Information Design and a bit of reflection.
Recently I gave a few workshops on InfoViz an introduction to infographics.
It proved popular which is great, there is defiantly an interest in 'making data pop'.
Being the first time I'd delivered such a workshop, there is a lot to work on. The evaluations I received from participants were expected, they wanted something more hands on with less theory.
This, unfortunately, I feel, is simply impossible in an hour and a half. All I can really do is cover some basics and help to inspire people. I focus on coding and then de-coding design principals so that they can start analysing how parts work together to make a gestalt whole. I guess my workshops are in-between a seminar and a workshop, focusing on group crits. Basically it's 'best practice' and I then offer routes for people to discover more.
Design, as a verb is a learnt practice. Design is a science. No one would teach chemistry in an hour. Teaching how-to is tricky due to technical constraints (i.e. learning the software) and time (there's no quick fix to making sense and communicating information) and design thinking (which is, in action - the design process (difficult to translate).
(when working through a design process with people and their data, often workshops are 2-3 days long - e.g. Francesco Franchi's Infographic Thinking workshop) which is one of the best I've seen.
My challenge as a teacher is to do the best I can, teach something practical and meaningful to people with no previous design knowledge. And to do this without it spiralling out into a design degree. I feel this will come with practice and working with feedback.
An ongoing challenge which seems to come up often, is what design is, and why it matters. On countless occasions when I explain my job to people they either a) stare blankly, b) assume I'm a fashion designer or c) ask what a Graphic Designer actually does. When I teach, the audience arrive with predispositions on what they think design is (often they think of it as purely aesthetic) and consequently believe it's something they can easily learn and master..I kinda feel like if you don't deliver on that belief then they inevitably feel let down.
The design discourse has always had issues communicating with a wider discourse, which is ironic (can we not just embrace inter/trans discipline approaches already?) Largely, I think it's driven by the audience experiencing the final solution without seeing the process of how that was arrived at. Also, the notion that great design is transparent in nature, invisible - means that the wider public, literally, cannot see the space design holds.
Being a designer is like being a magician. We play with perception, we play with experience.