Telling Your Story // Brian Delaney
All things eventually come to an end. As we wrapped up the semester and prepared to head into the next chapter of our lives, Design+Make was faced with one final task. How do we tell our story? With Wendy Lai, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to represent the studio in final Kremer Award Presentation, an award given to the best group project for graduate students within the College of Architecture at Kansas State. This meant that we had to find a compelling way to share the story of two semesters of intensive work in a condensed and striking manner. Furthermore, we had to do it in such a way to sway the distinguished jury in our favor for their vote in the award. This was no easy task.
Throughout our academic career, we students have grown accustomed to selling our ideas off of presentation boards and models. This year’s presentation challenged us to think outside the box, as there were multiple platforms in which we were allowed to convey our work. This required that our methods of portraying our work had to be tweaked in every way to be most successful for each scenario. Since we knew the jurors were to be taking tours that morning, it was evident that we had to somehow transmit our work and overall culture to them without a word. For us, this meant displaying the studio that had been home base for every product to come out of this year’s Design + Build. This idea was a no brainer with our first project of studio desks at the forefront of display followed by our in-studio presentation wall filled with imagery and descriptions of each project. This seemed fitting as we had used this wall throughout the semester to organize the multitude of projects we pursued. The real challenge however, lay within the contents of the walls. Without being there to verbally explain our work and processes, we had to selectively curate the imagery, documents, and models that were needed to convey our story. We also had to edit down content and the overall message of the studio. Knowing your audience and the ways in which they will interact with your information became crucial in designing a successful presentation.
The hardest task of all lay within the actual verbal presentation of the content. Given only ten minuets to sum up two semesters of intensive work turned out to be a harder job than originally thought. Immediately we went to work, finding key points from each project and starting to summarize them individually. The more we did this, the more evident it became that this would not be a standard project critique. Something had to change. We were doing it all wrong. The problem lay in the fact that we were viewing the work of this year’s Design + Make studio as a series of projects, almost as notches on a belt as a testament to the amount of work we had done. What we really needed to present was the story of our studio in not only what we did, but also how we did it and, most important, what we learned. This is THE capstone studio experience, after all. The presentation team began to reflect on the core lessons and concepts evident throughout the entire semester. How did these influence each project? What did we learn from them? In a series of sentences how could we summarize our studio to someone unfamiliar with Design + Make?
Once they story was created came the challenge of putting together the presentation. It had to follow our storyline perfectly while simultaneously providing background understanding without distracting or stealing attention from the overall verbal presentation. The next task was the selection of information and imagery most appropriate in conveying the main idea. Construction documents were a vital piece in making our projects and we had pride in their completeness and precision. However, a simple image and example of a story pertaining to the designing of a detail was more effective. These types of decisions and moves were considered slide by slide, as there was a clear distinction between what needed to be on the display boards compared to the verbal presentation.
Summarizing ideas and telling digestible stories is a quintessential component to what architects do. After all what is a good design if you have no effective way of conveying it to an audience? Preparation and planning for the presentation reminded us one more time how important this skill is, and of the numerous factors that have to be considered when it comes to telling one’s story. In the end it all worked, as we were pleased to accept the Kremer Award for best group project within the department. Congratulations to everyone within our studio for their hard work this semester in achieving this honor.
Written by Brian Delaney