The Design Lab: A Final Response

I decided to enroll in the Design Lab class because of its focus on collaboration within design. I was just coming out of a cross-disciplined studio the quarter before so I had experienced the struggles and setbacks that come along with collaboration. However, I also knew that it had been a delight to work with colleagues from other backgrounds on a project so I was intrigued to delve deeper into what collaboration in design can do. Even more intriguing was the discussion of Aurora Avenue. I have always been puzzled about Aurora and its context with Seattle, but to think of it with a design perspective sounded challenging. 

 I didn’t have too many expectations for the class because it was brand new and still being flushed out as to what exactly we would be doing. I appreciated the fact that it was open to students outside of the College of Built Environments. I wanted to learn more about how collaboration can be an asset in design and how to successfully go about designing in a group. I understood that there would be an exhibit in the Henry Art Gallery and thought that it would be an exhibit that we all collaboratively worked on throughout the quarter.

As a class led by four former students of CBE, the Design Lab itself was an experiment in collaboration, and it seemed to come across the same challenges as the charette groups. There were definitely personalities that stood out and took charge and others who were reserved and did not speak up as much. There was also a clash between certain professionals and professors who came to the class and the leaders. Even though they were the leaders of the class, it still seemed that they gave in to the seniority of the professionals and professor and let them take over. I would have really liked to see them have a better handle on the class. With that said, I did enjoy all of the guest lecturers that came to class, especially the ones from outside of the design world. They brought a fresh perspective to the idea of collaboration and almost gave more of validity to the class by showing how collaboration in many ways is a challenge in all fields and the problems and successes in each can be connected.

The charettes were an interesting twist to the class. They definitely challenged my personality and helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses in collaboration. Our first charette on transportation definitely made me re-evaluate myself and how I subconsciously let my ideas fall to the way side and rather I work on keeping the group focused. Looking back, I am a little disappointed that I let the professionals take such a leading role on the discussion and the end product. Seniority definitely played a large role and I hate say that the male dominant presence also shut me down a little bit. While the transportation charette definitely did not go as planned, it really helped me dissect the process of collaboration and the different roles I can take on.

 The second charette on politics was much more enjoyable. This is due to the fact that we had already experienced one before, we were passionate about what were talking about, and the professionals were much more laid back.  I think this charette focused much more on Aurora Avenue and we no longer worried about how we were collaborating, what were producing, etc. It was a great way to end the Design Lab experience because we were all proud of what we accomplished.

While appreciated the consistency of groups in the two charettes, it limited interaction of the class as a whole and it became exclusive to your charette group. I also think the leaders of the class missed out on the opportunity to join in on the charette. They could have easily each joined a group and been a part of the process. The charettes were a great way to give hands on approach to the design collaboration process.

The Design Lab provoked questions on the field of design and especially on how I fit into the process of design. I came across many moments where I questioned my own philosophy on design as well as how I interact with others. The open sketchbook on Aurora Avenue became more of a sketchbook on myself. The self-reflecting nature helped me leave the class much more knowledgeable on group dynamics as well as much more aware of how I interact with others in design collaboration. 

-Kate Reef

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