Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts tagged ‘Design’

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In honor of the autumnal equinox, I unearthed some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s musings about the importance of nature in design. As he wrote in 1908:

“there is no source so fertile, so suggestive, so helpful aesthetically for the architect as a comprehension of natural law.”

Concerned with creating an authentically American, organic architecture, Wright formulated some timeless “propositions” concerning architecture and design. Here they are coupled with photos I snapped while visiting his masterpiece, Fallingwater. Fall is the perfect time to visit.

1. Simplicity and Repose are qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.


2. There should be as many kinds (styles) of houses as there are kinds (styles) of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality has a right to its expression in his own environment.


3. A Building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.


4. Use the soft warm, optimistic tones of earths and autumn leaves in preference to the pessimistic blues, purples, or cold greens and grays of the ribbon counter.


5. Bring out the nature of materials, let their nature intimately into your scheme. Reveal the nature of the wood, plaster, brick, or stone in your designs, they are all by nature friendly and beautiful.


6. A house that has character stands a good chance of growing more valuable as it grows older while a house in the prevailing mode, whatever that mode may be, is soon out of fashion, stale, and unprofitable. Above all, integrity.


*From Frank Lloyd Wright. Essential Texts (2009).
*Originally published in The Architectural Record, 23 (1908).

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Forthcoming. Making Space: Writing Instruction, Infrastructure, and Multiliteracies.

This  video project tells the story behind the building of a multimedia production classroom, our second classroom to date. Following the space from its initial proposal stage (Fall 2012) through to completion (Spring 2013), the project provides a detailed calendar view through the months as the project (and our design philosophy) develops. While the video is currently in production; you can view the trailer here:

Design Philosophy for a Multimodal Composition Classroom from Aesthetically on Vimeo.

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Three years ago my family bought a beautiful home on Old Mission Peninsula designed by Northern Michigan architect Glenn Arai. Arai built the home in 1973 and used materials from an old barn on the site. The house is a mixture between mid-century modern and Japanese farmhouse, designed to bring the outdoors in. Every detail is meticulously crafted. Arai is an unknown architect to all but a small handful of homeowners. And that, I think, is a pity. 

Closet barn doorspantry doors Living room


 Knight, A., Rife, M. C., Loncharich, L., & DeVoss, D. N.  (2009). About face: Mapping our institutional presence. Computers and Composition, 26(3), 190–202.

 “About Face: Mapping Our Institutional Presence” is about strategies for designing more effective university writing program websites This piece situates writing program websites as important institutional spaces that serve as interfaces to shared values, beliefs, and practices.

In this article I worked with my co-authors to develop a three-part framework to understand how websites of United States-based writing programs craft identity and anchor their programs. The aesthetic, cultural, and institutional lenses we describe can be used by designers to both critique and create engaging digital environments that reflect the look and feel of university programs. We also analyzed the ways in which digital interfaces do and don’t mesh with what university programs say they value professionally and pedagogically.

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Forthcoming. Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, 1(3).

We Need to Talk: How can spaces bring people together to promote learning?

Space impacts learning. Designed spaces can encourage exploration, collaboration, and engagement Or physical spaces can say – it’s alright to check-out and go to sleep. As knowledge is socially constructed, always done together, our department seeks to design spaces that increase human contact, communication, and collaboration. This video features students and faculty teaching and learning in a multimodal production classroom.


In 2011 I built my dream classroom. In light of this miraculous event, Jentery Sayers invited me to present ideas on “Hacking the Classroom” at Computers and Writing 2012 at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The  goal of our panel was to ignite a conversation about “Why the higher ed classroom needs to be hacked, and how might we hack it?” The panel was kindly reviewed by Crystal VanKooten on the University of Michigan Digital Rhetoric Collaborative blog here.

That day I told the audience that we need to start sharing what our classrooms look like, what we do inside them, and what technologies we use and would like to use.

I also created an infographic which illustrated three optimal designs for networked, highly-productive, learner-centered spaces. During my presentation, I told the story of how I was able to design and build one of these spaces at my institution. I then told the audience that I want to start building the other two: 1) a technology rich arena theater (based on a design from Second Life) and 2) videogame breakout room/s. 

At the end of my talk I told the audience that I hoped to be standing in front of them next time, showing them my new classrooms.

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Diana George. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.”  College Composition and Communication 52.1 (September 2002):  11-39.

Diana George discusses the importance of bringing issues of visual literacy into the writing classroom. Primarily, George addresses the history of the visual within the field of composition studies from the 1940’s to the present. She claims that due to the history of composition studies, we have limited the possibilities for the visual in the teaching of writing. Reflecting on some examples of interesting student work George claims: “The work of these students and others like them has convinced me that current discussions of visual communication and writing instruction have only tapped the surface of possibilities for the role of visual communication in the composition class” (George 2002:12)  She says: “Our students have a much richer imagination for what we might accomplish with the visual than our journals have yet to address” (12)

Attention visual rhetoric people! This comment of George’s must be addressed:

“Within the tradition of verbal/visual communication I am outlining here, only certain kinds of “visual” assignments seem possible for a writing course. Primarily, these would be assignments that use visual images as prompts for essay writing” (George 2002: 20).

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Ellen Cushman. “Toward a Praxis of New Media: The Allotment Period in Cherokee History.” Reflections 5.1-2 (Spring 2006): 111-132.

In this article Ellen Cushman outlines a praxis of new media, a theoretical and pedagogical model, which frames the ways in which “community, critical, and digital literacies, when combined in community literacy initiatives,  can be transformative for those who engage them” (Cushman 115). Cushman illustrates the need for sustainable community literacy initiatives/projects–ones which have support at curricular, departmental and administrative levels. Cushman claims that a praxis of new media can be viewed as an improvement on the Designs of Meaning as made known by the New London Group’s “Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” and their later offering: Multiliteracies: Literacy Leaning and the Design of Social Futures. In this work, the authors bring together an interdisciplinary understanding of language and literacy to describe what they call “designs,” or those flexibly structured social organizations, knowledge bases, and cultural practices that influence daily meaning-making practices and life chances” (Cushman 115). One aspect of the mulitliteracies framework includes the Designs of Meaning that writers and readers use when creating meaning. These Designs of Meaning include the means of available designs (e.g. the tools, grammars, and media used); the designing process; and the re-designed product. (Cushman 115). As Cushman cites: “the power of this theoretical framework rests in it multidiscplinary perspective of meaning-making and its inclusion and equal weighting of various sign technologies. In this theory of mulitliteracies, the letter, print, and word are valued equally in relation to other forms of meaning-making that include images, motion, graphics and sound (Cushman 115). She also claims that the model is good, except for what happens in the social dimension of meaning-making. Cushman claims that the New London Group’s model lacks the socio-cultural exigencies that influence meaning -making.  What it still needs is a rhetoric.

Cushman’s praxis of new media compliments the NLG’s model while adding more rhetorical purpose as well as ethical traction. This helps to take into consideration the audience’s needs and desires and how to facilitate projects that meet at the intersections of community, critical, and digital literacies. This article helps me to ground my work in theory–while it helps me to expand on the idea of a praxis of new media. The ways in which meaning is made by both readers and writers is indeed multidisciplinary–and something that I am sure goes beyond the scope of “interpreting” or “creating.” I am interested in this because, if the designs of meaning include both interpreting and creating, there is still a very broad category of meaning-making that is not represented–and this is something like “experience” or “engagement.”  

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