Designed for display;Reviews;Technology;Books

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Harvey McGavin visits Avery Hill, to find innovative display and teaching resources


Five 24-page project specific A4 packs (2 x mechanical systems, Electronicssystems and control, Graphic productsbuilt environment, Resistant materialsdesign history) pound;12 each plus postage. Two sets of 16 full-colour postcards featuring mechanical toys pound;4.50. A2 poster of above pound;4.50. Available from Ken Webster at Greenwich University, Bexley Road, Eltham, London SE9 2PQ .Tel: 0181 331 8040.

Student design and technology teachers at Greenwich University's Avery Hill campus have a fantastic resource right under their noses. For the built environment section of their course, there are few more elegant examples than the main building - a turn-of-the-century stately home.

Inspired perhaps by these handsome surroundings, student teachers at the site have helped produce a range of resources that could soon be decorating Damp;T classrooms.

Following a successful trial run ("We produced two packs to test the water and they sold well"), Ken Webster, senior lecturer in design and technology, borrowed some money and plunged in with production. The five colour-coded packs - each containing 24 A4 sheets covering aspects of the Damp;T curriculum from initial ideas to high-spec final drawings and photographs of finished products - are designed for display.

Ken Webster stresses the importance of visual stimuli in a Damp;T environment. What goes on the walls can be inspirational, he says, and downbeat displays won't fire the imagination.

"Many schools have posters on the walls, but they are rarely directly related to current projects. When you go round schools, you see problems that have existed for years. Display is an obvious one."

The packs - plus two sets of 16 colourful postcards and a poster - all use examples of project work produced by student teachers at the university. Although of a high standard, the work shouldn't prove beyond the abilities of good GCSE students - indeed the idea is to spur them on to greater creations.

One of the mechanical system packs shows the development of a chameleon key. The other complementary set features only initial ideas from several other animated toy projects. The electronicssystems and control pack features a variety of suggested projects using the Darlington pair circuit including a bath overflow alarm. The built environment sheets illustrate various approaches to a loft conversion brief, while the resistant materialsdesign history sheets focus on jewellery designs and candle holders inspired by particular artistic movements. Each sheet carries a useful comment box with tips on the kind of research, reference and presentation skills that can improve a project.

The loose-leaf format is deliberate. "New resources are always appearing, but 99 per cent of them are books," says Ken Webster. "Books tend to get stuck on shelves."

A more visual, readily accessible resource could help overcome the designer's equivalent of writer's block - what he calls "blank paper syndrome". Getting things down in black and white - even in the most rudimentary form - is always the first step towards the final product, even though it can be the hardest one to make. "We wanted to show that things don't have to be perfect. You have to value those little sketches."

Ken Webster discovered design and technology after a fine art degree, and while training as an art teacher, and was immediately converted. It was, he says, "like a bomb going off in my head". Now he hopes the publication of these user-friendly resources will inspire the same explosive enthusiasm among the next generation of designers.

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