Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Fall semester 2009
Instructors: Prem Krishnamurthy, Adam Michaels, Renda Morton
excerpt from workshop syllabus
Design is a shared activity, one which involves coordinating the knowledge and resources of multiple agents. These individuals have specific interests; through focusing on common aspirations, desires may be left intact yet integrated into a larger whole. In this course, we will create a space in which ideas and tools are shared to advance individual and collective goals.
What constitutes a site of exchange and shared knowledge? There are many examples of such spaces—libraries, clubhouses, communes, workshops, community centers. Typically these spaces grow from a common interest, whether educational, recreational, vocational, or cultural. They involve a significant commitment of time or resources.
However, through aggregation these spaces are able to accomplish more than any given component could. Take, for example, The Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin and others in 1731. Responding to the expense and difficulty of procuring books, as well as the lack of public libraries, The Library Company functioned as a private club. Members paid dues which went towards purchasing books and maintaining the library; members also donated or loaned their books to contribute to the collection. Such pooling of common resources created an institution with a use value exponentially larger than the sum its individual contributions.
The class will focus on creating such a space here in the RISD graduate graphic design studios. We will take as our starting point this empty space, the conference room, and use the means at our disposal to shape it over the course of the semester. What could this room do? What functions are needed here in this studio space? What activities can such a room host?
This room will become a collective site, one which grows through the life of its members over the course of the entire semester. Each member will be asked to lend the space (and the class) things—including knowledge and tools—of value and significance. Together, these things will form a collection which is accessible to the entire class, allowing for the sharing of ideas and skills and the discovery of new avenues of inquiry. The contents of this room will become our sole material for the entire course, but they will be shared equally and with transparency. Everything used by one will be available to all.
The things collected and catalogued will form the basis for a number of design projects in different media. These projects will be introduced over the course of the semester by the three instructors.
It is important to note that there is no collective without individual members. The shared enthusiasm and open interests of the members, balanced together, will contribute to the success of this space.