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March 29, 2001 Graduate certificate in digital technologies breaks new ground






Computer rendering of preliminary design


Computer rendering of preliminary design (above) and finished chaise longue (below), integrating an ecological approach using recycled tires. Designed and built by Design Art student, Marco Turchetta, it received the 2000 SIDIM Eco Design Award, and orders from Quebec and the U.K.


Finished chaise longue

Images courtesy of Lydia Sharman

by Debbie Hum

A new graduate certificate program starting this fall will allow students from interdisciplinary backgrounds to explore the impact and possibilities of digital technologies in the practice of design.

The one-year, 15-credit program will combine the use of digital technologies as a tool in the design art process, with an advanced investigation of their economic, social and cultural consequences. Students in the program will have access to a three-dimensional scanner and to computer-assisted prototyping equipment, both instruments that are changing development in product design.

“New opportunities are being afforded designers with the convergence of various kinds of media in the world of the digital,” said Michael Longford, assistant professor in Design Art. Longford, with Lydia Sharman, chair of Design Art, and Assistant Professor P.K. Langshaw, developed the certificate program, Digital Technologies in Design Art Practice, over the past year.

While digital technologies have been an integrated part of the design art curriculum for more than 12 years, this will be the first graduate certificate that Concordia offers in the studio area. It is considered unique in Canada for its combination of experimental and applied approaches to two- and three-dimensional design and digital media design.

In addition to three seminar courses, students will undertake individual research projects. These will explore the relevance of digital technologies in one or two of the following areas: print media, 3D object, interactive media, hybrid practice, and theoretical studies.

The program is conceived as a way of responding to the challenges that digital technologies present to the designer. In addition to recent graduates, it is expected to draw professionals who are already working in the ever-expanding digital field, including people with computer science backgrounds who want to integrate design into their work.

“In industry, the notion of a sabbatical is becoming more popular,” Longford remarked. In an age when professionals have to constantly update their learning and knowledge, more people are contemplating a year away from work to explore digital venues in a more concentrated way, develop skills they can bring back to their jobs, or even shift their career paths, he added.

The program accommodates working professionals by offering courses on Thursday evenings and Friday afternoons, and weekend access to computer labs.

In just 10 years, digital technologies have had an enormous impact on design. In the Visual Arts Building, state-of-the-art computer labs reside next to workshops in which traditional approaches to design, such as maquette building, are still used. A new rapid prototyping machine, sometimes called a “3-D printer,” will continue the technological revolution in product design by enabling designers to render their 3-D digital creations into objects.

Dr. Sharman emphasized the importance of generating discourse and pedagogy on the impact, ethics and social responsibilities surrounding digital technologies. The reading seminar “Language, Politics, Manifestos,” for example, will consider issues on design ecology and ethics, gender polarization and biases, and political strategies in the public sphere.

The launch of the new program will coincide with an international symposium held at Concordia in the fall, called “Declarations of [Inter]dependence and the Im[media]cy of Design.”

The deadline for applications to the certificate program is April 18. Application forms can be picked up at the School for Graduate Studies, the Department of Design Art, or through the design art Web site, http://design.concordia.ca/.