as we addressed contemporary media issues and our perspectives on them. I snapped a few photos as well at that time such as the first one shown above.

South Beach

Of course the trip to Miami was heightened in wonder because of my choice to stay in South Beach and ride the bus into downtown MIami for the conference at the University of MIama Conference Center attached to the Hyatt. I stayed in historic Espanola Way and during my free time enjoyed the incredible South Beach beaches and nightlife. On Thursday night, I brought four of my peers from downtown out to South Beach and we had dinner together, the most amazing tapas, and took in the rest of the sights. The Cuban coffee, the beautiful and sexy models who live and play there, and the gorgeous weather, water, and architecture all contributed to this experience, and I hope more of my colleagues focused on the information design component of our doctoral degree take advantage of the opportunity to present at this conference in the future, though it won’t be in Miami next time, but Berlin. Danke, und Willkommen!

Espanola Way Approaching Espanola Way

~ Steven John Thompson