Digital is central to a truly cross-disciplinary approach

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Leading interaction designers made an impassioned plea last week for educationalists to recognise the need for greater cohesion between technical and design skills in their discipline.

Speaking at the i-Design interaction conference in London, Fabrica head of interaction design Andy Cameron went as far as to accuse colleges of not doing their job (see, 18 September). Other speakers, meanwhile, explained how coding and technical knowledge go hand in hand with creativity in their work.

For Cameron, a seminal figure in interaction design, and others of his vintage, cross-disciplinary working is the norm. He, like Tom Roope of The Rumpus Room, started out in film, while Malcolm Garrett, of Applied Information Group and Dynamo London, which masterminded i-Design, was originally in graphics, and Poke co-founder Simon Waterfall studied industrial design. There were few, if any, digital design courses available in their day.

The call for mutual respect between designer and technical expert is not new. While ideas are their forte, graphics stars invariably acknowledge the role of the printer and paper-maker in getting the best result and appreciate the craft – hence the popularity of Alan Kitching’s letterpress workshops. Product designers such as Sir James Dyson uphold the importance of engineering in the mix – how else but through a blend of design and engineering expertise would Terence Woodgate and racing car designer John Barnard have achieved the stunning Surface table they produced with Established & Sons this year.

Interaction may be relatively new to this, but it’s key in that practitioners are calling for collaboration throughout education, not just on projects.

Cross-disciplinary education would be a great campaign for new D&AD president Garrick Hamm to espouse. He plans to promote the excellent work of D&AD’s education team across all levels of expertise. Why not go one step further and set up collaborative events for students, teachers and practitioners of design?

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