Teaching Design & Engineering Students how to handle the Form Giving issue

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Rampino, Lucia; Gorno, Roberta
Series: E&PDE
Section: Multi-disciplinary perspectives
Page(s): 454-459


This paper goes over an educational activity held at the Design Faculty of Politecnico di Milano in the Design&Engineering Master Course. Design&Engineering MC is an inter-faculty course where teachers coming from both Engineering and Design Faculty work together in order to teach student how to turn a design concept into a feasible product. Thus, great emphasis is given to the technological aspects; such emphasis, if from one side teaches students to master all the feasibility aspects, on the other one it is likely to override the product’s formal aspects. Indeed, being these last aspects the most subjective, they are also the most difficult to teach and to master: this is the reason why Design&Engineering students usually ignore them, preferring to take refuge in the more objective technological and ergonomic issues. Nevertheless, this practice can cause the loss of the focus of design discipline, getting our students dangerously closer to engineering and ergonomist expertise without having the necessary knowledge. For this reason, at the Design Studio of the first year it was decided to set up an exercise focused on managing the product’s formal aspects.The aim of the exercise was to make students reasoning about the issue of form giving, in order to make them understand the importance for a designer to control the form of the objects he/she is designing. As already said, form is the most distinctive lever of design, but it is also the most difficult to master. It covers two connected but separate levels: the figurative and the meaning one. Regarding this, Rindova and Petkova (2007) affirms that the formal features of a product can cause both visceral reactions, falling in the field of aesthetic, and cognitive and emotional reactions, falling in the field of meaning. In our three weeks exercise, we decided to focus just on aesthetical aspects, knowing that such a distinction is likely to be far-fetched: indeed, during the creative process, the designer is not able to perceive a clear-cut distinction between aesthetic choices (proportion among parts, alternation of empty and full volumes, colour, texture…) and choices related to the meaning of the product. Anyway, from the teaching point of view, such a distinction is useful in order to force Design&Engineering students to focus on the often neglected aesthetical aspects.Students were asked to analyse an existing product according to a list of six formal features: geometry, composition, proportion, dimension, colour and texture, material and finishing. In authors opinion these six features together define the product formal language and their blending influences the conveyed character.Regarding the product geometry, a brief lecture about the use of primitive versus free forms was given; regarding the product composition, the three concepts proposed by Dieter Mankau of additive, integrative and integral were introduced to the students. After the analysis, students were asked to apply the character of the analyzed product to a new one. In other words the final goal of the exercise was to generate a new form giving it the same character of the analyzed product.

Keywords: Design, form giving, product language


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