Sunday, March 4, 2012

Articles / Collaborative education for designers and developers at RIT (Part 1)

Articles / Collaborative education for designers and developers at RIT  (Part 1)

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.

Jeremy Brault designed and developed this site to explore the educational and interactive aspects offered by Adobe Flash.

The Programs

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

Students Lindsay Bergmann, Rebecca Foster, Randy Church and Ayaka Ito explore design through integrating 3D into After Effects, Photoshop and Flash.

As the undergraduate students in the New Media Design program are taking their traditional drawing, 2D Design, Elements of Graphic Design, and Typography courses, they are also introduced to programming courses in Adobe® Flash® Professional, ActionScript® 3.0, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by the New Media Interactive Development faculty in GCCIS. These courses give design students a strong foundation in the core concepts of object-oriented programming. In addition, undergraduate students in the New Media Interactive Development program are introduced to elements of graphic design and typography by the faculty in the New Media Design and Imaging program. This cross-disciplinary collaborative exposure to fundamental design and development is at the core of the designer-developer relationship and workflow.


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.

Laura Frastaci designed, illustrated and developed an immersive interactive experience to explore Alaskan mining for this online Adobe Flash project.

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. 

Rachael Nash (Idaho), Matt Raoul and Kim Miller work on html and RIA design systems


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.

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