Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Challenges for design education

As I have been investigating new and different areas designers have been taking design, the issue of design education often comes up in conversation. Are design schools educating designers to meet tomorrow's challenges? This question has come up in both literature and in conversations.

I found an interesting article in 2007 by Adobe's Design Centre's Think Tank titled, Graduate Education: Preparing designers for jobs that don't exist (yet). Author, Anne Burdick is Chair of the graduate Media Design Program (MDP) at Art Center College of Design (in the USA) and she documents her observations of where designers have been taking design, from being researchers to entrepreneurs, to strategic thinkers, to knowledge producers. Burdick questions current models of teaching, "that rely exclusively on apprenticeship and/or technical mastery." Burdick says, "To prepare for a future in flux, students must learn to be adaptable, agile and strategic. Clearly this calls for a new kind of pedagogy."

But the real reason for this post is to provide a link to a pamphlet released by the RSA on Monday called, Social animals: tomorow's designers in today's world (thanks Mike for letting me know).

The pamphlet, authored by Sophia Parker, profiles the nature of design graduates today, reflecting on the world they have grown up in which has channeled their interests toward the environment, the public and the social sectors. But the pamphlets suggest these interests are a bit at odds with current models of design education. To illustrate, the pamphlet flags up six challenges for design educators in educating students in public service design. In short (ie. paraphrased here) it says education that needs to encourage students to learn more about:
  1. Turning insights into action;
  2. Co-design and the participation of people (also considering ethical codes of conduct);
  3. Prototyping services;
  4. Seeing the ‘bigger picture’ meaning taking into account the wider context projects operate in;
  5. Communicating well both visually and verbally, including the ability to pitch ideas for investment;
  6. Being not just problem solvers, but also ‘problem finders.'
I agree with all of the above. Many, if not all of them, I identified in my own research as important and also as a strength of the designers I interviewed and know. In the above six points, turning insights into action, prototyping and communication visually are strengths of design practice over many other disciplines. I discussed these points in an earlier post on design in the social sector.

As we continue our journey of watching design enter new frontiers, it's wonderful to see design practice applied in new contexts, develop and shape with a bit more clarity.


Qin said...

or maybe our designers of tomorrow just can't wait for these jobs to become exist and decide to act as active entrepreneur who seek out opportunites for new thinking, new approaches, new methods, and new way of running design business :-D

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