Thursday, February 21, 2008

Getting back in the designer saddle

Before I came to Doha, I worked at the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington D.C., in their Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP). I researched building energy legislation, efficient building case studies, and helped restructure the information architecture of their website. I also helped coordinate a conference for the Commercial Building Initiative (CBI), aimed at advancing the efficiency of commercial buildings. It wasn't much of a design job, but then again, that wasn't why I went to Washington.

At the end of my design education at Carnegie Mellon, I wasn't sure how keen I was to be in design, to be a designer. My interests seemed to be focused more on environmental topics and less on pushing pixels. I wasn't sure that graphic or communication design was for me. I found myself drawn to the bigger picture, bigger-system-level design, and at the time I thought that meant environmental policy, perhaps even a policy or law degree. (I even took a practice LSAT). So I went to try it out as the Alliance. I also wanted to see what, if anything, I would miss from design.

During that time, I looked up obscure 'Residential Energy Code Ordinances', calculated the difference between Energy Star and HERS ratings, and searched numerous House and Senate Bills. It a little alarming to discover that I did find researching legislation scarily enjoyable at times. However, I mainly found myself aching for something visual, some software beyond 'Photoshop Effects', for the opportunity to create something. Thus I was more than happy to mock-up BCAP's new website or develop an visual identity for the CBI conference. It was refreshing and it felt good to be of use to this NGO. I left DC with more uncertainty about policy and a renewed optimism about design. I figured my time in Qatar would be a good place to experiment.

They say if you want to jump start your thinking, your work, your creativity, teach. And it's true. When I assign exercises, I imagine my own solutions to the problems. I see fresh wonder, excitement, and ideas from my non-major students and it invigorates me. And, as the only design faculty in Education City outside of those at Virginia Commonwealth University next door, I do feel the need to prove myself. So I willingly volunteered to design the overall event poster for the upcoming Carnegie Mellon 'Liberal and Social Science' (LAS) Faculty Film Series. LAS Faculty are basically anyone not in computer science or business- such as language, history, English, science, architecture, and * design *.

Carnegie Mellon is currently housed in the LAS Building with a very distinctive tangram-like pattern on both the exterior and interior. I turned to this architectural language as the basis for film series mark and the initial A3-sized poster. I am also slated to design 2 other posters before having my students design the rest as an assignment (sshh- they don't know yet!).

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