Each year, as a new DAAPworks exhibition approaches and quickly passes, I can’t help but reflect on my own capstone experience and how it prepared me for a career in Graphic Design. It seems like just yesterday I was stressing out over designing, printing, and building my project. The blood, sweat, and tears that go into every senior’s thesis are really evident in the final product.
Capstone is invaluable to DAAP seniors. In so many other school and co-op projects you are given a problem, and then supplemented with a set of rules and a time frame for solving that problem. With Capstone you must begin by creating your own problem, followed by taking a 360 degree view of it; positioning yourself as the designer, critic, client and user. This is difficult as you can’t simply pick a logo you want to design or a company you wish to start. For capstone, you have to find a reason for such a thing to exist and a need for it in today’s society.
Once your topic is chosen, you begin developing the details and “how”s and “why”s for your idea. You have not even begun to think about design at this point. Like a professional presenting an idea to his/her superiors, you must have an airtight case for your Capstone subject.
Once your case is made, you begin conducting market research relating to your subject. It is at this point that many people decide to switch topics or rework their idea. As student designers, you aren’t used to having to observe market trends or conduct surveys for a design project. The research portion of capstone increases your awareness of how design can improve a person, a specific group, or society as a whole.
Finally, the design process begins. Capstone design is a delicate balance between treading one step at a time, and trying not to jump too far ahead too soon, and continually progressing, so as not to overthink every detail. This is a core skill in design both at the student and professional level.
How often do we, as professional designers, think about all the pieces that make up the big picture? Do we thrive in a creative world that encourages pushing boundaries, without taking the practical business side into account? Capstone critical thinking exercises can provide valuable insight and intelligence that can make or break any project, idea or initiative. How often do you research, develop & get approval on an airtight case before moving forward? How often do you evaluate an idea from conception to fruition? This “big picture” thinking is the purpose for the Capstone blood, sweat & tears – a real life application to instill critical thinking in the mind of creative designers.
Capstone is an exercise in breaking conventions, pushing the limits, and discovering who you are as a designer. Each year, DAAPworks displays the incredible imaginations and ability of the senior class, not just as designers, but as critical thinkers. That is what design is all about.
There is no design without discipline. There is no discipline without intelligence.