Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Should Designers Study?

As I was researching for materials on the teaching and learning of design, and about design, I came across this article which I do find an enjoyable short read. I hope you do enjoy it. It's taken from here:

What Should Designers Study?
by Martha Retallick, "The Passionate Postcarder"

Young people who are contemplating a design career often seek advice on
what they should study. To them I say, "Anything and everything!" Why do I offer this advice? Because you never know when something you've learned may come in handy.

Here in Arizona, there has been much controversy surrounding Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's recent suggestion that fourth-year high school math should be dropped as a state university admission requirement. Mr. Horne was even quoted in the newspaper as saying that calculus and trigonometry are not useful to most adults.

Permit me to share the story of a recent problem I encountered in my
graphic design practice: I was designing a postcard, and wanted to add an accent to the lettering in the card. But nothing I tried had the right look. So, I decided to apply a bit of knowledge that I'd gained in a college calculus class taken more than a quarter century ago. Viola, the accent came out perfectly.

Okay, so you might be asking, "Why should I take advice on calculus from a designer?" Why, indeed. Perhaps you'd rather take a doctor's advice on classical music. Permit me to introduce you to our consulting physician, Benjamin Carson, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He grew up in the ghettoes of Detroit and Boston, and was, by his own
admission, the dumbest kid in his class until the fifth grade. That's when his mother decided to restrict the amount of television Ben and his brother, Curtis, watched. She believed that the boys' heavy TV viewing
habits were having a negative effect on their grades. This made Ben and
Curtis very unhappy.

Even worse, Mean Old Mom made the two boys read two books a week. And they had to give her a written report on what they had learned.
For Ben, the payoff came one day in science class. The teacher had brought a shiny black rock, and only one kid knew what it was. Not only did Ben correctly identify the rock as obsidian, he also described how the rock was created through volcanic activity. Both the teacher and the class were amazed. And Ben Carson turned into a knowledge junkie. By seventh grade, he was the top student in his class.

In high school, his TV viewing was still restricted, but Ben took quite a
liking to a quiz show called "College Bowl." He dreamed of going to college
and participating in the show. But "College Bowl" had two categories where he wasn't an expert: fine art and classical music. As he writes in his book Think Big, "[W]hat would a poor, black kid from a lower economic background in Detroit know about those two areas?"

So, he started visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, and listening to the
local classical music station. "My friends thought I was weird," he recalls.
Alas, "College Bowl" went off the air before Ben Carson had a chance to
enter the competition. But, when he interviewed for a residency position at Johns Hopkins, he was delighted to find that the neurosurgery training program director was a classical music buff. In fact, they had both attended the same concert the night before.

Again from Think Big, he recalls, "We discussed the concert, moved into a
discussion of classical music in general, and soon the time allotted for
the interview ran out. I was one of the two interns accepted into the
neurosurgery residency program." Ben Carson's knowledge of classical music also helped him impress a fellow Detroiter who later became his wife. Ben and Candy Carson have three sons, who perform in the Carson Four string quartet with their mother.

The moral of my story is that no knowledge is ever wasted. So, study
anything and everything!

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