Maryam Eskandari / Harvard University / Principal at MIIM Designs / 03.19.18

Where is design going?

Design is a process. It is the ability to narrate a story, revive a culture. It is a language, often a language of visualization. Through design we are able to create new traditions, cultures and even history – not necessary of the time passed, but also the time to come. The future of design, is one that we are able to deal with both the technology and the scientific aspects along with dealing with the users, the citizens and the participants of the world. The qualities of design are timeless. Pushing the boundaries of the presumed function, purpose and program, to establish a solid and meaningful place within the discipline. The future of design will start locally, but will affect us globally.

How can design education be more relevant?

Just like the internet – endless information, connecting cultures and readily access to online education – design education has made the role of designers and educators even more important because it demonstrates how vital it is for us to constantly be learning. We are at an age were designers learn and lead horizontally and students are learning from each other. The idea of a central master or teacher at the core of an institution or apprenticeship is obsolete. More importantly, teachers are learning from students – I often find myself in this position. Older and more experienced designers may bring more knowledge and “lessons learned”, however, the students bring an openness and creative perspective that are not necessarily marked by past experience, but rather lead by the concept of a global-citizenship, empathy, and creating design solutions for any design challenge to transform the human conditions, needs and experiences. We have to cultivate a space that allow for these explorations.

What are the future skillsets designers need to learn now?

There is no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) and BIM technology has been the leader for the future of design. In order to tackle today’s biggest social, environmental and technological challenges, we need to train the future designers to think critically about the human context. What matters the most for future designers is not the technical skills, rather, how we think. Can we ask the right questions from our clients? Do we know what problems we are trying to solve? The future of skillset of designers will be the ability to have a well-rounded learning experience.

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

Each class, studio and design problem, should allow for an experience to collaborate and work in various groups. We all know that our discipline is not one that can be practiced in isolation – rather it is done through sharing, conversing, researching, listening, understanding, experiencing, drawing and process. The more our design schools allows for cross-collaboration in each of the classes or projects the more we can learn from each other. There must be a balance between the time that the student has to work individually in order to have self-discovery and collaboration. That self-discovery must be shared with others. The more the student shares and works through the design problem the design process takes on various layers of information and the quicker the problem can be resolved.

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

The ideal “Design School” would have a vast array of classes, studios and projects for students to learn. Having gone to architecture school in the US, I often found myself lacking in any discourse beyond the western education. My history and theory classes stopped at Europe and started in the 18th century. It was only in grad school that I learned about the rest of the world – like East and South Asian and Islamic Architecture. Having these discourses present at a design school will allow for the design student to have a level of acceptance and inclusiveness. The other vital way to demonstrate equity and inclusion is the demographics of the faculty and their interactions and collaboration amongst themselves and the students. Our leadership as teachers and our partnerships with each other sets the tone for the inclusivity and equity of the students.

Maryam Eskandari

Harvard University

Principal at MIIM Designs

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