The UK has an international reputation for turning out world-beating designers from its education system. Why else would our politicians be so keen to claim design skills as a valuable export, even if they’re not well enough used by industry here?
And no one disputes the key role played by bodies such as the Royal Society of Arts and the Design Council – in its previous and current incarnations – in promoting good design teaching at all levels of education. It continues to be a tough and often thankless task – most of us are only interested in education if we have a personal involvement – but the stalwarts battle on regardless.
It’s likely, therefore, that only the stalwarts know we’re on the eve of Design in Education Week, a five-day talking shop launched by the Design Council to explore ideas.
Some of the week’s activities will have little relevance to practicing designers – how to teach maths through design thinking, for example. But the themes tabled for future debate should be of great interest, themes such as multi-functional team working, crucial these days to any business. Then there’s the link between design and environmental concerns, not just in the choice of materials and processes, but in applying creative intelligence to develop sustainable ideas. And there’s the matter of integrating new technology into design.
Don’t you wish you were back at college? All that interesting stuff on the curriculum. But most of the topics on the Design Council’s educational agenda are vital to society, industry and the future role of design – and many of them are relevant now. Can we afford, therefore, to wait for current students to graduate before the ideas inform design practice?
We need to start now, with more talking shops for practitioners to match education programmes, combining theory with commercial realities. If the profession doesn’t move forward, there’ll be an even bigger gulf between college and consultancy. Graduates will have the real-world answers, but they’ll have even less chance of a job.