Post Professional Design

How to Create Jobs: A vision for Design Education for Australia in Contemporary times


1. The new Craftsperson

2. Industry of One

3. Creative Practitioners

4. Research-Design Practice

5. Propositonal Practice

6. Post_Professional Design

7. Creating Design Leaders

8. Publicly funded design practice

Often – How we speak about design education has a very strong whiff of legacy thinking – where we look at ‘jobs’ in the way they were viewed decades ago – potentially in the 1980s.

We have a education where notions of ‘employability’ are often spoken of in the context of ‘design staff’ in manufacturing enterprises or in consultancies servicing these enterprises. These jobs are hard to come by – and why would an education provider train its graduates for a sector that will not employ them.

Similarly skilling up students – where these skills are only relevant in specific contexts of work/ work environments – may be fine, but if these skills are offered in place of other knowledge/ training and skills that would be more useful and appropriate in contemporary Australia – then we have a problem on our hands.

In effect the notion of training for a profession is dangerous – and an uncertain location for gainful employment. We are seeing around us a world of work that is post-professional in a context of enterprise that is post-Industrial.

The term Post Professional (varadarajan) refers to the end of specialization and the folding back of the notion of industrial design partially into a preindustrial and partially into a post Industrial paradigms of practice. Where multiple paradigms of creative practice coexist with the essentially Industrial – manufacturing complex – context of ID practice. In this last design is a function – not so much a practice – within the product development process of serial production. Often product development within serial production is defined by the imperatives of incremental change – and demand a notion of the ‘design job’ that is exquisitely procedural and largely cosmetic. The Pre and Post Industrial do not situate the designer within a corporate context and leave her free to be visionary, idealistic and propositional. Design is thus Proposed and not Justified.

We in effect need to have a progressive educational paradigm where the curriculum is reflective of the needs of work environments that current and future creatives will encounter.

First – Jobs have been disappearing. So more entrepreneurship has been called for from creatives!

Then – The times are tough and we must not forget that. Design graduates are doing it tough. Designers are doing it tough. Its nowhere near as dire as Europe – almost 40% youth unemployment in certain parts.

The youth unemployment rate in Europe, comprising workers aged 15-24, was 20.4 per cent in Britain in the second quarter of 2011, 27.7 per cent in Italy, and 29.8 per cent in Ireland.

In Spain where youth have taken to the streets to protest at the grim outlook for their economic future, the youth unemployment rate has soared to 45 per cent. And in Greece, the epicentre of the European sovereign debt crisis, it was 42.9 per cent in the same quarter.

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Now there are two forms the entrepreneurship could take: One will be in the traditional ‘aesthetic object’ sector. This has elsewhere been referred to in two ways: One, as designer makers where the focus is upon the notion of the designer as a new craftsperson, making one-off artefacts for contract or retail consumption.  Two, is where the potential of contemporary-computer enabled and sophisticated micro manufacturing technologies allows for serial production without the need for tooling. The liberation from expensive tooling has meant all manner of, potentially homewares, products can be produced by the designer – and in this way they become the “Industry of One”.

Hence Industry of One!

Second – Design practitioners have three modes of operation: as employees, as designer-makers, and as creative(design-research) practitioners!

Something on these sectors and the skill sets required in each.

1. Design for Industry

2. Industry of One

3. Creative Research Practice

Third – Globality and the Innovation sector!

Many of the multinationals have acknowledged the importance of ‘design thinking’. This has created a particular intellectual space within these companies – such as Nokia – where the focus is upon visualizing plausible scenarios and technological solutions that enable the scenarios. Designers are being recruited into these positions. I have seen this in India. We train students to be visionaries – today. We could do more to sustain the spirit of innovation with higher level opportunities and challenges for the students’ to encounter.

And so on to articulate a vision for, a space for, Industrial Design in contemporary society.

(Notes from the Research Project – The ID Ecosystem)