Critique – the cornerstone of art and design classes everywhere. Equally nerve-wracking and rewarding, the process opens up dialogue, offering students new insight on their work. In a typical critique, artists and designers pin recent projects to the wall, discuss concept and process, answer questions and get feedback from professors and peers.
“Critiques are a huge part of class,” says University of Houston graduate student Jinyong Choi (M.F.A. Graphic Design ’19). “It’s when we exchange our opinions and ideas so that we can build a better portfolio together.”
But critiques with fellow designers, while sometimes tough or challenging, are one thing; critiques with non-designers are something entirely different. Choi admits the process can be daunting, but offers the chance to grow and evolve as a designer. “Sometimes we need to explain our work to people who are not graphic designers, people who come from different fields.”
Not one to be intimated by a challenge, Choi and his classmate Derek Witucki (M.F.A. Graphic Design ’19) will both present research posters at UH’s third annual Graduate Research and Scholarship Projects (GRaSP) Day. The event showcases the groundbreaking research taking place at UH and typically draws students from STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields, but Choi and Witucki are excited to participate representing the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts.
“I’m expecting to be a bit of a novelty,” laughs Witucki. “We may get some unusual questions, but it will be an opportunity to educate other students about art and design.”
Choi agrees, pointing out that much like engineers, designers are essentially problem solvers. “We identify the problem, and then try to find the solution.”
Choi will be presenting a data visualization poster about his research on tennis racquet optimization. As a fledgling tennis player, he was interested in the way things like string pattern affect a player’s ability to aim and hit with precision and force. Focusing on six select variables, he gathered data from 15 athletes over several weeks and organized his findings into geometric shapes. “I found that a tennis racquet could be categorized for better control or power,” he explains. “My job as a designer is to take this complicated information and translate it into something people can understand.”
Witucki’s project, an auditory map of the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, takes a more abstract approach to data visualization. At GRaSP, he will be presenting a process poster that details the steps he took to collect data — recording sounds and their acoustic qualities over numerous site visits — and the process of transforming that data into visual representations. “I’ll be talking about how design is an iterative process,” he says. “We go out, observe, take notes, write down qualitative things, look for questions and look for problems. Then we try to solve them.”
GRaSP takes place on November 10, 2017 in the UH Student Center South. See the full schedule here.