Emily Knobloch
12 min readOct 15, 2020

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Overview

This year, unlike any other, has offered the biggest obstacles that we need to face. For the most part, we’ve been staying at home and falling behind with our routine; for months, we haven’t gotten the opportunity to see certain friends or family.

Students have especially suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schooling’s inherently social nature has taken a new, unfamiliar form, and ;earning has become less of an opportunity for growth and development and more of a checkbox to tick off every day. Therefore, we wanted to observe, understand and learn about the challenges college students have specifically faced in the midst of this “new normal” in education.

Process

The design process was conducted in four steps: Discover, Diverge, Design and Deliver. For the first time in our third year of design studies, we dove into research without knowing what the end product could be.

  1. Discover (Week 1–2):

Our Professor introduced us to the design agency Hyperakt; a studio driven by the purpose to help others for a better future (social impact). They had a huge range of impressive case studies: from “keeping new york on track” to “The world’s best investment in girls education”.

We read and questioned each one until we found one common denominator: education and pushing each other’s abilities. Over zoom, we discussed our findings and relationships to this overarching topic. in particular, the new education system with COVID 19. We enjoyed the case studies “Designing a learning space about learning space.” and “Reflecting the true brilliance of educators” which followed a creative design technique to influence learning. The design agency decided to base the campaign on a verb, call to action, “teach.” We liked this idea so much that we started by writing a huge list of verbs that reminded us of how we ,as students, feel about the midst of a pandemic.

Next steps included sketching out nemours mind maps to compare the cause, effect and possible solutions. We questioned all perspectives in order to form our own. We looked into more sources online to way out the situation of the pandemic until we found our word “pivot”.

In basketball pivoting helps a player to both avoid a defensive player and find an opening on the court. The defensive player in this case is COVID 19 and we want to show you how to overcome learning obstacles. We realize how we have lifed through an incredible shift and wanted to express this creatively.

2. Diverge (Week 3 &4) :

While conducting our research we collected images that inspired us aesthetically and in relationship to our topic. Sometimes it was simple things such as the font or approach of the pieces or the overall idea behind a design.

Using this collection we created moodboards and a Pecha Kucha Presentation.

We discussed how education was based on

  1. Vision: How the student views him or herself as a learner and the space they occupy in. (difficulties, goal making, time management, effort and completion)
  2. Shift: responsibilities as students, new achievement, new schedule, new routine, new settings and form of communication
  3. Experimentation
  4. Stabilise and Control: What can we control, mental health, adaptation, “me time”

Design:

The most crucial and challenging part of this process were the 50 Iterations. A collection of experimentations. In the past, we used to research, sketch and design with a product and theme in mind. However, here we needed to try to let loose and simply create.

We started off by going our separate ways to create 25 iterations each. Then we came back together to create iterations that were inspired by each other’s work.

Eventually we narrowed it down to these:

Our Visual System

When establishing a system for our projects, we wanted to create a graphic motif which reflected our narratives and calls-to-action. After consulting our research and our pre-production iterations, we landed upon a thematic constant: alignment. With regards to our topic of student-life in the age of COVID-19, we noticed that the harsh transition from in-person to online learning landed students in a position of uncertainty and confusion. We have been forced to adjust how we learn and how to take care of ourselves. Though there is still an air of uncertainty regarding how much longer we will be in this pandemic, we have had the time to center our minds and establish strategies which allow us to learn effectively again.

In order to illustrate this idea graphically, we created a thread between this narrative and CMYK and RGB color models. While CMYK color printing is a subtractive process that blocks (typically) white backgrounds and creates color images by combining various levels of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks, RGB image projection is an additive process in which varying levels of Red, Green and Blue light are added together to give the impression of different colors in images, with the maximum of each resulting in white. With either of these models, if all of the channels are properly aligned, the output should be an image presented as intended. However, if we were to disturb these channels, whether that be by shifting at least one channel’s position or switching a channel with another image’s corresponding channel, for example, we can create what is now an impression of the intended image that creates a sensation of disorientation. For that reason, color channel manipulation is the backbone of our system, with its severity having a direct correlation with the levels of stress associated with the place in the narrative.

We also felt it was important to incorporate the visual language of a screen to a degree. The most prominent example of this would be our use of Lato to reference our newfound familiarity with Zoom, as this font is deeply rooted in their brand.

These designs are based on scan explorations, the role of CMYK and the new world we live in.

Deliver

For the final output we decided to do our own interpretation of our subject. However, we created a system/ set of rules that we both followed

  • Use the CMYK color model
  • Use the Research
  • Interact with others (interview) to get a sense of multiple perspectives
  • Analog versus Digital. RGB versus CMYK.

Emily: Book

Even in the mindset of a pandemic I search for a positive outlook. I believe that all we can do is make the best of the situation. Therefore, I wanted to create a kit that will reach resilience in time of COVID and help understand the past months and in contrast present a collection of suggestions on how to adapt, understand and overcome the challenges.

I saw this project as a chance to try something new and use this group exercise to learn from my partner to play with a filter that I have never used before: separating the CMYK channels.

I started of by designing little questionnaires and distribute them out to college students here in Boston and Germany. The questions were: (based on your education)

1. Please describe the challenges you have faced during the past months due to COVID-19

2. Please describe how you overcome those challenges and what you have learned from the months.

And I decided to include them physically in my book to touch on the idea that we still use pen and paper to take notes.

However, the rest of our everyday routine is taking place online: from our morning workout to classes to talking to a friend. Mostly on Zoom. Therefore, I decided to use the zoom colors, font (Nato) and icons as system throughout my book.

In the process of editing and printing out the photos I realised that I wanted to highlight the difference and mixture of the channels, the ‘shift’. Therefore, I started experimenting with ways to overlay one filter over another in a printed format. I started off by using vellum paper, however the texture didn’t allow the effect to work.

Then I tried transparent foil and quickly realised how it supported the interaction of two-three colours of the CMYK. Especially when I held it against the sunlight coming through our window in the studio. This reminded me of the light projected from our display of our laptop and at the same time highlighting that we should enjoy things we used to take for granted, spending a day outside.

I also enjoyed printing text onto the valum paper to create a sense of depth.

Later in the process I glued the responses onto a long strip of blue paper that I designed to look like the chat bar on zoom. A room to communicate with one another.

Finally I bound the book using a spiral coil to allow the full view of each page. This way the audience can easily place all the pages aside to hold the foil with photos against a source of light.

The book is organised into the sections: positive and negative. The both start from the outside and meet in the middle. I structured the book in a way that you can choose in what order you want to read it : negative to positive or positive to negative.

Looking back, even though I found this new approach difficult I created something I did not not expect. A response to changing conditions to our world, but also the design process.

Juan

“ONE WAY” is a collection of interviews of students from Boston University reflecting on the transition from in-person to remote learning in 2020. While acknowledging the frustrations of remote learning, the students also share what has helped them cope with the shift in education and admit that the communal struggle is a settling reminder that we are not alone in our search for a semblance of normalcy in this new system.

When we established our visual system for our topic, I knew I wanted to take an audio-visual approach to my project. My iterations thus far had been focused on CMYK color as opposed to RGB. The question then became: do I embrace the screen’s RGB nature, or should I try to mimic the CMYK aesthetic I achieved?

The latter was attempted, but ultimately landed with lackluster (and arguably washed out) results. Even still, I felt empowered to use RGB channels because I felt it would compliment Emily’s CMYK print product; there many ways to present color, just as there are many ways to adjust to a new learning environment.

Like my CMYK iterations, I used the position of channels in order to obscure the image in such a way that creates a sense of disorientation. However, because I was working with video, I also managed to achieve the same goal using the sync between channels. By remapping the speed of my channels, I created what can best be described as a hallucinogenic-echo effect, where what is left of the subject is only traces what was initially presented.

Once I found my main methods of applying our system in a video context, I got to interviewing a handful of students (who are also my friends, if that was not clear). The interviews I conducted, which were done via Zoom to get that authentic video-call quality video and sound, generally had the following structure:

  1. What was your initial reaction to school shutdowns and the switch to remote learning?
  2. What have you struggled with the most?
  3. What has helped you cope with this shift in education as we know it?

I also gave the students the opportunity to provide any last thoughts that were relevant to the discussion, and much of it, unsurprisingly was political. Having the context of each of us being Americans who have felt our country’s response to COVID-19 has directly affected our education, it was only inevitable that the elephant in the room be brought up.

Once the interviews were wrapped up, I got to editing the nearly hours-worth of footage I had. The structure of the interview came in handy, as I was able to divide the interviews in smaller parts, making it easier to find common threads to string everyone’s narrative into one. Ultimately, I managed to do so with a final ~7’30” of interview footage.

Now that this piece of media had been gathered, the question became, “What visuals would receive the treatment I had developed before the interviews?” My initial instinct was to go out and take my own footage, but with a runtime of 7’30” at least, I worried about my access to enough of a variety of footage to fill the time. Ultimately, I decided I would create my footage by making a fake desktop where the interview video would interact with occasional windows relating to the speaker’s points.

I started putting footage together and imposing my effects on it. When editing the interview footage by changing the rates at which the channels move, I tried to make the effect most dramatic when the subjects talked about distressing topics and memories. Interestingly enough, what came out of it was interview clips merging together to create an illusion that these people were really together in the same frame, further pushing the narrative that the pandemic student’s struggle is not a solitary one.

As I reached the conclusion of this project, I started thinking about what the title might be. I ultimately decided “ONE WAY.” The title refers to COVID procedures in spaces, such as grocery stores and our own school facilities, that limits how much we directly face another person. However, in the context of this project, I wanted the title to insinuate my desire for this to get better. I fully believe that if we can have dialogs like this to encourage and understand each other, we can only move “one way”: forward.

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