Follow up . . . making the syllabus REAL!

In my last blog post, I talked about how I set about re-designing a year 11 Design and Technology task to incorporate REAL and CONTEXTUAL links with design and designers in industry. I did this by changing an old task that traditionally would normally be a report to a NEW TASK that required students to DESIGN, MAKE and SELL jewellery items using mass manufacturing methods, THEN compare their outcome (sales, budgets, success, failures) to that of a REAL DESIGNER.

And then . . . . 

Students were asked to design and create a mass-manufactured jewellery range using Adobe Illustrator to design the product, acrylic as the medium, laser cutter to mass produce. Students had slim to no experience in using the program and the laser cutter machine. Also, we dont have a laser cuter on site AND many students in the class are not particularly interested in jewellery as a focus area. As well as the practical aspect they had to research a designer that “inspired their style”.

SO, how did all these challenges make this project POSSIBLE? and SUCCESSFUL?

  • Students were introduced to the task and received it in a positive way, they liked the brief, and even though it restricted the outcome (in the material and production techniques). By using the Pinterest inspiration page as a starting point they could see that this was a current manufacturing technique that could produce items that would be appealing for a market day held at school. THIS and the fact that the task USED TO BE A REPORT, and now they were designing for a REAL audience and were actually going to SELL their designs for MONEY (for charity) THEY WERE HOOKED!!
  • I explained the process of laser cutting to students and how illustrator could be used to create vector files that could be read/cut by the machine. Students used youtube tutorials that were on the Pinterest page AND peer support to self teach themselves illustrator with minimal assistance from me, this independent learning I am most proud of 🙂
  • A flaw of mine earlier in the project was that we were using various schools laser cutters (and they each used different settings on illustrator), this affected the time management of the project as the solution was not easily fixed. We used THREE DIFFERENT schools equipment (and picked MANY teaching staffs brains!!) in different localities of Sydney. Doing this whilst trying not to impact school time was MOST challenging. Students wrote about this in their evaluation section of the task, noting that production trials should be done as early as possible in the design process to avoid issues, SO even though it did feel frantic during the product stage, they still worked hard with me, and learnt a valuable lesson!
  • Most students had never designed for a real audience, so when they had their designs and were planning their BUDGET SALES PROFIT table to calculate COST of producing the item and how much it should be sold for there were some GREAT discussions in the room to the effect of: “OMG, we could potentially make a few hundred dollars EACH” – “I can’t believe items that are so cheap to make in bulk could make so much profit” – at this moment, I could not keep the happy teacher grin off my face!!
  • The market day itself was challenging to organise in the school calendar, not only because of the logistics of getting the pieces cut, but also making sure the days when the items would be sold was advertised effectively – we had NEVER dont this kind of task before, so students AND teachers had no idea what could be potentially be on offer! Our Assistant Principal suggested running the market over 2 days (one day for browsing, the second day students could be prepared with money to purchase) THIS WAS A SUPER IDEA! We also used the TAS instagram account to preview images of the items so students could have a sneak peek!

 

SO, how did all the challenges make this content REAL? and VALID?

  • The audience of CUSTOMERS during the market day giving real-time feed back was invaluable. At first students thought customers were being kind by buying items, but when sales got over $500 they were confident that their designs were actually WORTH PURCHASE! This type of validation for any designer/artist is the feel good moment of good design.
  • Students worked the entire design process LIKE A DESIGNER: researching the target market using a survey, looking at existing products for pricing/inspiration, working collaboratively as a class group to create diverse items AND working out the cost of production in relation to selling price and end profit.
  • Student enjoyed the practical aspect of the task and even though it was time consuming I still covered syllabus content in my program such as: designing for people, anthropometrics, culture as a factor that affects design, mass-manufacture methods vs couture and bespoke design processes, marketing, designers and their work and innovations in production methodologies.
  • Not all students were as successful in sales as each other, but they ALL SOLD ITEMS! This enabled them to still calculate profit and complete the second part of the task effectively. Like I said earlier, students that were not interested in jewellery design were still excited and motivated about the task due to the profit making, some even decided from this task that this was the area that they should major in for their final year!

Photos from the task: 

 

THANK YOU!

A huge thank you to Bossley Park High School for allowing us to use their laser cutter, The Kings School TAS department for sharing ideas and their laser cutter AND Malyn Mawby from Abottsleigh for donating her valuable WEEKEND to help produce the designs, without the after-hours support of these schools/teachers the students in this class would not have seen their successes! 🙂

My take-aways – YES planning and managing this task for all students to have high quality products was TOUGH, it did require extra work hours, BUT students made this worthwhile by their appreciation and success. . . HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR SYLLABUS REAL???