Exploring Collaboration between Computer Science Engineers and Visual Communication Designers in Educational Settings

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Ganci, Aaron; Ramnath, Rajiv; Ribeiro, Bruno; Stone, R. Brian
Series: E&PDE
Section: Multi-disciplinary perspectives
Page(s): 460-465


Because of our increasingly technology-enabled society, computing-supported interactions are growing in both number and complexity. Companies are now rethinking their digital presence, creating new online services that require complex virtual environments. As a result, designers are now required to align themselves closely with computer science engineers. To create truly useful and successful applications, a wide variety of specialties is now necessary. For the foreseeable future, design’s success will be closely tied to the success of our computer science colleagues.

The design profession has struggled with this paradigm recently, grasping for a way to establish a model for collaboration. The recent proliferation of agile methodologies in professional development communities has proved very successful in generating new collaborative environments. These environments provide a space for many roles to have an impact on a solution, allowing everyone to utilize a wider range of capabilities. Working in this manner has proved successful because of an alignment and tight integration of project goals between business, design and engineering.

However, despite the success of agile methodologies, there is still room for improvement. The input of business representatives, designers and engineers can be varied, and it is often in opposition to one another. Every profession struggles with the idea of compromising ideals to benefit the ideas of another. Designers may have thoughts about how an interaction needs to work in order to be successful. However, their engineering colleagues may veto the idea due to time or budgetary restrictions tied to the level of complexity. Agile environments help establish a dialogue between the two, but a lack of experience in these interactions may still cause friction, causing a delay, and ultimately affecting the final product. This area is propitious for improvement within these collaborative settings.

Proceeding with the hypothesis that collaborative dialogue should be introduced earlier, we set out to define a better educational setting for design and engineering students to work together. In defining a better educational environment, we can establish a place for students to practice working together towards a common goal.

In an attempt to start defining this critical space, graduate students from the Department of Design at The Ohio State University worked as consultants for development teams within two capstone courses in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Out of observations, surveys and interviews during the Autumn 2010 Quarter, recommendations were established to improve upon the traditional educational experience. Predominantly, the observations showed that a lack of understanding around the benefits of Design existed amongst the engineering student community. These recommendations were used to define a new model of interaction for the students, now placing an emphasis on interdependency. In this redesigned classroom environment, students will now be required to work closely to integrate multidisciplinary perspectives into their solutions. By giving students the opportunity to work interdependently in an academic environment, institutions will help generate professionals that are prepared to work more integratively after graduation.

Keywords: Design, collaboration, computer science, education, software development


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