Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ten Reasons We’re Not Ready for Design Education

We’ve been trying to get schools to add the words “and design” after words like “art” and “technology” in their programs. Here are some reasons people say this is not possible:

1. People don’t know what design is.
True. Most people don’t know design includes information design (graphic design, print and the Web), object design (product design and everyday things), environment design (architecture, urban planning), and experience design (interactive toys, games, environments, and events). Design is basically all around us.

2. There aren’t enough teachers who know how to teach design courses.
True. Traditional art teachers, technology teachers, and classroom teachers will need additional preparation to include innovation and design along with their traditional preparation. There is no shortage, however, of resources about design available for those who look for them.

3. There isn’t enough time in the schedule.
True. School schedules and curricula are bursting at the seams. This is, however, a little like an overweight person saying they will skip the vegetables because their plate is already full of meat and potatoes. Design is part of a balanced educational diet necessary for learning and brain development.

4. Design includes too much math and science.
True. Many people go into the arts and humanities to avoid science and math but much of design includes engineering, technology, material science and other areas that require basic knowledge of science and math.

5. Adding design threatens existing programs.
True. When design courses are offered students tend to gravitate to them rather than take traditional courses that don’t apply to their future lives. Similarly, the Kodak company, had to remake itself when digital photography began to replace traditional film.

6. Design is too “commercial”.
True. Schools usually avoid teaching things that lead to jobs and employment but design also includes designing for disabilities (universal design), Design for the Real World (Papanek), Design for the Other 90% (third world countries), Architecture for Humanity, Project H (water transport and education), etc. etc.

7. Design is expensive.
True. Designer Jeans, etc. cost more than regular jeans. Anything that is new, rare and hard to find costs more. Target stores and others, however, have shown that good design can be provided to the general public at reasonable costs. Schools can do the same.

8. Design is frivolous.
True. Businesses got by for a long time focusing only on price and quality in their goods and services while thinking design was just about making things look nice. Today, however, consumers insist on good design. India, China and the Arab Emirates are gearing up to dominate the world economy on the basis of quality design.

9. Design is too bourgeois.
True. Design tends to speak to the needs of the masses rather than the elite. While only about 10% of the population ever sets foot in an art museum, 100% seek out well-designed clothing, cars, houses, furnishings, electronics, appliances, etc.

10. We aren’t ready for this yet.
True. The design fields are mainly a product of the 20th century (the last 100 years) and it usually takes a long time for new knowledge and skills to work their way into education. Design has only been part of education in the UK for a little over 30 years so it will take some time for it to get a foothold in American schools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe there has been not a soul who has contested you on this! Seriously, Dr. Rayala, it seems as if you are throwing up your hands in semi-defeat. Or are you...? Perhaps you are baiting us, tempting us to prove you wrong...
My protest is this...
I think we need to be ready for design education because whether we're ready or not, the world is only becoming more designed. Design certainly isn't becoming a smaller field. It is becoming more complex. But, make no mistake, (thanks B.O.)it is here. Either U.S. schools catch up, or the rest of the developed world will pass us by.