Published in 26th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student Conference Proceedings: Charlotte, North Carolins, March 18, 2010, pages 85-92.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Cabrinha. Published by National Conference on the Beginning Design Student.
Only 8 years ago when I began teaching, integrating digital media in the design studio was hampered by institutional politics and lack of hardware accessibility. Now students come to my studio with dual monitors and are multitasking maniacs with a host of distractions and a subtle reluctance to explore and test ideas physically. As design culture becomes more and more a digital culture, perhaps the fact so much digital work looks the same is not only due to a fairly basic understanding of tools and skills, but a lack of material imagination. Digital fabrication in association with the virtual prototype and parametric modeling are powerful tools for design development, but the growing conventions of use can thwart the material development these tools were meant to engender. Perhaps obvious in hindsight, digital fabrication requires not only digital dexterity but a robust material sensibility that precedes digital mediation. To this end, I have focused on a materials first approach to developing digital skills to excite the material imagination. This material imagination is more than a pragmatic means to develop digital skills, but a more epistemic way of operating - an engagement with the world. My interest is to position the material imagination as a reciprocal creative intelligence to the dominant formal imagination enabled through the fluid geometric precision in digital tools. In the end, nurturing this material imagination in concert with the formal imagination may have a strong influence on the conceptual horizon that students draw from.