The Virtual Design Studio: developing new tools for learning, practice and research in design.
Malins, Julian Paul
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The emergence of new networked technologies such as virtual learning environments (VLE’s) and digital libraries are providing opportunities for the development of new virtual tools to assist the design researcher in exploring ideas with the aid of visualising and mapping tools and to provide interfaces that support interdisciplinary collaboration between design teams. In 1998 a research project was initiated to evaluate the potential of computer assisted learning within Art and Design. This resulted in the development of a virtual learning environment designed to support Art and Design students and staff (www.studio-space.net). This paper describes the design process used to develop this VLE and the underlying principles based on a constructivist approach to experiential learning. The on-going research uses the metaphor of the ‘design studio’ to explore a range of technologies that provide generative tools for the representation of design practice and related research, including the development and evaluation of an online Personal Development Planning tool (PDP) and other information management systems. The paper explores some of the ways in which tools such as; information retrieval applications, white-boards, visual mapping and digital archives can be combined to provide a virtual online design research studio. A further extension to the metaphor provides opportunities for developing new facilities, for example the portfolio, drawing board, bookcase, modelmaking area. The virtual design studio has two potential uses: first, to provide a tool box for the design researcher/educator to undertake collaborative design practice using CAD/CAM applications; second, to provide systems that help to externalise design methodologies, thus making it possible to gain an insight into the design process itself. This latter outcome can be achieved through the use of meta data (such as author, date/time created, version number – i.e. design iteration, note pad) and the representation of critical decision paths and reflection points.
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