8 August 2011
Today, technical understanding and know-how is more important than ever. To complete even simple tasks users must master more complex technologies, hardware, and applications. The local automobile mechanic is now a computer technician, the local florist masters an e-commerce and digital shipping system, and parents manage online distribution lists and databases for their family photos. While technology allows the user to do more, the minimum technical requirements for users also must increase. At the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) two programs work together to give both visual design and computer programming students the tools needed to create the next generation of web, desktop and mobile applications for the interactive design and development fields.
The New Media Design and Imaging program in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS) and the New Media Interactive Development program in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) at RIT offer a unique experience by introducing both the creative and technical aspects of interactive design and development. The New Media Design and Imaging is a Bachelor of Fine Art program that concentrates on the visual design, UI design, interactivity, and motion graphics for screen design. New Media Interactive Development is a Bachelor in Sciences program that concentrates on computer programming for games, web, interactive RIA and simulations. While creativity and design are not technology-dependant, nor should they be, it is important for the students to understand the tools they must work with and the technologies for which they are creating solutions.
DESIGNERS AND TECHNOLOGY
After the New Media Design students complete their introduction to programming, they take additional courses in graphic design, animation, user interface and interactive design. These courses allow the students to learn how to use the Adobe workflow from concept to design through development. Students are required to begin with image boards and wireframes from Adobe Illustrator® before moving into the design stage using Adobe Photoshop®. Next, students use Adobe After Effects® to create animated mockups, design animations and transition elements before finally moving into Adobe Flash or Dreamweaver® to combine their visuals with the appropriate programming. This process helps the students understand how to incorporate the elements of design and development together to create working interactive solutions.
This process is done in part to get the design student over the obstacle of being afraid of the technology that they are working with and designing for. It is not uncommon to see students limit their design or interactive complexity due to their lack of technical knowledge. I have found that the more technology, programming, or workflow knowledge designers have, the better they can understand how to leverage and even push the power of the technology beyond its intended uses. To help foster this collaboration between both programs, students can "cross over" to take additional design courses or development courses during their four-year education. Visit http://aesfaa.cias.rit.edu/adobe/collaboration/ to view student examples of this educational approach and more specific course information on the New Media Design and Imaging program.
THE FINAL COLLABORATION
To reinforce the importance of collaboration and the design-developer relationship, seniors from both programs are brought together for a 20-week capstone project. This collaborative experience adds the final dimension in combining design and development workflows with cross-discipline team building and project management. Part 2 of this article will look at the processes and benefits of creating a long-term cross-discipline capstone project between designers and developers.