Monday, December 29, 2008

British Design Classics Honored on Stamps

If you have a contact in Great Britain ask them to send you some of the new British stamps honoring British design classics.

What are some British design classics? The Mini Cooper auto (right) is well known in the States because it keeps showing up in movies and streets in America. It was designed by the late Sir Alec Issigonis.

Other British design icons include the supersonic Concorde jet (left) and the miniskirt. These three very different icons are to feature in a new set of stamps celebrating British design classics that will go on sale in 2009. As well as the Mini, the supersonic passenger airliner and the skirt that defined the 1960s, the set will also feature Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's K2 telephone box and Harry Beck's London Underground map.

The first 10 stamps will be on sale beginning in January and will be followed by a different set every month throughout the year. This is a great opportunity to call attention to the importance of design around the world.

The Power of Visual Images

It is not a new idea but, as we begin a new year, it is worth remembering the power of visual images by revisiting one of the most powerful visual images ever created. Pictures of the Earth taken by Apollo astronauts from the moon on Christmas Eve forty years ago have been credited with creating today's environmental movement. These pictures did more to shape our perception of our world than any words could ever do.

For the first time, through these photos, people could see that we really were all together floating in space on one little "spaceship Earth". These images of the Earth helped drive the momentum of a burgeoning green movement during the 70's, fuelling an awareness of vulnerability. It became obvious to all, that while the moon was a dead, inert mass the Earth was the only life supporting outpost in this part of the cosmos.

There are many design challenges left in the next billion years before the Earth will also no longer support life. Our middle aged sun, born less than 5 billion years ago, has only 5 billion years of fuel left but will destroy all life on Earth within the next billion years before completely dying itself in 5 billion years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Missing from Education?

Traditionally, schools have tried to address three aspects of student development - knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Today, we have to add a fourth - application. It is no longer enough to have knowledge, skills, and dispositions if you don't do anything with them.

Applying knowledge, skills, and dispositions is called design innovation. Designers are innovators, entrepreneurs, people who take action - who make things - who change the world.

Action/application has been missing from schools for so long that many think first about "service learning" because that has been one way to try to have students actually do something with what they are learning. Service learning is great but it is often an artificial activity separate from their day to day schooling.

In the agrarian past, students learned how to apply skills outside of school as a regular process of growing up on farms, helping out in family businesses, and working to help support themselves. Such opportunities are harder for students to find today so schools have tried to step in by providing internship programs, apprenticeships, service learning, competitions, and other ways to help students learn to apply what they are learning.

Design education is, by its very nature, directed at creating a better world for others. It goes beyond becoming aware of problems to actually trying to do something positive to solve them. Knowing what to do, having the skills, and being aware of the problems needs to be taken to the next level - application through design innovation.

Education today must address knowledge, skills, dispositions and application (design). Adding design education provides relevance, motivation and satisfaction to learning.