4.141 / 4.142
How to Design (almost) Anything

UG: Permission of instructor; Grad: MAS.863J or Permission of instructor

UG: 4.141; G: 4.142

Introduces fundamental design principles as a way to demystify design and provide a basic introduction to all aspects of the design process. Through lectures and weekly exercises, students will develop their skills and enable creativity, abstract thinking, representation, iteration and design development. An introductory class intended for students without a design background geared towards enabling more effective collaboration with designers and the ability to apply the foundations of design to any discipline. Limited to 25; preference to Course 4 and 4B majors and Design and Architecture minors, and first- and second-year students.

Additional work required of students taking graduate version.

Exercise 1: Design a Process

The first project explores the design process and asks students to develop their own design and fabrication process that goes from 1D to 2D to 3D. Each week the class will dive into one aspect of the design process from context to concept, drawing, making, iterating, building a narrative and finally presenting. This path exemplifies a traditional design process where you start with an idea and you work through testing, expanding then refining and eventually realizing that idea. Through these weekly topics and assignment students will develop their own process and method of fabrication.  By starting with 1D materials, students will develop their own strategies for folding, creasing, weaving, braiding, felting or otherwise manipulating these materials into 2D and ultimately 3D structures. This lineage allows us to explore the fundamentals of geometry from line, surface to volume as well as think about methods of drawing and constructing. Many of the materials and physical things around us are also built from 1D to 3D think of DNA or yarns to textiles or 2x4s to buildings. Students will develop this translation through a series of procedures or rules for translating the 1D material into interesting and unusual 3D objects.

Context >> Concept >> Draw >> Make >> Iterate >> Analysis/Narrative >> Present

Slides here:

Class 1 Introduction

Class 2 Context/Concept

Class 3 Representation


Exercise 2: Design Something with the Process

In the second exercise students will create hybrid fabrication processes by pairing with another student and creating a new process with a new set of rules/procedures. This hybrid process should take the best of both projects and create something surprisingly new/unusual/exciting that is more than the sum of its parts. The second exercise will explore an alternative design process that happens in reverse from the traditional process explored in Exercise 1. This discovery-based or research-oriented design process starts by making, experimenting, testing and discovering something then develops a concept around what it is, why it is useful and what context it relates to. The act of making leads to the discovery of something interesting and useful. Each week, students will refine their new hybrid processes by exploring the weekly topic, ultimately leading to the final presentation of this new process emphasizing the final objects that were created.

Make >> Draw >> Iterate >> Concept >> Context >> Analysis/Narrative >> Present


Structure of the Course - Weekly:

-Monday 15-30min intro presentation on the topic

-Then desk crits on last week’s assignment

-Wed: Student Presentations on the assignment from Mon

            -Then desk crits & next week’s assignment


4.141/4.142 Tentative Schedule:

Exercise 1: (7 Weeks) Design the Process

Week 1 (Feb. 5) Context

                  2/7             Exercise Introduction / Manufacturing Context Introduction

                                    Abstract Series

Week 2 (Feb. 12) Concept

                  2/12           Studio / Concept Intro + Desk Crits

                  2/14           Studio / Concept Presentations

Week 3 (Feb. 19) Representation

                  2/19           (No Class Presidents Day)

                  2/20           (Monday Classes on Tues) / Draw Intro - Intro Rhino/Adobe

                  2/21           Studio / Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 4 (Feb. 26) Make

                                    Intro to fabrication/shop trainings

                  2/26           Studio / Make Intro + Desk Crits

                  2/28           Studio / Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 5 (Mar 5) Iterate

                  3/5             Studio / Guest Lecture: Allan Chochinov 

                  3/7             Exercise 1 Interim Review

Week 6 (March 7) Iterate

                  3/7             Studio / Desk Crits

                  3/09           Studio / Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 7 (March 12) Analysis/Narrative/Documentation/Representation

                  3/12           Studio / Narrative Intro + Desk Crits

                  3/14           Studio Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 8 (March 19) Presentation

                  3/19           Studio / Prepare Presentations + Desk Crits

                  3/21           Exercise 1 Final Critique

Week 9 (March 26 Spring Break)

                  3/26           No Class

                  3/28           No Class


Exercise 2: (7 Weeks) Design with the Process

Week 10 (April 2) Make

                  4/2             Exercise 2 Introduction & Hybrids

                  4/4             Studio / Make

Week 11 (April 9) Draw

                  4/9             Studio / Make Desk Crits

                  4/11           Studio / Draw Desk Crits

Week 12 (April 16) Iterate

                  4/16           No Class (Patriots Day)

                  4/18           Studio / Iterate Desk Crits

Week 13 (April 23) Concept

                  4/23           Studio / Iterate Desk Crits

                  4/25           Studio / Concept Desk Crits

Week 14 (April 30) Context

                  4/30           Studio / Concept Desk Crits

                  5/2             Exercise 2 Interim Review

Week 15 (May 7) Analysis/Narrative

                  5/7             Studio / Context Desk Crits

                  5/9             Studio / Narrative Desk Crits

Week 16 (May 14) Presentation

                  5/14           Studio / Prepare Presentations + Desk Crits

                  5/16           Exercise 2 Final Critique