On Teaching Fashion: Digi-Atelier


This week I will introduce an innovative teaching project I have been working on: Digi-Atelier: A 24/7 Video-Based Design Tutorial Resource Library.

Foundation level fashion design courses serve to provide incoming students from diverse skill backgrounds with cohesive hands on learning. Skill-building and core knowledge in the form of tutorials related to sewing, fabrics, garment construction, design principles and practices as well as hand and computer generated drawing of the fashion figure, garment and textiles occupy most of class time. Generally, a skill or technique is demonstrated in class to all students followed by an activity that incorporates the skill. There are a multitude of challenges that arise in my design classroom as my skill tutorial unfolds:

• Students learn at different speeds and varied paces

• Students learn via diverse methods (text, visual)

• Students engage in various ways (collaboratively, solo)

• Students comprehend in different ways (one and done, by hitting repeat)

• My students arrive at the design table (or sewing machine) at various levels of expertise

Technology is integral to addressing the problem. Incoming design students can be categorized within the digital native subculture “ Digital Natives prefer receiving information quickly; are adept at processing information rapidly; prefer multi-tasking and non-linear access to information; have a low tolerance for lectures; prefer active rather than passive learning, and rely heavily on communications technologies to access information and to carry out social and professional interactions.” (Francis, 2011)

Based on five years of professional experience in teaching Fashion Drawing and Rendering, I can say that traditional teaching model of professor behind podium professing to a sea of students is not effective for the digital native learner. Also, this method of teaching is not effective in a design studio setting. By continuing teach in this manner the opportunity to turn technologies both students and faculty interact with on a daily basis into tools for teaching and learning is lost, and finally, this way of teaching is not fun, for anyone!

Before Digi-Atelier was embedded into my design course, I utilized a textbook and had developed daily (twice weekly) design lectures complete with activities. Often the activities call for demonstration. Generally, I provided live demonstrations as well as resources such as you-tube videos on relevant subjects (ex. how to draw a fashion croquis or how to draw a technical flat) Limitations of my current instructions are:

• Generic videos from the web do not teach specific skills or aspects.

• Live demonstrations are not effective in that:

  • All students can not see clearly
  • Students often times need me to repeat tutorials
  • Students learn differently so not every student is absorbing my “one-off  demonstration


Digi-Atelier: A 24/7 Video-Based Design Tutorial Resource for Fashion Design Students consists of a video archive of key design tutorials offered to the students via the web platform vimeo. Links to the tutorials were integrated with other teaching materials on the classroom website.

Prior to the semester, I was able to complete three Digi-Atelier videos that corresponded to weekly lecture subjects such as shading, figure mapping and drawing the face. I hired a former illustration student film drawing and my instructions were added in post-production as a voice over. According to feedback from students this semester (via qualitative measures and pre/post testing) the tutorials added immense value to their learning because of the flexibility and accessibility of core skills the videos will offer a diversity of student learner. Feedback was also encouraging to continue towards the production of a video for each week. Many students were disappointed that there were not videos on for all weeks. I am very much still in the process of creating the “atelier” and excited of the potential, I envision it encompassing every week of my classes. Beyond my class, I imagine a series generated for other core studio classes, consisting of 24/7 tutorials for flat pattern or draping techniques. I will revisit this discussion in a future post.

What courses do you teach? Would a video-tutorial series benefit your students? Do you use video tutorials now? I was able to create the videos with a Transformation Grant through our Center for Teaching and Learning. Do you have such a center on your campus? I encourage you to research funding options for innovative teaching projects. I would love to hear from you. Happy Teaching!


All images: courtesy of the writer. Kelly Cobb, 2014.

Francis, R. (2011). Engaging design students through a video-based tutorial system. Manuscript submitted for publication, School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CEUQFjAC&url=http://www.adelaide.edu.au/herga/ergo/0202/ergo_v2n2_p45-54.pdf&ei=cBCAUeqWJHK0wHXg4HQBQ&usg=AFQjCNGTobayxHicmv5PWLw8vl H_Wsbncg&bvm=bv.45645796,d.dmQ

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