A couple of days ago we presented our studio project mid-point charette. After weeks of research, hours of travel, literally hundreds of photos and interviews with individuals sharing stories some would not believe. It was now time to run through our findings to get a bearing on our progress moving forward.
I would like to share my personal first time charette experience, and the do’s and do not’s of presenting a design research charette at a mid-point level.
I would like to first define for everyone what the actual word “charette” means as it was very foreign to me coming from the ad world. The term charrette may refer to an intense period of work by one person or a group of people prior to a deadline. In design I have found the definition to be loosely based on a number of factors, such as design field, formality, etc. For our sake it was a briefing of a project in progress, done in a visual narrative in a selected space in our classroom.
The word is pretty fun, because derived from the French word for “little cart” in Paris during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the “charrette” to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.
According to Dictionary.com the best way to win a design contract is through well crafted charette.
So, let us then begin with the “Do’s” that I have learned from my first charette. They are valuable, and many I learned from the “Do Not’s” section.
Do: Actually have a well crafted charette. My understanding is that well crafted does not necessarily mean simply visually appealing, as sharpie on a brown paper with some compelling imagery would very much do the trick with the right content. Well crafted involves both:
1. Understanding visual hierarchy in storytelling. Use of font size, color contrasts, and content placement to guide your audience through your narrative is effective and can be really fun.
And that is pretty much all we got correct for the Do’s section.
Let’s just skip to the do not’s and get it over with.
Do Not: Stay up until 4am putting together your well crafted charette. Learn from my experience, if the next morning you can not even focus your eyes to read the 60pt font that is printed out on huge paper, none of your work matters.
Do Not: Forget you are telling a story, from start to finish. Each image, each quote and mark on the page should be there for a reason. Fluff information is simply that – a barrier to information that matters. (refer to Do Not #1 above)
Do Not: Forget about that giant collection of images stuffed in the corner that could probably better tell your story than a foggy brain and a hasty quote.
Learning from the do not’s here are a few additional do’s.
Do: Make sure your information makes sense and tells the story you want to tell. Choosing the most shocking or random quotes from individuals you speak with will do nothing but divert the audience from the real narrative your are trying to tell.
Do: Always ask “Why?”. Why is this artifact here? Does it help or hurt the narrative? Is it in the right place?
Do: Proofread your content! So what you were up until 4am. A typo is a typo and getting called out on it (especially by a client) is a big fat no no.
Do: Rehearse your story. If you do not know your narrative by heart you don’t know it period. Everything that is on that board should work together to tell one larger story, and here at midpoint you should be able to tell that story, then add on how and why you will write your story further.
I could go on but future students, and future ME, I leave you with this advice. Just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s not garbage. If the content makes no senses as a whole, start over.
Also, get some sleep. Just because you can stay up until 4am does not mean you ever, ever should IF you have to be responsible for formulating a complete sentence the next day.
Craft Your Narrative.
GET SOME SLEEP. Actually be able to have your brain eloquently present your empathetic narrative. Where, when, and how you believe what you believe, who are your players and why are they important, then what you are going to do next?
…go to bed.