FIU Interior Architecture students in Adjunct Lecturer and FIU Cejas Scholar Harvey Bernstein’s Graduate Design 4 Studio recently presented projects while blindfolded. Bernstein, who is a CCE Tenured Professor at Pratt Institute, assigned students this unique task not only to enhance their public speaking skills, but also to explore “visual streaming” or thinking ideas out loud to help better connect their sensory mental concepts and images with their verbal skills.
Students hung their work and placed their models in front of the class. Then, one at a time, each student put on a blindfold and presented. The large paper blindfolds had three bold words written on the front that would help to inform the class about the project and generate talking points and questions.
“For me, the moment that I covered my eyes, my other senses came to my attention – the way I was standing, in particular,” said student Vanessa Martin. “I became more self-aware, and I began to take my listeners along this verbal journey through a visual space. Describing key sensory design features that are essential to my design is what I focused on. Before I knew it, the blindfold and I became comfortable [with each other], and the ability to perceive the tone of the feedback given to me by my audience…became easier.”
“Often the fear of the unknown and unusual does not allow us to think about how positive an unexpected situation can be,” said Esperanza Muino. “I started [my presentation being] a little bit scared, but as I talked, I felt as if I were correctly walking through my space, and I saw each of the shapes, textures and colors that I had designed. I could feel, smell and touch my ideas. My design had come alive in my mind and I lost the fear. I feel a little fear of public speaking when I have to face such situations. I experience great anxiety, tend to think that I will do it wrong[. Then, afterwards, I] often think my performance [was] poor….This experience for me was very good; it taught me to control myself and made me forget all these negative feelings when giving my presentations. It also made me feel more secure and more connected with my design.”
The blindfolded presentation was part of a project called “Shopping for an Identity.” Students were given supermarket shopping lists, from among 75 collected by Bernstein himself. From their list, students created a detailed profile of a human being and, for some, a family, which would eventually become the student’s hypothetical client. The list helped them to create a detailed user profile. It also helped them to predict and imagine the shopper. They noted things like the choice of paper, purchases, handwriting, style, and type of store, among other factors. Then, in several phases, the student created and presented a story supported with images about this client; this included a complete profile of the client’s appearance, interests, belief system, choice of car, etc. This analysis was then applied to the development of further research for designing for this client. Resulting design projects ranged from an underground wine vault to an open-air studio for a painter/sculptor.