SILK SCARF SAMPLE DEVELOPMENT USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES IN THE CLASSROOM
Anita Racine, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Slow and intermittent computer-aided design (CAD) technologies are forgotten memories in design studios. Modern classrooms equipped with speedy computers, refined computer software and sophisticated peripherals such as large format scanners and plotters augment the development of unique and professional-looking student work. Enhanced digital technologies enable design educators to shift the focus of instruction away from computer hardware and software learning, to in-depth examinations of art and design principles, and the application of color theories to apparel products.
In the Department of Textiles and Apparel at Cornell University, digital tools are an integral part of a student designer’s world, beginning in the first year. In a freshman class project, students create silk scarves with asymmetric central motifs and multiple outside borders based on inspiration from a wide array of art and design work. Searching through vast online databases for digitized art, design, and textile images from institutes and galleries, from the smallest to the most prominent around the world is now possible with the click of a mouse. These digital resources supplement traditional methods of design research in university libraries and local museums, and help to enhance young designers’ creativity.
Comprehensive search engines used to locate digital visuals such as “Mother of All Art” http://art-design.umich.edu/mother/index.html , the “Web Gallery of Art”, http://www.wga.hu/index.html, “ArtCylopedia”, http://www.artcyclopedia.com/ and hundreds of other sites too numerous to mention, are gateways to an expansive world of art and design.
The digital design process for the scarf project utilizes two software programs. Students first learn to draw with the vector-based AutoCAD program to create original line art on their scarves. Later, applying enhancements to the black and white scarves with pixel-based Adobe Photoshop adds surface interest to the designs. A series of in-class critiques help beginners to shape the early stages of their design work on the computer. Printing paper mock-ups, a beneficial intermediate step, allows students to fold and refold these prototypes to assure that they comprehend and apply basic design principles, and that they evaluate the diagonal orientation of the scarf when worn.
During the first term, while students take this computer-aided design course, they are concurrently enrolled in a lecture course that focuses on design fundamentals and color theory. Combining design lectures with a studio class is ideal from an educational standpoint because the concepts and theories newly learned in lectures are continuously reinforced with hands-on studio projects. In her design analysis of the scarf below, Michelle Diamond articulates her understanding of basic color concepts, “I learned that gradation could help define a form in space, and give the illusion of three-dimensionality. Color value can also create an illusion of space; I used both in my design. Other design techniques are important, too. I used pointillism on the scarf borders to produce an optical mixture of color”.
Another student describes her careful deliberations with color, “My color choices were much more thoughtful than they would have been had I not learned about color theory in the lecture class. I kept in mind the implications that value and hue can have on an image, and the emotional impact each color has. I considered the psychological and technical effects of color when I based my design on the 1943 “Simplified Botany” painting of Dorothea Tanning”.
With digital designing and printing, experimentation with a range of colorways is fast and direct, compared to traditional printing methods. Exploring the relationships of color to design elements is accomplished through multiple venues in the classroom; on the monitor, projected on the wall, and with paper printouts before fabric printing begins. During the digital design process, students are able to experience and evaluate the effects of selected color combinations on their finished designs. Tiffany Todo realized through hands-on experimentation that, “Objects with brighter, warmer, more contrasting colors, and with more detail appear closer, while less textured, less contrasting colored objects tend to recede”.
An exciting and recent development in academia is the capability of printing design work on high-quality textiles developed for large format plotters. In this project, we used a translucent silk crepe and a standard Hewlett Packard plotter, producing scarves with a luxurious hand and soft drape. UV inks for digital printers assure that the color palette selected for the finished scarves will remain bright and stable for professional presentations, and for extended use in portfolios. Creating vibrant color palettes on fabric for apparel and accessories makes the creative process very enticing for young designers. Below a student stretches her artistic abilities and updates a traditional Japanese fish motif in an unexpected color scheme.
Jacqueline Pribil carefully studied Leonard Baskin’s exhibit “Earthbound Flight” that featured precisely carved, drawn, and sculpted winged creatures that were dead. In the scarf below, she combined a myriad of computer techniques to imitate Baskin’s rough-edged woodcuts. The natural forms within the scarf create an illusion of a handcrafted block print, demonstrating the versatility of digital designing and printing.
In our technologically integrated curriculum, two required design courses taken in the freshman fall term firmly mesh theory with practice, and build a strong foundation for subsequent courses in apparel, design, and textiles. Today, the flexibility and simplicity of digital technologies positively enhance young designers’ creative visions, production, and output. Technology-driven studio courses can result in visually stimulating and sophisticated textile designs, while preparing students for professional work in the field.
The student design work in this article was presented at Philadelphia University on May 10 and 11, 2004 at the “Creativity: Designer Meets Technology” Conference.
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