Interaction Design / Design Research
BFA Graphic Design, Honors Iowa State University
How might we create an interactive space for student feedback?
For my undergraduate Honors capstone project I created a project, inspired by the work of Candy Chang, entitled “The Wall”. It was an interactive installation piece that designed a way for students to speak freely about where for improvement existed at Iowa State’s College of Design. It was installed near the entrance of the building - where more than 1500 students passed it each day. It countered the two main issues of previously attempted town hall, open-forum formats; individuals often didn’t want their names tied to complaints and there were often schedule conflicts due to copious studio hours.
I created a portable chalkboard experience with the prompts “I WANT TO DESIGN ___”, “ I WANT FACULTY TO____” and “I NEED TO LEARN____” inspired by the work of Candy Chang. These prompts were intentionally open-ended to evolve as the student body contributed to it as an interactive and performance art piece. It was filled within the first day of its life with contributions such as “I want to design to solve problems”, “I want faculty to understand how much time and money I invest in projects”, and “I need to learn to believe in myself as much as my teacher does.” After several days on campus, The Wall was seemingly defaced. However, it was me, the creator, who made it look as though a troublemaker had written things such as “THIS IS STUPID”, “DESIGN IS WORTHLESS”, and “NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING” as further social experimentation and to test the resilience of many of the participants. Less than twelve hours later, random writers had covered up the ‘vandalization’ with “THIS IS AWESOME”, “DESIGN IS F***ING COOL”, and “YOU CAN AMOUNT TO ANYTHING.” Because of the profanity in a public space, administration requested the installation be taken down after a week on campus.
Overall, the serendipitous nature of this experiment spoke to the enduring spirit of the students even in the midst of semester midterm chaos and stress. Given the invitation to fill an empty space with complaints, students instead chose to share messages of their hopes and needs. The suggestions were captured, itemized, and presented to the department head of graphic design to disseminate throughout the faculty. The ‘chalkings’ were a true testament to the optimistic and benevolent spirit of humans. Students engaged physically and on social media with the exhibit and showcased a deeper connection to my piece than I could have ever hoped for.