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History of Design Camp

A College of Design Institution Since 1980

Professor Charles Joyner was excited about introducing minority students to the potential of design education.

He arranged a series of “Road Trips” in which three design students would dedicate a few days of their Spring Break to visit high schools in Eastern North Carolina. (There may have been only three African/American students in the school at that time.) I was privileged to accompany those teams. We would telephone the high schools in advance to ask permission to speak with their students, then schedule a visit. As I recall, we visited high schools in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, NC. We presented to the students our own design work and described for them the life of a design student. At the end of the session, which was usually alive with student questions, we would invite them to visit the School of Design to participate in a “Design Boot Camp” experience during the summer. Many wanted to sign up on the spot.

I am proud to have been a witness and participant in the growth of the Design Camp experience. It is a true pioneer in introducing young people to the pure enjoyment of Design.

Percy Hooper

Class of 1978

Percy Hooper with Design Campers in 1987

I remember the Design Boot Camp lasting three days (though the first ones might have been for one day only). It was rigorous, as conducted by Charles, a long-time military officer. It consisted of one design experience after another. There was plenty of sketching, planning, building, testing, and critique. The focus was first on the design process, then the tangible artifacts resulting from the process. Some projects touched on the cumulative power of thoughtful trial and error, such as using only an 11×17 sheet of copier paper (no fasteners allowed) to support a can of soda 12 inches above the table top. Students learned about joinery and strength of materials. But, most of all, it was about learning from one’s mistakes. From the beginning, the projects were extensions of Basic Design or Design Fundamentals. But, rather early on, the assignments took on aspects of product design, architecture, and graphic design. This is not only because we wanted to make the participants and their parents aware of these professional options, but because more and more, the parents began asking specifically about these careers.

The success of the program is seen in the multiple year-round camps the College of Design now conducts. The vision of Charles Joyner continues to stimulate design thinking and offer expanded educational horizons for the youth of North Carolina and beyond.