Releasing the tension with taught courses

Having read the reports of the National Furniture Forum and Jane Phillips’ letter (DW 10 March), I would like to explain how higher education could help reduce the tension between the “non-designer” people of the design industry and the “designers”.

The Education and Training Group of the Chartered Society of Designers (of which I am acting chairman) has produced a draft Design Careers booklet scheduled for national circulation in summer.

The booklet attempts to explain the way towards a more harmonious collaborative working culture. It is concerned with educating all those non-design groups within the industry about design, its history, theory and the design process itself.

I categorise these groups as: the Processors – people in management, marketing, procurement, research and PR – who facilitate and administrate the design process; the Producers – makers, manufacturers, assemblers and suppliers of what is designed; and the Observers – the writers, journalists, lecturers and historians (maybe designers), who provide needed commentary, criticism, analysis and vision on what has been and what is currently being designed.

Designers are trained to understand the technology of their subject, as well as the manufacturing, marketing and business management skills that come with the job. But it is rare that a non-hands-on skilled person would have received any form of art or design training.

The way forward is for higher education to prepare a portfolio of modular courses to which the non-hands-on skilled people can apply and study side-by-side with the “design” students on selected core units such as history of design, theory, CAD and IT.

Their remaining time would be taken up with their main specialist subject as listed in the above categories. Some universities are already running such courses as Design Management and Design Marketing, but it could also be possible to gain a degree in Design Science (ergonomics, human factors), Design Production, Corporate Design (for client bodies), or Design Relations (PR).

Another important point is that designers have a commitment to the whole business. It could be argued that a proportion (not all) of people in manufacturing and administration might not share the same kind of commitment and dedication to the whole design process, nor show any interest in the end-product. I am convinced that a joint educational experience will not only benefit the manufacturers, but could also help alleviate the absurd increase in the numbers of design students within our universities that has happened over the past few years.

This would be done by reducing the number of design students in favour of the non-hands-on skilled students. The overall numbers intake need not change in design departments, only the change of curriculum pathways. There are three good reasons for this strategy: 1) it acknowledges common feeling that the quality of intake has fallen; 2) it will ease the job availability market; 3) graduates are prepared for various sectors within the design industry.

Anthony Sully

Senior Lecturer Interior Design BA (Hons) course

University of Humberside

Hull

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