How Should We Educate Designers? And For What?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 26, 2007

A fresh and fascinating discussion is under way in the D-School space over just what to teach designers. It’s an important debate because it involves the future of America’s talent pool. As any business person will tell you these days, the first priority of any manager is finding top talent. A global talent hunt is under way. Why? The business model is shifting away from mere efficiency to innovation and that requires a different culture and people able to operate in that culture.

This is the major reason why I believe corporations should be looking to design schools for talent. B-Schools teach people how to take an existing problem and break it down into its parts to solve it. D-Schools teach people how to define a problem, search for possible solutions by integrating information and iterating options. If you’re looking to build an innovation culture, that’s what you want.

The debate over design education revolves around what you need to teach to develop a “design personality.” Many argue that you need to teach form-making as a key basis for design. Others say that you should focus on design thinking, the conceptual methodology of design that allows designers to deal with strategy and business process.

Since putting ideas into form—prototypes, videos—provides so much information and allows people to make choices fast, it would be great for all design education to include it. At the same time, there are lots of folks around the world these days, especially in China, who can design great form. What is most in demand in the US and Europe are people who can think in design way. That’s reasoning by market—but that’s exactly what most B-Schools and D-Schools have to do. Students demand guidance about the job marekt and today, design thinking is hot.

Not being a designer or a design educator, the vituperative tone of the current blog debate over design education escapes me. It’s pretty emotional. GK VanPatter may be able to cut through the emotion—or he may make it even hotter—by his request to 25 design educators to comment on my Parsons speech, Are Designers The Enemy of Design? The speech was designed to start a conversation about design ignorance and arrogance and challenge assumptions. It didn’t hit on the issue of teaching form or not but it does raise important points about Design Democracy and opening sourcing design. Check out VanPatter’s challenge and read all about it in NextD.

> Greetings All: We are working on a special issue of NextD Journal
> and wanted to include you.>
> We are asking 25+ design school educated designers to comment on
> the recent article that appeared in Business Week entitled:
>
>
Are Designers The Enemy Of Design>
> Deadline for all submissions: Monday April 2, 2007
> Maximum Words: 500
>
> Instead of a conversation between 2-3 people this issue of NextD
> Journal will contain comments from 25 designers.
>
> BACKGROUND
>
> For those who might not know you can find some background reading
> here:
>
> Innovation is the New Black http://www.designobserver.com/archives/008049.html#50
>
>
> The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation?
> http://www.designobserver.com/archives/014697.html#more
>
> We look forward to seeing your comments be they long or short.
>
> Please RSVP within 48 hours of receiving this invitation stating
> that you would or would not like to participate.
>
> If you have any questions let me know.
>
>
> …
>
> GK VanPatter
> Founding Editor
> NextDesign Leadership Journal
> New York
>
> NextD
> Design is Changing! Are You?
> http://nextd.org
> …

Reader Comments

Douglass Turner

March 27, 2007 8:11 PM

One thing to keep in mind here is context. Design IQ in the States is just beginning to rise while in other parts of the world it is significantly more established.

One could do worse then study design education in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, or Norway. In my view they long ago solved most of the problems Bruce has highlighted.

As an American recently returned from eight years in the Nordic region I have noticed the obvious gulf that exists. One of the issues floating around here is the role of ego. Nordic types prefer let their work do all the talking rather then their mouths.

The Nordic region is filled with truly amazing designers who you will never hear about and they are fine with that.

Americans are rather different ;-)

-Doug

GK VanPatter

April 2, 2007 10:40 PM

Thanks for your interest in NextD Journal, Bruce. It is difficult for many practicing designers to find time to write responses to every activity going on in the press and blogosphere these days, but we will try our best to pull together a few comments on this important topic. So far we have had numerous interesting suggestions for titles, so I can share a few with you:

How to Think Like Nussbaum.
Impeach Nussbaum.
An Inconvenient Half-Truth.
Sleeping with the Enemy.
How Nussbaums Happen.
Mars Attacks.
Looking Closer (at Nussbaum).
Judge Brucie.
The Strange Death of Design Thinking.
(Not) Getting It.
Nuss Baumed.
More is MUCH Less.
Nussbaum / His Private Sky.
American Drive-Thru.
Big Banana Blogging.
There Goes the Promise Land.
Good to Great to Huh?
Bruce Almighty.
Forrest Nussbaum.
The New Church of Old Ant-Design.
Nussbaum Business or Out of Business.
Designing Dissent.
The Road Most Traveled.
Sugar Dad.
If Only We Knew What He Knows.
Nussbaum’s Greatest Hit.
Hypocrisy Delivered.
Beautiful Diversion.
Faulty Intelligence.
Pullout.
How to Profit from the Coming Collapse of Design Thinking.

You know how this design thinking thing works Bruce, so you will recognize that this all might change several times before we get to publication of this Special Issue of NextD Journal. Comments and ideas are still coming in. More later.

Thanks again for your interest in NextD.
...

GK VanPatter
Co-Founder
NextDesign Leadership Institute
New York

NextD
Design is Changing! Are You?
http://nextd.org

cam balkon

April 28, 2009 8:59 PM

Serenity

May 17, 2011 5:26 AM

You’re blogging has really come on when I look back over previous posts. Actually I arrived here from a forum on an unrelated topic. Worth surfing sometimes. Thanks.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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