A focus on craft skills is central to the pleasure and prosperity of design


We can rely on the creative community to pull good things out of a bad situation. It’s what makes design such an attractive industry for non-designers such as myself. And the approach to design education is no exception.

As the UK education system goes into meltdown, savvy college heads are tempering cuts in resources by, say, strengthening their management teams note the Royal College of Art’s new deanships (DW 18 May) or forging partnerships with industry.

Meanwhile, industry activists such as D&AD chairman Dick Powell and Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design director Jeremy Myerson are using the situation to question the way colleges deliver design education. That approach is the basis of an investigation by the Design Commission, which comprises politicians and industry representatives (www.designweek.co.uk, 10 March).

Even practitioners in technology-driven subjects like interaction design call for more focus on drawing

What all such initiatives need to consider is what groups want of graduates, often perceived to be at odds with what colleges provide. Most maintain the proliferation of specialist courses set up to boost student numbers in happier times wasn’t a good move, particularly where the emphasis has been on teaching technology at the expense of traditional skills. Even practitioners in technology-driven subjects like interaction design call for more focus on drawing, modelling and typography.

This thinking was reinforced at a round table discussion Design Week set up last month with software company Adobe Systems Europe. Leading lights in interaction agreed that good ideas and craft skills are fundamental to their work and are what they look for in interviewees for creative jobs. Separately, Conran Singh director Daljit Singh said this week that he still draws and that it is essential to his thinking.

So whatever the outcome of the education debacle, for design it should signal a return to basics. Without craft skills at its heart, design loses quality and richness and it is altogether less enjoyable for designers of all disciplines.

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