Early in my teaching career, I was incredibly fortunate to have worked with Mike Wood, Principal Teacher of Design, Engineering and Technology. He is a legend of our subject and a genius with both graphics and craft skills - those that know him, will know what I mean. I learnt so much observing his interaction with children and his own creative skills and processes. He could turn his hand to almost any project and create beautiful work with a gentle modesty that left you feeling inspired rather than jealous.
I spent many an evening in the department learning from him. One particular lesson stuck with me; pupils can produce work to rival college, university or industry if we show them the science and craft behind the processes.
Those that know me, know I have a love for design and graphics. Particularly, I have always been pushing courses to match what Mike taught me; we can get pupils to produce industrial quality work. Obviously, this can sometime be a challenge - mostly because we must prepare pupils for exams and coursework - and this can limit the time to dive into subject-depth.
However, I have recently been reflecting on how we introduce concepts in Graphic Communication. Can we improve understanding, quality and attainment with the same time we have?
I have been pushing creative graphics for many years (I was using 3DS Max with pupils for Advanced Higher way back in 2008), and have recently been integrating using Blender with 3D CAD. For instance, with S3 this year, I had pupils use Blender before sketching, using a drawing-board or 3D CAD. I had pupils use simple vertice-editing techniques to explore orthographic projection and create animations. From this domain, pupils moved to sketching and 3D CAD.
For a 'return-from-Covid' series of lessons as a clean-slate of learning, we have been covering 3D CAD assembly constraints. This was based on the Lego mini-figure STEP files you can download from this site. From this assembly, the files are taken into Blender for rendering. For me, this is where the fun begins.
We have looked at material-mapping, bump-mapping, procedural-materials, plane-maps (decals), HDRI, fresnel, aspect-ratio, perspective and depth-of-field... Not to mention the technicalities of rendering. Now, I can hear the arguments of "This is too much - especially for S3, National 5 or even Higher!", but I disagree. Firstly, the learning doesn't take too long and pupils are genuinely interested, especially when the science of light and materials is included.
Secondly, pupils are inspired to build that portfolio - and a good portfolio is always valuable evidence, as this lockdown has shown. The portfolio is also useful for college, university or potential employers and here is the most important part - pupils are learning real, industrial graphic skills.
Now, some results are clearly better than others - but even the 'least good' render above is still a solid top-tier result and very respectable. It has not taken long to generate these results, but the engagement is really high.
From here, the project will move to graphic design and DTP for some packaging. I'll update this blog post once there is progress there.
I will be making videos about how to create renders like these, but would really be interested in your opinions of Graphic Communication and where the future of the subject lies... Please comment below.
The updates for April 2021. This will be updated on an ongoing basis:
Videos about building graphics for N5 & Higher Graphic Communication:
Lego Blender renders...
I have started added videos on how to render the Lego mini-figure in Blender.
Yet another CAD template.
Higher Graphic Communication Rendering & Illustration:
Videos about CAD Assembly techniques:
Videos about technical graphics for N5 & Higher Graphic Communication:
Practice Worksheets for Higher Graphic Communication:
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