Another post that sees the recession as that ‘reset’ button. Where we can start from first principles and realign design education to be more relevant to the emerging world.
It is no secret that I think design education is a little too specialized to the point of only being able to churn out high-tech craftsmen. In this time of global recession, jobs being decimated, major economies hanging in the balance, a new left-of-center administration about to take the helm — just take a look at what the design blogosphere continues to blog about — nothing of real consequence (well, maybe some proactive insights as to how to make our existing super-surplus of consumer crap…a more sustainable super-surplus of consumer crap).
This reminds me, I need to return Hugh Dubberly’s ping from a month ago about his ideas about the problems and future of design education (of which many of his observations and ideas are incisive and brilliant). Personally, although I have not thought about it nearly as long as he has, I think that an education on “how to think” and “how to innovate your way out of hostile enemy territory” is a start. An education that leverages the wisdom of the ages rather than just the wisdom of a single discipline. A modern-day interdisciplinary Swiss Army Knife MacGyver School of Design, but heavy with the gravitas concerned with the world’s VERY SERIOUS problems, acknowledging that no single discipline alone can crack these puzzles. Admit it — designing a logo ain’t *that* hard. Neither is a thousand pages of information architecture specs. Pfft. And for the record…NO! The claptrap that is “Design Thinking” is NOT THE ANSWER, contrary to today’s popular opinion of this seriously annoying and intellectually vacuous…fad. What I have in mind is more “Design Special Weapons And Tactics”–solving problems through deep synthesis steeped in deep knowledge — as a grave duty, not an opportunistic semantic spin-job; where projects are “missions”, where being able to name category solutions trumps client name-dropping, where designers have a shot at a Nobel rather than another Art Directors Club feather.
I think we will have armies of unemployed design professionals very very soon. I wonder what they will spend their days doing. The hand that fed them before is metamorphosing into something else, and it would behoove the design cognoscenti to facilitate a massive retraining of the profession and a serious reflection on the purpose of design education. We need a new generation of thinkers who worship at altars other than at the feet of the god of aesthetics. Perhaps an acid test would be to ask a designer off the street, “Well, who *is* the hand that feeds and why?” — let me know what you hear back from them.