Cassim Shepard / Columbia University, GSAPP / Adjunct Professor of Urban Design / 03.20.18

Where is design going?

I believe design has to engage meaningfully with post-occupancy questions like maintenance, stewardship, and managed deterioration. I think this shift is related to the need for design schools to be positioning their best graduates to work as in-house strategists at institutions of government, education, health care… Not just in elite client-service design firms.

How can design education be more relevant?

Design education has to tackle the lack of diversity in all the design fields, especially architecture. One big part of this is addressing the severely imbalanced ratio of student debt to early career income projections. This means reforming how the design industry treats unpaid internships and other career advancing positions that perpetuate the existing privilege of designers of comfortable economic means. Additionally, design education has to take on non-design questions like management, real estate economics, and public policy.

What are the future skillsets designers need to learn now?

Soft: Ethnographic research, in-depth interviews, multimedia storytelling, persuasive and media-agnostic communication (written/spoken as well as audio/visual) Technical: Critical digital cartography, audio/video production, rapid prototyping and constant testing through digital fabrication and hand-drawing.

What should a design school do to prepare students for transdisciplinary work?

Require taking classes outside of the Design School, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. And create site-specific, real-world projects that require more than one skill-set: for example some university-community partnerships that include architects designing and building housing alongside anthropology students getting to know community needs, medical students setting up a community health center, art students creating public art projects, business students assessing entrepreneurship potential, etc etc.

What should a design school do to forward equity and inclusion?

Partner with industry groups to reform expectations within the industry around internships and unpaid work. Invest in modes of socially engaged practice that are not pro-bono extras in a client service business model but instead create opportunities for fully funded self-initiated projects that create real and lasting partnerships between designers and advocacy organizations.

Cassim Shepard

Columbia University, GSAPP

Adjunct Professor of Urban Design

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