The Experience of Making Friday, June 8th, 2018

Paper Dolls: Expanding Student Expectations Through Making and Collaborations

Anthony Acock, Cal Poly Pomona Assistant Professor
Laura Pluth

In this paper I write about a line of functional & wearable paper dresses created by a graphic design student through collaborations with divergent disciplines.

In 2017, working with an independent study student in a graphic design curriculum we expanded the complexity and scale of her proposal, and learned what an independent study can accomplish when making with alternative materials and collaborating with divergent disciplines.

At Cal Poly Pomona, independent study projects require the student to present an idea, scope of work, and timeline to a faculty member before the professor agrees to take them on. For this project, I was presented with the proposal to create a mock magazine spread showcasing a digitally rendered paper dress that could be worn by a human. Through discussions about the integrity of materials, and the opportunities within graphic design for fashion, we eventually expanded the complexity of work to include: 6 life-size paper dresses, 3 posters, 1 video, multiple choreographed photo shoots shot by a photography major, a public runway show with models showcasing the final dresses while accompanied with music provided by students from the music department. As proof of the success of the project, the pieces were submitted to a juried art exhibition, and accepted as part of a 2D3D gallery show.

In this paper I will discuss how expanding a student’s expectations of what they can achieve can result in increasingly more complex yet successful physical solutions that go against the traditional polytechnic reflex of creating everything digitally. As Jonathan Ive wrote:

“That’s just tragic, that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three dimensional objects and not make one.1”

In this paper I will write about how interjecting divergent disciplines –in this case photography music, and fashion– can glean new insights through collaborations, and how design students can effectively aggregate their work into packaged collections, –in this case, a runway show. I will use this case study in juxtaposition with other multi-disciplinary design pedagogical precedents to hypothesize on ways to integrate these ideas into a general graphic design curriculum.

By using this project as a case study I will illustrate how making a physical object versus simulating it’s proxy digitally can lead to a more holistic understanding of materials, design processes, and the value of collaboration.