The boxes and boxes of leftover die-cut letters that returned from the printer along with the 2015-2016 Viewbook, sparked an idea in Product Design faculty member, Frido Beisert. While others may have seen those letters as useless refuse bound for the recycling bin, Frido saw an opportunity to push the creative bounds of his students. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s design challenge.
Frido asked his students one simple question when he presented them with these letters: How can you transform something useless into something useful?
This open-ended assignment left a lot of room for exploration. And the resulting projects spoke to each student’s approach in interpreting the very definition of ‘useful.’ From rejecting the idea that the letters were, in fact, useless (they had already served a purpose in creating the covers for the Viewbooks) to creating a new language out of the letters, students embodied the spirit of innovation at Art Center.
The variety of outcomes from this minimalist assignment challenged student’s design skills. Since they had strict parameters and a very limited amount of time, most of the process was dedicated to coming up with a viable concept. A couple students who created very practical items from the letters–pencils and paper–were asked if they had ever created such items before. Both insisted they had no experience. But as with most assignments at Art Center, they took initiative and made it happen.
Another important factor in creating a successful design lies its presentation and the designer’s ability to communicate its purpose. After students created their first-draft designs within a week, each was required to present the work to Frido and the rest of the class. The feedback they received would help them improve their design and think about elements they might have overlooked, such as the marketability of the product. One piece of advice for a student, who had crafted a sheet of laminated paper out of the letters, was to include a writing utensil with his product to raise its value and price point.
The project was a great way to jump start creativity and innovation among the students. There are still plenty of boxes of letters in Communications office. So we took on a challenge of our own to create the above video using footage from Frido’s class, along with a little video wizardry, and found another use for those colorful leftovers.