Fundamentals of Design

Studio Brief

Max Vanatta

Students have been foundational to the transformative activism that has dominated the past years with social media being used to create movements and classes organizing walkouts for various causes. In this studio, we’ll build upon this desire to improve our world by designing and fabricating interactive devices that can be embedded around the local community that empower us to engage with other people, places and challenges through civic participation and engagement.

Students will research social phenomena at the intersection of politics, social science, data science, society, civics, development and stewardship. Building upon this and the opportunities for skill growth throughout the class, students will design the next generation of products for people to re-shape their community, participate in civic life, and engage in civic dialogue and action.  This is an opportunity for students, having thought civically, to focus in on an issue that they find to be most pressing, concerning, or in need of attention.  The moments of activism may not be massive, global scale events such as those orchestrated by Greta Thunberg, but could relate to a more local, and personal scale of activism, the whole spectrum of scales is available.  

In this studio, students will use the power of digital design (computer aided drafting, 3D modeling) rapid prototyping tools (laser cutters, 3D printers), and microprocessor electronics to create interactive devices and installations.


Saba Ghole


What is a Precedent?

A precedent is a project done in the real world that can be used to help explain some of the ideas that will be covered in the studio or project. Students should locate and critically evaluate precedents and demonstrate how the content of the relate to their projects. 

Precedents generally fall into a number of categories - conceptual, aspirational, and comparable. 

  • Conceptual precedents explore ideas related to the  studio through critical analysis  of a wide range of largely art-based projects. 
  • Aspirational precedents look at cutting-edge or futurist implementation of technology as related to the studio topic. 
  • Comparable precedents look at nascent or current projects, often in the marketplace, that relate to the theme of the studio at a design and technological level that students can reasonably achieve within the course of the Studio. 

Through a critical analysis and melding of these categories, students can develop ideas for creative and technical innovations based on an expansive understanding of the theme.

What Makes a Good Precedent?

  • Meaningful
    • Provides a rich social, historical or cultural context
    • Highlight examples of current relevant projects
  • Inspiring & Exciting
    • Shows a novel approach
    • Shows a novel design solution
    • Exposes students to concepts, projects, and research that they are unaware of.
    • Helps generate conversation about the studio topic early in the research and brainstorming process.
  • Focused
    • Shows a novel technical, functional, or mechanical application
    • Shows a conceptual application
  • Guiding
    • Shows students options, avenues, and principles at any point during the design process.  Precedents are useful throughout the studio, not just at the beginning.

Posting Precedents

A precedent can be a video or a series of images. Image posts should have a Title and Caption on every slide.

Every Precedent should include the following in the body of the post:

  • The name of the project/device/object/installation/book etc and the name of the creator.
  • A source link to the original content.
  • A reason why the precedent is  it is applicable to the project.
  • Analysis (if appropriate) of the precedent. This can be technical or conceptual. 


Please see examples below.

Massoud Hassani - Mine Kafon

Aaron Laniosz

The Mine Kafon ball is a large wind-powered device, heavy enough to detonate landmines as it rolls across the ground. Massoud Hassani drew inspiration for the project from his childhood growing up on the outskirts of Kabul, where he would play around the minefields with homemade, wind-powered toys.

Concave Mirror - Anish Kapoor - 2010 MoMA

Aaron Laniosz
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Anish Kapoor (British (born India) 1954)
Date: 2007
Medium: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 89 3/4 x 89 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (228 x 226.7 x 41.9 cm)

Created for public interaction and engagement with the surrounding space, this sculpture draws the viewer in with its refined surface and startling optical effects of depth and dimension. From a body of Kapoor's work of mirrorlike pieces that reflect or distort the viewer and the surroundings and suggest the notion of continuous space, it offers a dazzling experience of light and a startling optical effect. Deeply rooted metaphysical polarities are at play in Kapoor's work: presence and absence, being and nonbeing, solidity and intangibility, and he draws on both Western and Eastern cultures for inspiration. His intention to engage the viewer and provoke a physical and visceral response is achieved in this reflective sculpture with its faceted facade that fuses the work, the viewer, and the environment into one pixelated, constantly fluctuating mosaic.

The distance and angle that one stands from the mirror's surface affects how the image of the viewer is reflected. This is a very interesting work of art in that it brings the curiosity out in the viewer and creates a dance-like interaction with the sculpture, as one's tendency is to move around in front of the piece to see how that changes one's perception of it. The viewer can actually "create" their own visual experience based on how they stand and move in front of the mirrors.