Doing it in style
If like me you look at a lot of children's designing and see a wide range from the outstandingly good to the absolutely awful then any book which aims to help pupils of design and technology improve on the quality of their design work will always be welcome. Communicating Design by Mike Finney and Val Charles concentrates on the graphical skills and knowledge associated with presenting design ideas and information. The book is aimed at students of DT in the 14 to 19 age range although there is much of relevance to pupils in key stage 3. The text is written with the pupil in mind in a form and style which they will find helpful. With many current DT examinations placing considerable emphasis on the production of design portfolios as part of the course work requirements, this book will be a useful resource.
The book is divided into five colour-coded sections. The first four deal with basic graphical techniques; developing design ideas; presentation techniques; and technical drawing. While in many respects there is nothing new here, every conceivable medium and technique is covered comprehensively. A range of pictorial drawing formats are included together with clear illustrations of how various media such as crayons, markers, inks, highlighters and airbrushing can be used to bring drawings to life and show texture, shape and form. I was particularly pleased to see a section on modelling, a much maligned aspect of designing. The book shows how a variety of modelling materials and components can be used to create 3D models as part of developing a design idea. The fourth section deals with more formal technical drawing, including orthographic projection and the familiar drawing conventions. The relevance of cross-sections, auxiliary views and assembly drawings are clearly shown. Every section is lavishly illustrated with good quality examples, in full colour, which set a standard for pupils to aim at.
Each section also contains examples of professional designers and engineers to show how the skills and techniques referred to are used in business and industry. A wide range of professional designers are used including architectural, fashion, furniture, stage set, and engineering design.
A couple of pages are devoted to how information technology is used to design and develop products. It is never easy to write about IT but the book does make reference to the major uses of computer-aided design and explores briefly what the advantages are in the world of manufacturing. More could have been made of this but the text rightly makes the point that computers cannot design things for us but are able to make the process quicker or easier if you are clear about what you are trying to do.
The final section presents three real-world case studies, including corporate image design, environmental design, and corporate clothing design for Le Shuttle. These give a useful in-depth look at how professional designers have gone about developing and presenting their ideas using the range of materials and techniques covered within the book. Each one includes photographs of the final product. I would have liked to see a few more examples here. Familiar products manufactured from resistant materials are notably absent.
Many teachers of design and technology have welcomed the revision of the national curriculum and the emphasis given to designing and making products of good quality. This book has much to offer pupils who wish to develop and present their designs clearly and imaginatively. It is endorsed by the Technology Enhancement Programme, and teachers will look forward to additions to the series.
The real rigour and quality of design work lies in the content and substance of the design rather than just the presentation. Teachers will need to balance the teaching of relevant skills while ensuring that pupils do not use up too much precious time on neatly presenting relatively low level design work.
Andrew Tubbs is county adviser for design and technology in Berkshire