Jamie Blosser / Santa Fe Art Institute / Executive Director / 03.27.18
Where is design going?
Thanks to the public interest design movement over the last 50-80 years, excellent design is more accessible than ever to all people and all communities. This now must translate to designers coming from all walks of life – the field of design needs to expand to reflect society as a whole. If a design school made just one move that would be transformational, it would be increasing that access so that anyone could access a design education and imagine a viable future as a designer.
How can design education be more relevant?
The future will require cross-collaboration at mega scales to systemically address resilience, health, sustainability, and equity. Schools talk about being multi-disciplinary, and yet they often cannot deliver on that promise because academic departments exist within antiquated and territorial academic structures. It would be amazing to dissolve those territories that keep academic disciplines siloed and develop opportunities for intensive trans-disciplinary project collaboration between students and faculty with various content expertise and skills.
What are the future skillsets designers need to learn now?
Designers need to learn and hone the craft of design, explore and experiment without fear of failure, better understand the social and physical systems and structures that enhance or inhibit equitable design and development, learn to collaborate, and be given challenging and meaningful project opportunities – imagined or real. What I don’t think is essential in a design education is professional development skills, especially if learning to collaborate is an essential aspect of their design education. Graduates have their entire career to hone professional skills – school is a time to experiment and take risks.
What should a design school do to prepare students for transdisciplinary work?
Actually working between departments on projects, so that the skills and expertise of different disciplines can be seen first hand. The design school could also focus on making design more relevant to other fields of expertise in cultivating those projects between departments.
What should a design school do to forward equity and inclusion?
Equity and inclusion impacts everything, and really needs to be addressed institutionally from every angle – but I think that recruiting and retaining people of color should be a priority. This will likely involve significant early investment in youth programs in communities who have been historically marginalized, and who may not have any role models who are designers. Once on campus, there also needs to be more support for students from marginalized communities, so that they stay in school and have an opportunity to succeed. And they need to see faculty and administration who reflect them and who can be role models.
What other thoughts/ideas would you like to share?
If ASU has not already done this, it would be very powerful to consider how the institution can work to acknowledge Native land and the traditional territories upon which Phoenix and ASU are situated. This could go a long way to meaningfully addressing equity and inclusion, as it relates to tribes and traditional cultures in the region. There is a great guide developed by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture to assist with this. It is something that the Santa Fe Art Institute is undertaking, and though it is a work in progress I’d be happy to discuss further. https://usdac.us/nativeland