Friday, June 27, 2014

Design Education

If you ever studied, did reading for lectures, did any kind of case study, then you have had to read a lot of useless junk. Things that were designated to be useful, but end up going into your head and being pushed out by the next paragraph; or end up being recited very loudly with a pint in hand.

This can be linked to the education many of us must go through to achieve certain status in this world. So that we can be recognized for the jobs that this ever changing world provides.

When obtaining my Bachelor is Product Innovation, I was forced to read a lot of crap. There were readings each week that were often unrelated to the lectures. Nevertheless, much paper was wasted.

Back in the old days, if you wanted to make things (be a designer) or work in a factory, you just went to the factory under your parents instruction and became an apprentice. Over the years you would build up your skills and learn the tricks of the trade until you're either injured from repetitive a stress injury or die from the fumes/industrial revolution smog. But people found a problem with that. With so many people doing the same thing all over the world, there were bound to be differences; most factoring from available resources, technological progress, financial situation etc etc etc.

 Nowadays, there are still massive differences. Even though we still do all that 'old stuff', there are a whole range of issues that must be taken into account; issues such as cultural, political and social topics. Design schools across the world are teaching methods of design that vary greatly from one another, each claiming to be more beneficial than the other. To a large extent this is valid, but for the few that are lacking, this simply can't be tolerated.

Their argument stems from the problem that many designers as well as other disciplines face as we all attempt to embrace the fact that no one is ever one 'job title'; it's simply too expensive.

Designing today is never just the basic design process where a designer must employ their knowledge of form, function, materials, processes and manufacturing to reach a goal, they must employ a plethora of widely poorly taught skills. To achieve 'good design' one must follow these 10 statements.  

The list was populated by the accomplished 'Industrial Designer' Dieter Rams who outlined that we as designers are not the fine artists that we are often confused with. We also know a lot about people, their behaviors and how they react to certain stimuli. Here lies the problem with design education. Many schools of design are simply not teaching their pupils about people, their behaviors and how to emotionally connect with a person through a product. Without a deep understanding of people, can a 'true' Industrial Designer emerge.

This same argument, to some extent can apply to engineers. (Not speaking from experience) They are taught in a more scientific, mathematical world where problems can be solved by doing enough math. I'm not saying they are taught to be robots, but they are deprived of the knowledge they are often required to utilize when applying their knowledge in this world. Knowledge such as behavioral and cognitive sciences that can provide perspective to make more informed decisions about what they're making. 

Now I know it's a lot easier to complain than fix a problem, but it had to be said. Designers and engineers alike are required to do things out of their depth. Not by their fault; but by the various institutions that provide 'knowledge' and certifications. Their argument would be to come back and study said topics, but of course this isn't a viable option for all.

Design education needs to change if we want to eliminate poor design and poor engineering from this world. In my position today in China, it has never been more urgent.

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