Baltimore Design School opened the doors of its new home this fall at the Lebow Building on Oliver and Barclay. The new building, originally a Crown Cork and Seal Factory, now houses studio areas, classrooms, and performance spaces. Additionally, the school also provides a new Mac lab with access to the Adobe Creative Suite for all staff and students thanks to a $50,000 grant from Adobe.
Baltimore design school is a transformation school that provides a public middle- high school education to students from all over Baltimore city. The school is in its third year, with its oldest students now entering the 9th grade and preparing for careers in fashion design, architectural design, and graphic design. Meghann Harris, A graphic designer based in Baltimore, first became involved with BDS four years ago, when it was still on the drawing board. Starting out as an intern, and then student teacher, She now teaches Design Thinking 1 and 2 and is a big advocate for how design can encourage students to articulate themselves and push them to think critically about the world in which they exist. “Design integrates almost all they are doing,” Harris says, “it takes the skills kids are learning in other classes like math and science and makes them tangible and concrete.” Matt Rouse, the Project Designer for Baltimore Design School also sees the potential a design education could have for Baltimore students, “Being immersed in a design curriculum will teach them that design is a process of defining a problem, exploring options, using judgment, articulating a solution, assembling resources, and growing from the experience.”
“When you take students and put them in a new environment, full of bright colors, clean, well-designed classrooms with beautiful spaces for creating and learning, their whole mode of thinking changes…this building is increasing their pride” says Harris, “students will be more inclined to succeed in their classes, because they are proud of their school and want to do well.”
In transforming what had been a neglected building into an innovative modern school, Rouse aimed to achieve an environment that encourages positive learning experiences to take place:
“We focused on creating spaces that would not only teach students what good design looks like, but also how it feels. We strategically placed the fashion and architecture labs on the north side of the second floor to take advantage of the benefits that the taller ceiling height and indirect light have on visualization and creation. We minimized the use of dropped ceilings to expose as much of the infrastructure as possible to show the students how the building systems work. We repurposed the former loading dock and courtyard into an outdoor performance space for fashion shows… We dispersed exhibit areas throughout the building and in the hallways, all of which are covered with tackable surfaces so the students can pin up their work in as many places as possible and discuss it…We specifically designed areas that encourage interaction and the exchange of ideas.”
“Many students have never taken a formal art class,” says Harris, continuing that the emphasis on design in the BDS curriculum is “training them to know different design skills but (is) also training them to be adaptable and to understand a designer’s role in society, so they can better articulate themselves and spawn new ideas.” Her students come from twenty-two zip codes all over the city and Harris hopes they will walk out of her classroom, “with a sense of passion and an understanding that great colleges will be looking at them… Baltimore Design School is a public school, and it’s giving (Baltimore city students) another chance to find a program that is meant for them, not only giving them the chance to design, but design who they are as a human being.”
“I went to public high school,” Rouse says, “and we had your typical basic art classes, but it wasn’t until I took an elective architecture course my junior year that it really clicked for me. It just took one class and I know what I wanted to become. The Students at Baltimore Design School possess a decided advantage by having an entire school focused on design professions… it will cultivate students who will develop problem solving and critical thinking skills that are invaluable in any profession. Maybe, most importantly, it will teach them, as the school motto states, that design changes lives including their own.”