Funding is not biggest problem for courses

Open design school

In response to the Editor’s blog, www.designweek.co.uk, 6 May, involving the private sector in design education is an interesting albeit not new proposition.

In my opinion, though, funding is not the biggest problem design courses are facing today. Design schools are struggling to offer a curriculum that is relevant to the needs of a 21st-century creative economy. Change is slow in educational institutions (just envisage the changes in technology and society that didn’t even exist three years ago). Design courses are hopelessly trying to catch up with the speed at which the industry evolves, but what they really need to instil is entrepreneurial spirit and an understanding and appreciation of human cognition, behaviour and communication.

Instead, they largely focus on ’ideas’ and (undefined) creativity. You’re right in predicting that ’the most talented designers might opt out of formal education’, but that’s not necessarily a loss for the industry. Those talented designers will most likely be very successful without a university degree, if not more, as they will focus on their practice and career and won’t be held back by outdated curriculums.

Sure, the private sector could pump money into courses or collaborate with universities, which will give them all the more reason to point out how unprepared today’s graduates are for the industry. Alternatively, they might opt to try new ways of getting the ’new blood’ up to speed, such as employing apprenticeship schemes, and avoid the university route altogether.

The irony is, while apprenticeships are even more tied to the history of industrialisation than to a modern-day knowledge economy, they’re more relevant to the industry than semi-vocational, semi-academic university courses that each year churn out hundreds of ill-prepared graduates who are competing for underpaid internships rather than junior positions. Formal design education is a mess and it’s not just a money problem.

On these issues we have created an open, collaborative document as an experiment in crowdsourcing ideas about what can be done. We invite contributions to the discussion at http://bit.ly/opendesignschool (pictured above).

Pascal Raabe, Designer, by e-mail

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