Posts Tagged ‘education design education


Re-programming design education (sketch post)

Hey, this is but a start of a post off the back of a discussion this evening with some folks who want to setup some design debates throughout this year…

We all recognise the effects of good design: those products that work so well for us, those services that are so well considered, those buildings and spaces that just work. We also recognise the effects of bad design. The frustration. The anger. The lack of consideration for our needs.

We live in a very critical and competitive world, so many things broken that need fixing and so many areas where we could just do that bit better. The opportunities for good design are seemingly limitless. But who is grasping these opportunities? Who has the skills? Who will invest the hard graft to turn these opportunities into contexts for great experience or behavioral change? One would hope it would be designers, those funky creatures that love ideas and love bringing them to life. But do they really have the power or the ability to make game changing ideas into reality. I would argue that very few do, and that is our problem. Despite some great raw talent. Brilliant craft skills. Great creative ideas. There just isn’t enough of the other skills needed to make things happen. This, I believe, is the failure of design education.

Design education varies way too much across disciplines. Sometimes it involves too much rigour when companies can’t afford that level of navel-gazing, research and process (product design/architecture/engineering). Sometimes it has too little rigour, and designers gamble with the chances of coming up with a good idea (advertising).

Often, design education just doesn’t provide enough business context for design. Fundamentally, it doesn’t teach enough about the balance of ego vs. empathy. The designer’s desire and personal investment to put a bit of themselves in what they are crafting, their strive for perfection, and their passion for great ideas are essential for driving forward change to take people from where they are and have been, to where they could, should and ultimately will be. But, in order to make a solution fly, they need to balance this with greater empathy for the needs, desires and constraints of the citizen, employee, customer, client, business, colleague or organisation that they are ultimately designing for or with.

We need to re-program design education to create a better balance of ego and empathy in designers by: simulating real business contexts throughout, supplying the tools that designers need to cope with such contexts, and to force designers into the shoes of stakeholders within a project.

Simulate real business contexts throughout:

  • extend the crit, so it’s not just a design review but a simulation of the way a client might behave (changing their minds, commenting on the execution and giving their ‘better ideas’ of how to do it, asking for more iterations), not just a peer review of the work from a creative perspective
  • test ideas against ROI measures: get designers to explain how a solution’s benefits can be traced all the way back up to a company’s strategy and how it meets the bottom line
  • change deadlines, make extra demands, constrain the time and do not allow for exceptions

Supply the tools that designers need to cope with business contexts:

  • get designers used to covering their arses and learning to agree scope and direction up front before policing throughout
  • share stories and tricks about tapping into the psyche of a client, a business or a market
  • keep drilling it into them through real life practice
  • teach research and co-design techniques to get into the head of stakeholders and develop solutions collaboratively with them
  • teach how be a facilitator of a process, rather than always the content provider for the solution

Force designers into the shoes of stakeholders within a project

  • get them to research the user/consumer of the solution to understand their needs, desires, constraints, attitude and behaviours
  • get them to work through business cases: thinking about profit, revenue, costs
  • get them to observe the use of the solution they create and be prepared to iterate
  • get them to work in different roles (client, project manager, trainer, sales person, user) as part of a project