Editor’s Note: Ideas on Design: Dualities

As this magazine has come together, I’ve realized that this issue has been all about dualities—holding in one’s mind two separate, sometimes contrasting things as part of a whole, while still moving forward.

Since September, I’ve started many mornings by walking across campus to Exley, where I got to sit in on the IDEAS 170 classes. There, I’d listen as Professors Voth and Moller encouraged students from a diversity of backgrounds and interests to explore science and engineering through hands-on design work. In order to succeed, they pushed their students to fail early and often.

On a separate, daylong reporting trip to New York City, I met up with an architect (Benson Gillespie ’04) and a developer (Kwei Chang ’05) to talk about city construction, and the way they use their complementary skills to improve their projects. They gave me a new perspective on city life, calling my attention to the interplay between street level activity and skyline concerns as new structures are built and others are rehabbed from the inside out.

Success through failure. Looking up while looking in. How is one to reconcile these? This issue’s theme: Design & Ideas.

On the other side of campus, in the Digital Design Studio, Adjunct Assistant Professor Christopher Chenier offered a definition that has also been useful. “Design,” he said, “is the solution to a problem.

I’ve thought about that while in my office on the second floor of South College. With a window that overlooks the lawn in front of College Row and a fire escape door that opens out to Memorial Chapel, I feel both in touch with what’s happening outside on campus and in a quiet place above it. In this space—once occupied by such Wesleyan editorial luminaries as Jack Paton ’49, P’75, and Bill Holder ’75, P’05, 05, ’08—I face a set of floor-to-ceiling shelving that holds past issues of this magazine. Over many years in this office, I’ve come to see the “problem”—or challenge—of each issue is how best to attend to dualities. How do you entertain and educate such an entertaining and well-educated readership? How do you inform those already on the cutting edge?

If I understand Professor Chenier correctly, you can do it through good design (a reason we continue to refresh and update this publication’s content to better serve the audience). If I understand Professors Voth and Moller, you can do it by trying, and failing, and continuing to press on (a few of these stories admittedly did take way more than one draft). And if I understand Benson Gillespie and Kwei Chang, you can do it by looking at different issues from multiple perspectives, offering collaboration as a way to improve on any one line of sight.

As we wrap up this issue on design, I’m struck by how much I learn every time I talk to someone for a story. And my hope is that we help you, our readers, do the same. I also hope you will be in touch and let us know how we could better use these pages to connect you with the Wesleyan you know. Next time you are on campus, please take this invitation to come visit us in this office. Who knows? We might even be able to send you home with a copy of a favorite past issue from the shelves beside me

Cynthia Rockwell, MALS ’19, P’11