Diana Kaminski / Diana Kaminski / Alumni / School of Design 1992 / 04.18.18
Where is design going?
Design has become a vernacular of the citizen, taken out of the elite and into the ordinary; from items designed for the homes or workplaces or places to play, from objects to spaces, there is a higher expectation and criticism of how things look, feel and function. An example is a simple tent, the variety of choices on the market today is significantly greater than it was 30 years ago. Constant improvement, redesign is the new norm! Design is also heavily influenced by cost, which has impacted the end results. Sustainability will play a greater role, which will be interesting in the technology field, where gadgets have a 3 year life expectancy before entering the junk pile. When we run out of landfill space, the challenge for designers won’t be planned obsolescence, but planned longevity: to design a cell phone or building that can be handed down to the next generation!
How can design education be more relevant?
Students of design can’t just sit in a classroom, they need to work in the field, through internships, through volunteering, through understanding things from a hands on experience. Theory and history are great, and hopefully guide decisions from repeating mistakes; but to be relevant, they must understand public process, financing, construction, marketing and business, and the end user needs. Education cannot be myopic or compartmentalized. A cross-pollination in interdisciplinary studies is very beneficial.
What are the future skillsets designers need to learn now?
I had a professor who said that “No one knows who knows best” it was a humble statement in a very egocentric field. I had a dean who asked me if I was prepared for my career, and I said “no”. He asked if I’d return for graduate school to enhance my educational experience. I said “no, I need to go into the real world, get a job and learn what I need to know.” Some things can’t be taught in a classroom. But when architecture students aren’t taught CAD (or how to draw) or planning students aren’t taught GIS (or how to read plans) then they are ill prepared for the entry-level workforce. The expectation that a technician will do the technical work hamstrings new graduates with limitations on their communications skills. They aspire to greatness before they’ve learned how to fly. Students need to learn a little about all the different disciplines they will interact with, so they can communicate their ideas with respect to the other disciplines. They need skills in all forms of communication and presentation to succeed in their respective fields. With the pace at which things are changing, they also need to be able to think outside the box, reinvent the box, and accept that the only constant in their field is change.
What should a design school do to prepare students for transdisciplinary work?
Evaluate the curriculum and educators, collaborate w/ professionals in the industry. Look at all relevant disciplines and somehow create a program that incorporates all aspects into the 4 or 5 year program. Professors must be on board with the idea of graduating for success. I had a professor who bragged about having a 25% passing rate in their engineering class. To me, that shows a failure on the professor to teach the subject matter, to them they saw it as culling the field of engineers. I was not an engineering major, I was a design major required to take the class; so what benefit came from 2 semesters of a class that was designed to flunk 3/4 of the class? If it is a required class, it must be relevant and designed for the student to use the information in their other classes. Almost a Montessori approach to school, where each subject is related to the other.
What should a design school do to forward equity and inclusion?
Get out in the community and see/experience the end users of design. Look for design opportunities that fit budgets or can be redesigned for lower cost to open the end product to more users. For instance, many sustainable design elements are too costly for those who could benefit from reduced bills: they can’t afford solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems. Look at what causes disparities and what is needed to mitigate inequity and exclusion.
What other thoughts/ideas would you like to share?
Excellent concept, look forward to the ongoing discussion and the end results. In many communities it is not about designing from a blank slate, it is about working around existing infrastructure and redevelopment or redesign, so this is a very important concept.