The USC Roski School of Fine Arts is planning something spatial.
Already renowned for integrating visual art and technology, the school is offering a 3-D design minor, effective next fall.
Though undergraduates have previously been able to touch upon 3-D design in other USC Roski classes, there were no in-depth courses on the subject’s fundamentals. Haven Lin-Kirk, associate professor of the practice of fine arts and design area head, said that while students are well versed in visual communication, translating ideas into tangible objects can be problematic.
“Oftentimes a designer doesn’t know how to produce something, they just have a great idea,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we realized that we needed 3-D instruction. Doing things in dimensions is quite different.”
Because the 3-D design minor includes a focus on the creation of items like packaging, product prototypes, signage and installations, it has wide-ranging real world applications. In fact, the curriculum includes courses cross-listed with the USC Marshall School of Business, the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, among others. Topics from typography to motion graphics to advertising enable students to focus on particular aspects of 3-D design relevant to their fields of study.
Already, professionals from every imaginable field are exploring the untapped potential of 3-D design and printing. Architects create elaborate models, anthropologists reconstruct fossils and bioengineers customize robotic exoskeletons, which provide additional energy and movement capabilities for children with underdeveloped limbs.
Educators and policymakers are increasingly touting the importance of the groundbreaking technology — in his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama hailed 3-D printing as having “the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
Other countries are also taking note. This year the United Kingdom added 3-D and mathematical modeling as part of its national curriculum, which will be taught to students as young as 7 years old.
Ann Page, director of curriculum and undergraduate studies and associate professor of the practice of fine arts, said that the 3-D printer is following a route similar to computers — with sleeker, smaller and more inexpensive versions of 3-D printers evolving for public use. At USC, students pursuing the minor will have access to a state-of-the-art 3-D lab furnished with several rapid prototype printers, enabling students to visualize and execute their designs. The opportunity for hands-on creativity is invaluable, as the key to mastering 3-D design is an extensive knowledge of materials, their capabilities and limits.
There are various sculptural approaches to creating 3-D objects, including additive or subtractive processes such as carving, casting or modeling. One approach, folding, is similar to origami — transforming a flat sheet into a three-dimensional form. Each technique befits specific qualities like the surface quality, flexibility or volume of an object cast in metal or plastic. Finally, there is the application of the final object — how it reacts to manipulation and its environment.
That intersection of the conceptual and the practical is a hallmark of USC Roski, which offers classical fine arts training alongside digital media. Fluency in handmade and analog techniques empowers designers to articulate the aesthetic potential of innovative technologies like 3-D printing. Lin-Kirk said the interdisciplinary nature of the new 3-D minor is a huge advantage for students.
“At most schools, there’s a separation between design and fine arts. We’re trying to produce the leaders in industry, decision-makers and influencers,” she said. “At USC, being in a community of not just designers and artists, but people from other fields, means lots of opportunities.”
Students interested in the 3-D design minor may begin the coursework in the 2013-2014 school year. This fall, USC Roski is offering “3-Dimensional Design: Materials and Tools” (FA 499).