News Column

College of Design faculty help youth create sounds, sculptures

June 14, 2014

By Julie Ferrell, Ames Tribune, Iowa

June 14--Children from around the Ames area have a chance to practice their artistic skills this summer through several of Iowa State University'sCollege of Design youth programs, which focus on a variety of art forms and design.

In this week's workshop, eight children got to edit their own sound compositions and create a three-dimensional sculpture based on their sounds.

"We talked about how the design principles apply to the visual world as well as the audible world," said Alex Braidwood, assistant professor of graphic design.

"This way, we can really tie together the theory of design principles, the tactility of recording or working with sound and other materials for the three-dimensional space."

Braidwood said the children were given audio recorders and led across Iowa State's campus on Wednesday, where they could record any sounds they wanted.

Braidwood said students came back with noises ranging from garbage trucks and traffic noise to people talking and coffee grinding.

Once the students finished recording, they were asked to create a composition in a software program, Adobe Audition, that could be up to two minutes long.

For Frankie Munson, a seventh-

grader at Ballard Middle School, the sounds of a coffee shop steamer, a high-pitched phone dial and a whirring noise came together for him to create a "junkyard-inspired" piece.

Meanwhile, Samuel Bwranstad Phillips, a freshman at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, wanted his sound composition to be based on basic design principles like texture, harmony and balance. Branstad Phillips recorded a garbage truck driving away, a blender, people talking and even a curved piece of metal he shook back and forth. The project made him realize how sounds could be a key part of creating a work of art, he said.

"There's a lot more to relating sound to everything else than met my eye," he said.

The importance of sound is what Braidwood said was the main goal of this week's workshop. Once the students began working on their sound compositions, Braidwood said he could see them beginning to listen in a different way.

"When we listen to things, we're able to filter things out. We're able to cut out background noises. But the microphone hears everything," he said. "Once you put the headphones on, you're sort of exposing yourself to it in a different way."

Once their compositions were finished, the students were asked to create a sculpture inspired by their sounds. Braidwood and his team provided the children with materials like metal, wire, Jell-O and more, and each student created their sculpture on Friday.

Marlene Dorneich-Hayes, a sophomore at Ames High School, spent Friday cutting sheet metal into shapes and wrapping it around wire to create "an abstract wing." Dorneich-Hayes said her sound composition was intended to sound like "harpies shrieking," which she created by blending the sounds of a door opening and closing, traffic noise and "a few other unpleasant things."

Area children can look forward to similar workshops in the coming weeks. Middle and high school students can choose from three workshop programs: the one-day "Explore Design!" program, which will take place on Tuesday; the two-and-a-half-day "Design Innovation" program from Wednesday to Friday; or the week-long "Design Condensed" program. Braidwood said the "Design Condensed" workshop is only open to high school students, as it is a more extensive "residential camp experience," and students will be housed near campus all week and attend classes similar to college courses.

Braidwood said any students interested can sign up through the College of Design website at

Throughout all three programs, Braidwood said the main goal is to show kids "it's okay to be creative and try stuff."

"In the end, it's about being curious. It's about being interested in the process of making, it's about being willing to explore and play," he said. "I think that's where a lot of creativity and interesting ideas come from later."


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Source: Ames Tribune (IA)

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