Brian Anderson, Assistant Professor, School of Design, University of Illinois at Chicago
Plant grafting is the act of joining tissues of two or more plants with the intent of continuing their growth together. Motivations for plant grafting range from breeding and propagation to influencing hardiness and controlling pests. The practice is highly intentional. Acts of design are similarly intentional, but forms of designs are overt and covert assemblages far more complex than their horticultural analogs.
The Preliminary Year Program at the UIC School of Design is an experimental program catering to students without traditional design backgrounds or experience. Its curriculum aims to foster a broad engagement with ideas in design. One early project engages the ideas of grafting (biological metaphors) and contexts to help visualize and structure an investigation into historical forms of design. The governing claims of the project are that forms of design are not arbitrary, and what influences design at any point in time is radically complex (horticultural if not biological). Over a two to three week period students employed case-study-like probes to broaden their understanding of design as influenced and shaped by contexts and realities ranging from the individual values of the designer to politics and technology. Students applied these past logics of influence in a design developed to early stages of prototyping.
This short paper will present the Preliminary Year Program and project values and will report the successes, failures (graphic and industrial design inclined students respond to the brief differently), and future of the project. Through this talk I will seek collaborators for trans-institutional curricular exchange. An ideal network of collaborators will include designers in all areas of design and design historians.