This paper will discuss the impact of the global pandemic on the function of the design studio as a creative space, proposing a framework for implementing and evaluating the benefits of virtualisation. In doing so it draws on analysis of the working practices of the creative sector, creative pedagogy and communities of practice. Typically, design studios are highly visual and interactive spaces that have been central to creative practices for over a century, pivotal in supporting critique and sharing feedback early and often. As Souleles (2012) reflects, ”the physical studio and student self-reflection are essential components of the teaching and learning practices in art and design education.” However, due to the impact of the pandemic, physical studio environments have been unable to function as intended, with traditional working practices challenged and disrupted. In a study on social media-based learning, Güler (2015) suggested that the use of social media for teaching and learning within design studio contexts may support studio critiques, peer interactions, and a uniform shared experience. Building on this research, the project trailed a ‘studio virtualisation’ project, to support students through the challenges of online and blended learning. By creating a nurturing virtual platform (principally via Instagram), for graphic design and illustration students the project created a space where students learn by offering feedback, exchanging ideas and network. The potential for social media tools to provide a working platform was evident, offering the traditional aspects of a physical creative space—inspiration, critique, cooperation and collaboration. The project addresses key societal challenges posed by COVID—how we continue to work productively and effectively in virtual spaces, and what may enhance the ‘traditional’ approaches in a post-COVID environment? With society exploring new ways of working, this research has the potential to offer a framework to the creative and educational sectors who are struggling to maintain communities of practice to address a contemporary issue adroitly and productively.
Charlie Henshaw is a University Teacher in the School of Design and Creative Arts at Loughborough University, UK. Technological developments in both software and practice capture Charlie’s inquisitive and curious mind, allowing the continual develop of her technical knowledge and her ability to stay in tune with modern approaches to teaching.
Dan Morley is an Associate Professor for Game Art, Animation and Graphic Arts (GAGA) at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Dan is a practice based researcher and educator, exploring materiality in post-digital cultures and the role of studio spaces in teaching and learning.