Syllabus

Posted by: on February 23, 2011 in

Design Center, Rm 404

Wednesdays, 11:20a.m. – 4:20p.m

Instructor: John Caserta, jcaserta@risd.edu

Office Hours:  Fridays 10am-12pm

The Design Office, 204 Westminster Street 4th floor #14

Introduction
Systems are present in virtually every design solution. A system is what describes or dictates relationships between elements within a defined limit. More specifically, ‘systems’ in design refer to one of two concepts: the wholeness of an existing set of elements, or as a methodology (rationale, rules, procedures).

The former refers to states of equilibrium and harmony – the ‘grammar’ that connects all components of a design. The latter refers to the creation of ‘rules’ and ‘programs’ – instructions that lead to form.

Christopher Alexander (Berkeley) defined the same two concepts in this way in the 1960s:

1: A system as a whole is not an object but a way of looking at an object. It focusses on some holistic property which can only be understood as a product of interaction among parts.    2: A generating system is not a view of a single thing. It is a kit of parts, with rules about the way these parts may be combined.

Systems are only as good as their effectiveness in responding to a need. Design, remember, is ‘a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose’ (C. Eames).

Just like a typeface, the appearance or action of a system affects the meaning of the work — even the meaning of the piece itself. Conceptual artists, including On Kawara, John Cage, and Sol LeWitt, are known not for their final forms, but the systems they create for generating the work.

Objectives and Expectations

* to develop an overview of the practical and theoretical nature of systems
* to be aware of aesthetic relationships
* to create unexpected designs using rules and formal structure
* to recognize, form and to apply systematic thinking to solve design problems
* to recognize systems in contemporary
design and art

Grading/Assessment
Grades from A to F will be assigned at both the middle and end of the semesters. Only the end of semester grade is on record. The following criteria are used for assessment:
* Attendance (3rd absence fails the course)
* Participation
* Motivation/Attitude
* Craftsmanship
* Depth of investigation
* Risk taking
* End products: success in meeting objective, both formally and conceptually
* Individual growth

Course Schedule
Each week will include a variety of readings, discussions, assignments, lectures (11:20a) and presentations. Retain all of your work throughout the semester – every sheet of paper. It will be either collected or part of your final process document. The sequence of the semester is as follows:

UNIT 1: understanding the whole and its parts
Two weeks

UNIT 2: order and cohesion
Four weeks

UNIT 3: systems as methodology
Three weeks

UNIT 4: SYSTEM AS AUTHORSHIP
Three weeks

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