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80 Works for Designers in Seven Weeks?

80 Works for Designers in 7 Weeks

If you were to take a class called 80 Works for Designers in Seven Weeks, what kinds of projects would you expect to tackle in that intentionally ludicrous timeframe?

One of my first roommates post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In the summer of 1999, I recall him being excited that he had signed up for the class "Instant Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks," which was being taught by the eminent poet Peter Klappert.

Dozens of late nights and weekends later, neck sore from hunching over his computer and notepad, nerves shot by a bold overdose on black coffee, he was a complete wreck... but a more powerful writer as a result, by an order of magnitude.

Many students found it to be one of the most revelatory creative experiences of their lives, expanding their writing ability in ways they hadn't imagined possible through traditional workshop methods. After working through several stages of nervousness, failure, physical and emotional stress, intellectual stretch, loss of self, and high anxiety -- often in rapid succession -- they broke through many artistic barriers into something profound. The entire class explored collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire, visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and loose rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of other approaches in the pressure cooker. They had also accumulated hundreds of exercises, generated by the class, that could feed future work.

After spending a number of years being in the fast-paced environments of both small design firms and imposingly large agencies after a somewhat middling design education, I began to think back to my roommate's experience and wonder:

Would it possible to cram 80 wildly divergent design exercises into the course of seven weeks, forcing a student to expand the full breadth of their abilities in a finite period of time? Would design students in such an environment become better designers at an exponentially faster rate, with substantially better portfolios?

What I hope that design students would get out of (barely) surviving this designer-focused course would be twofold: 1) an idea of how to reach a breadth of innovative design solutions, in various media, within any set time period; and 2) a fuller understanding of the complementary skill of learning how to properly frame a design problem before it can be solved.

I'm not sure if Peter Klappert has repeated his course since, but a record of his working process still exists, which was adapted from a Corcoran School of Art class. From his methods, I've been attempting to extrapolate a similar bare-bones approach that could be attempted by design teachers and students.

I'd like your help in determining what those 80 Works for Designers could be for an initial seminar. Everyone whose exercise gets used will be credited, and I will put together a Web site that disseminates the class methods and lesson plan for anyone who wants to inflict this idea upon an unsuspecting design institution.

Since the 80 Works class will generate hundreds of exercises, this initial seeding of starter exercises will grow into a very large body of work very swiftly that many people can use for their own creative growth (I hope).

Feel free to post your ideas here as comments or email them to me at david at davidsherwin.com. And thank you, in advance, for the help.

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