Book review
 ISSUE 25   October 2001 |  updated 10/16/01   


New MastersThe Education of an E-Designer
Steven Heller, editor
320 pages, Allworth Press, 2001
ISBN: 1581151934

read about it, buy it.

  Finally, how do we teach (& learn) this stuff?

As he's done with his many other books (The Education of a Graphic Designer, Design Dialogues, Design Literacy, etc.) Steven Heller has gathered a batch of short essays sure to leave you nodding in agreement on one page and wincing in disbelief on the next.

You'll find divergent viewpoints on the importance of: learning programming, working collaboratively, viewing design more broadly, viewing design more narrowly... and so on.

The authors
You may not recognize the names of all the contributors, but reading their biographies, included at the end of the book, provide impressive credentials. There are designers from top new media firms like Razorfish, Scient, R/GA Interactive, Post Tool Design, and Imaginary Forces, and educators from CalArts, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Illinois Institute of Technology and more.

The essays
Each short (typically 3-5 pages) article focuses on a specific topic, but nearly all try to shed light on the big question of "Where is design headed in the digital age." You'll learn that:

Interactivity is not an elective. (Melissa Niederhelman)
There's no "e" in illustrator. (Dugald Stermer)
Convergence doesn't matter (Kyle Cooper)
Everything that can be digital, will be! (Tucker Viemeister)

and a whole lot more.

Course material
The final section, User Experiences, includes more than a dozen sample syllabi including:

Principles of Interactivity
Web Design I
Visual Communication Fundamentals
Advanced Digital Imaging
Motion Graphics

and others.

Antidote for growing pains
Design is going through a sometimes painful transition from the familiar stability of print—which we've collectively worked with for hundreds of years—to a new form based the publication of ideas via the computer. For design educators this usually means learning how to do it at roughly the same time as learning to teach it. It can be frustrating and confusing.

The Education of an E-Designer isn't going to end your confusion—well, it hasn't for me—but it will let you know that you're not alone in trying to make sense of it all. Better yet it will give you at least a couple of "Aha!" moments when some else is able to put into words the ideas you've been wrestling with.

Try this experiment sometime. Go to your local library and look at the Photography or the Film section. You'll see shelf after shelf of books about understanding, learning and teaching these subjects. Now look for the section on New Media, or Web Design, or Interactive Media. The selection is much smaller, and what you'll find is mostly about learning specific software.

Learning specific software is the easy part. We need to learn to understand and appreciate digital media so that we can learn to teach it. The Education of an E-Designer provides an overview of many ideas currently crashing around in the "digital mosh pit" design has become. It deserves a place on your bookshelf.





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