Studio Touring: AC4D and Austin Design Week

Alumni Kaley Coffield and Eric Boggs and current students Kay Wyman and Aaron Steinman rocked the socks off the lovely crowd of folks who came down for the AC4D Studio Tour we held as a part of Austin Design Week.

One of the core values at AC4D is designing in public. Those of you who frequent this blog will be familiar with how serious we are about that, but it’s not every day we get to protect time for whoever might be interested to walk through the student war rooms and see tacked up slips of paper with preliminary insights, concept models riddled with scribbles, and exploded diagrams of coffee makers.

A photo of Kay Wyman walking a group through her team's war room
Kay Wyman walks a group through her team’s war room

Aside from checking out the physical space, our guests got to hear from the AC4D folk listed above about the design process and AC4D projects past and present.

AC4D alum and audience plant Alex Wykoff asked if the panelists knew where to find the “secret sauce” of design, the font of creativity and talent whence springs all good ideas, which gave the panelists a wonderful opportunity to undercut that narrative. AC4D teaches its students (and anyone who cares to pop by) that design is a process, a collection of philosophies and techniques that everyone can learn and apply. As one visitor told me, that’s part of the fun of getting to see student work: when you interact with a shipped, well-designed product created by an experienced designer, you only perceive the delight provoked by their masterful execution. (Or perhaps you notice nothing at all; their design has so seamlessly shaped your actions that you barely note its passing influence.) But that’s just the shiny output from the tangled, rich, wonderful design process. Looking at the beautiful smartphones we have now, it’s easy to forget that the first iterations of phones were cruddy sketches by Alexander Graham Bell.

Sketch of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, 1876, courtesy of the Library of Congress
A sketch of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, 1876, courtesy of the Library of Congress

A night out at a concert is pretty fun, but once in a while there’s a pleasure in listening to scrappy musicians test out licks and lyrics, too.