Traditionally what designers lack in knowledge, they make up for in craft skills. Whether it be sketching, modeling, detailing or rendering, designers take an inordinate amount of pride in honing key techniques over many years. Unfortunately many of these very skills have limited use in the new design domains. (Core 77 columnist Kevin McCullagh.)I am forced to read a lot of crap. As a reviewer of submissions to design journals and conferences, as a juror of design contests, and as a mentor and advisor to design students and faculty, I read outrageous claims made by designers who have little understanding of the complexity of the problems they are attempting to solve or of the standards of evidence required to make claims. Oftentimes the crap comes from brilliant and talented people, with good ideas and wonderful instantiations of physical products, concepts, or simulations. The crap is in the claims. In the early days of industrial design, the work was primarily focused upon physical products. Today, however, designers work on organizational structure and social problems, on interaction, service, and experience design. Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully undereducated for the task. Designers often fail to understand the complexity of the issues and the depth of knowledge already known. They claim that fresh eyes can produce novel solutions, but then they wonder why these solutions are seldom implemented, or if implemented, why they fail. Fresh eyes can indeed produce insightful results, but the eyes must also be educated and knowledgeable. Designers often lack the requisite understanding. Design schools do not train students about these complex issues, about the interlocking complexities of human and social behavior, about the behavioral sciences, technology, and business. There is little or no training in science, the scientific method, and experimental design.Related problems occur with designers trained in engineering, for although they may understand hard-core science, they are often ignorant of the so-called soft areas of social and behavioral sciences. The do not understand human behavior, chiding people for not using technology properly, asking how they could be so illogical. (You may have all heard the refrain: "if only we didn't have people, our stuff would work just fine," forgetting that the point of the work was to help people.) Engineers are often ignorant of how people actually behave. And both engineers and designers are often ignorant of the biases that can be unwittingly introduced into experimental designs and the dangers of inappropriate generalization. The social and behavioral sciences have their own problems, for they generally are disdainful of applied, practical work and their experimental methods are inappropriate: scientists seek "truth" whereas practitioners seek "good enough." Scientists look for small differences, whereas designers want large impact. People in human-computer interaction, cognitive engineering, and human factors or ergonomics are usually ignorant of design. All disciplines have their problems: everyone can share the blame. Time to change design education Where once industrial designers focused primarily upon form and function, materials and manufacturing, today's issues are far more complex and challenging. New skills are required, especially for such areas as interaction, experience, and service design. Classical industrial design is a form of applied art, requiring deep knowledge of forms and materials and skills in sketching, drawing, and rendering. The new areas are more like applied social and behavioral sciences and require understanding of human cognition and emotion, sensory and motor systems, and sufficient knowledge of the scientific method, statistics and experimental design so that designers can perform valid, legitimate tests of their ideas before deploying them. Designers need to deploy microprocessors and displays, actuators and sensors. Communication modules are being added to more and more products, from the toaster to the wall switch, the toilet and books (now called e-books). Knowledge of security and privacy, social networks, and human interaction are critical. The old skills of drawing and sketching, forming and molding must be supplemented and in many cases, replaced, by skills in programming, interaction, and human cognition. Rapid prototyping and user testing are required, which also means some knowledge of the social and behavior sciences, of statistics, and of experimental design. In educational institutions, industrial design is usually housed in schools of art or architecture, usually taught as a practice with the terminal degree being a BA, MA, or MFA. It is rare for in design education to have course requirements in science, mathematics, technology, or the social sciences. As a result the skills of the designer are not well suited for modern times. The Uninformed Are Training the Uninformed My experience with some of the world's best design schools in Europe, the United States, and Asia indicate that the students are not well prepared in the behavioral sciences that are so essential for fields such as interaction and experience design. They do not understand experimental rigor or the potential biases that show up when the designer evaluates their own products or even their own experimental results. Their professors also lack this understanding. Designers often test their own designs, but with little understanding of statistics and behavioral variability. They do not know about unconscious biases that can cause them to see what they wish to see rather than what actually has occurred. Many are completely unaware of the necessity of control groups. The social and behavioral sciences (and medicine) long ago learned the importance of blind scoring where the person scoring the results does not know what condition is being observed, nor what is being tested. The problem is compounded by a new insistence by top research universities that all design faculty have a PhD degree. But given the limited training of most design faculty, there is very little understanding of the kind of knowledge that constitutes a PhD. The uninformed are training the uninformed. There are many reasons for these difficulties. I've already discussed the fact that most design is taught in schools of art or architecture. Many students take design because they dislike science, engineering, and mathematics. Unfortunately, the new demands upon designers do not allow us the luxury of such non-technical, non science-oriented training. A different problem is that even were a design school to decide to teach more formal methods, we don't really have a curriculum that is appropriate for designers. Take my concern about the lack of experimental rigor. Suppose you were to agree with me - what courses would we teach? We don't really know. The experimental methods of the social and behavioral sciences are not well suited for the issues faced by designers. Designers are practitioners, which means they are not trying to extend the knowledge base of science but instead, to apply the knowledge. The designer's goal is to have large, important impact. Scientists are interested in truth, often in the distinction between the predictions of two differing theories. The differences they look for are quite small: often statistically significant but in terms of applied impact, quite unimportant. Experiments that carefully control for numerous possible biases and that use large numbers of experimental observers are inappropriate for designers. The designer needs results immediately, in hours or at possibly a few days. Quite often tests of 5 to 10 people are quite sufficient. Yes, attention must be paid to the possible biases (such as experimenter biases and the impact of order of presentation of tests), but if one is looking for large effect, it should be possible to do tests that are simpler and faster than are used by the scientific community will suffice. Designs don't have to be optimal or perfect: results that are not quite optimum or les than perfect are often completely satisfactory for everyday usage. No everyday product is perfect, nor need they be. We need experimental techniques that recognize these pragmatic, applied goals. Design needs to develop its own experimental methods. They should be simple and quick, looking for large phenomena and conditions that are "good enough." But they must still be sensitive to statistical variability and experimental biases. These methods do not exist: we need some sympathetic statisticians to work with designers to develop these new, appropriate methods. When Designers Think They Know, But Don't Designers fall prey to the two ailments of not knowing what they don't know and, worse, thinking they know things they don't. This last condition is especially true when it comes to human behavior: the cognitive sciences. Designers (and engineers) think that they understand human behavior: after all, they are human and they have observed people all their lives. Alas, they believe a "naive psychology": plausible explanations of behavior that have little or no basis in fact. They confuse the way they would prefer people to behave with how people actually behave. They are unaware of the large experimental and theoretical literature, and they are not well versed in statistical variability. Real human behavior is very contextual. It is readily biased by multiple factors. Human behavior is driven by both emotional and cognitive processes, much of which is subconscious and not accessible to human conscious knowledge. Gaps and lapses in attention are to be expected. Human memory is subject to numerous biases and errors. Different memory systems have different characteristics. Most importantly, human memory is not a calling up of images of the past but rather a reconstruction of the remembered event. As a result, it often fits expectations more closely than it fits reality and it is easily modified by extraneous information. Many designers are woefully ignorant of the deep complexity of social and organizational problems. I have seen designers propose simple solutions to complex problems in education, poverty, crime, and the environment. Sometimes these suggestions win design prizes (the uninformed judge the uninformed). Complex problems are complex systems: there is no simple solution. It is not enough to mean well: one must also have knowledge. The same problems arise in doing experimental studies of new methods of interaction, new designs, or new experiences and services. When scientists (and designers) study people, they too are subject to these same human biases, and so cognitive scientists carefully design experiments so that the biases of the experimenter can have no impact on the results or their interpretation. All these factors are well understood by cognitive scientists, but seldom known or understood by designers and engineers. Here is a case of not knowing what is not known. Why Designers Must Know Some Science Over the years, the scientific method evolved to create order and evaluation to otherwise exaggerated claims. Science is not a body of facts, not the use of mathematics. Rather, the key to science is its procedures, or what is called the scientific method. The method does not involve white robes and complex mathematics. The scientific method requires public disclosure of the problem, the method of approach, the findings, and then the interpretation. This allows others to repeat the finding: replication is essential. Nothing is accepted in science until others have been able to repeat the work and come to the same conclusion. Moreover, scientists have learned to their dismay that conclusions are readily biased by prior belief, so experimental methods have been devised to minimize these unintentional biases. Science is difficult when applied to the physical and biological world. But when applied to people, the domain of the social sciences, it is especially difficult. Now subtle biases abound, so careful statistical procedures have been devised to minimize them. Moreover, scientists have learned not to trust themselves, so in the social sciences it is sometimes critical to design tests so that neither the person being studied nor the person doing the study know what condition is involved - this is called "double blind." Designers, on the whole, are quite ignorant of all this science stuff. They like to examine a problem, devise what seems to be a solution, and then announce the result for all to acclaim. Contests are held. Prizes are awarded. But wait-- has anyone examined the claims? Tested them to see if they perform as claimed? Tested them against alternatives (what science calls control groups), tested them often enough to minimize the impact of statistical variability? Huh? say the designers: Why, it is obvious - just look - What is all this statistical crap? Journals do not help, for most designers are practitioners and seldom publish. And when they do, I find that the reviewers in many of our design journals and conferences are themselves ignorant of appropriate experimental procedures and controls, so even the published work is often of low quality. Design conferences are particularly bad: I have yet to find a design conference where the rigor of the peer review process is satisfactory. The only exceptions are those run by societies from the engineering and sciences, such as the Computer-Human Interaction and graphics conferences run by the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers or the Computer Science society (IEEE, ACM and the CHI and SIGGRAPH conferences). These conferences, however, favor the researcher, so although they are favorite publication vehicles for design researchers and workers in interaction design, practitioners often find their papers rejected. The practice of design lacks a high quality venue for its efforts. Design Education Must Change Service design, interaction design, and experience design are not about the design of physical objects: they require minimal skills in drawing, knowledge of materials, or manufacturing. In their place, they require knowledge of the social sciences, of story construction, of back-stage operations, and of interaction. We still need classically trained industrial designers: the need for styling, for forms, for the intelligent use of materials will never go away. In today's world of ubiquitous sensors, controllers, motors, and displays, where the emphasis is on interaction, experience, and service, where designers work on organizational structure and services as much as on physical products, we need a new breed of designers. This new breed must know about science and technology, about people and society, about appropriate methods of validation of concepts and proposals. They must incorporate knowledge of political issues and business methods, operations, and marketing. Design education has to move away from schools of art and architecture and move into the schools of science and engineering. We need new kinds of designers, people who can work across disciplines, who understand human beings, business, and technology and the appropriate means of validating claims. Today's designers are poorly trained to meet the today's demands: We need a new form of design education, one with more rigor, more science, and more attention to the social and behavioral sciences, to modern technology, and to business. But we cannot copy the existing courses from those disciplines: we need to establish new ones that are appropriate to the unique requirements of the applied requirements of design. But beware: We must not lose the wonderful, delightful components of design. The artistic side of design is critical: to provide objects, interactions and services that delight as well as inform, that are joyful. Designers do need to know more about science and engineering, but without becoming scientists or engineers. We must not lose the special talents of designers to make our lives more pleasurable. It is time for a change. We, the design community, must lead this change.
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You are asking design students to throw away the things that make our profession most unique and thus, beneficial to other professions: the subjective, intuitive, and creative insight we provide unto some of the world's most difficult problems (and no that last throwaway paragraph did not address this).
This article paints such a stereotypical picture of design students that I don't know where to begin. First off, I am an industrial design student who works as a UI designer and I can tell you that design students today have a wonderful interdisciplinary education that includes science, business, and psychology (I myself getting a science degree as well). The reason why we're not rigorously focused in those fields is because we're not those majors; we're design majors. We are here to bring to the table a different perspective that you can't get from a person studying engineering, psychology, or business.
Sure it's nice to be versed in those subjects but to say that "design education must change" essentially into those fields grossly undermines my and others' design degrees. Engineers aren't expected to be experts in design, the opposite shouldn't be expected either. Otherwise, what you create is just watered-down scientists, psychologists, and businessmen: not well-rounded designers.
Sorry Don Norman, but I think you're really out-of-touch on design education. It takes EVERY minute of design school to hone the skills required to be working design professional. From what I've seen, people who try to do interdisciplinary work in HCI, design engineering, or business end up producing more research than good design work. In the end, those types of majors don't become designers in the future, they become researchers. Your website is a really good example of this: a lot of long-winded essays on design thinking and absolutely no physical embodiment of good design or usability.
If it seems I'm taking this article personally, it's because I am. I'm extremely tired of people feeling that design itself is inadequate and must be bolstered up with other degrees in order to seem significant and useful to other people. If design students aren't completely immersed and concentrated in the skills and tools necessary to have a deep understanding of design, then who will be? No one.
So if you're proposing some new major in Design Research, be my guest. Otherwise, stop trying to undermine what design students like me are learning.
Academia is littered with professors whose connection to reality is highly suspect. In my own formal education, I was constantly butting heads with neo-Marxist, anti-corporate, anti-capitalist professors with precisely zero experience in the real world. I started a successful business while I was in college, so I had one foot in both worlds. It was an interesting experience studying the "evils of profit" by day and pursuing profit by night! If we hope to give designers an education that will better inform them of the political and social consequences of their work, I sincerely hope they will be taught by professors with work experience outside of academia.
I would much rather see designers with practical, up-to-date skills than designers with lofty academic backgrounds. If the average designer is of low-caliber, it might have more to do with selection than education. Most design schools are ridiculously easy to get into compared to most business or engineering schools. We might not need better design schools, but better design students. This might be the solution to alleviating the load of "crap" that Donald Norman is forced to read. Till then, I think it's dangerous to propose an education for designers that is more theoretical than practical.
Did I ever say that research was less worthy than the actual physical output? They're too different things that must inform each other: the research of a chemist informs the practical application performed by a chemical engineer. But these are two different fields, just as design research and industrial/graphic/IX design are different fields.
As a design student, we're all familiar with design research and are taught the "scientific" aspect of the field which this article seems to take for granted. But no, we don't have the time nor the necessity to become the major itself. We have graduate design schools for just that purpose if you're so inclined to learn intensive research methods. To make such a crude statement that "design education must change" is a complete misrepresentation of our academics.
And yes I have read Don Norman's articles and books (which are integrated into our design curriculum here). He's a cognitive psychologist, and the last time I checked, that doesn't make him an expert in worldwide design education. But thanks for the personal attack anyway.
I do however think that there is still a need for ordinary industrial designers, since there is always a need for specialists as well as people with more cross-disciplinary competences.
Unfortunately only the information about the Master's program is in english, but perhaps you get the idea... http://www.tekniskdesign.se/master/
He advocates the formation of designers that can do what he does (brilliantly, BTW).
I agree with the existance of the problem, but strongly disagree with the proposed solution.
We can't make scientists out of creatives, and even if we could, we don't want to and also do they.
Curiously, Norman's proposal is tainted of the kind of bias he says it's undesirable. More or less, he says "designers are so and so". Which designers, what percent of then, how is the behaviour distributed across the map? Does it happen less in Germany than in California?
One problem is that, according to this article, my opinion (and may be all other but Jaap's) are also disqualified. But anyway ...
We who make IT systems (like web sites and banking apps) work in teams, striving towards making real a "design".
There is an issue with this word: it has been coopted by the aesthetics designers. A "designer" is a graphics designer. All other instances of design are demoted to "engineerings" or "management" or orher lower forms of work.
Actually, for a project to turn real all forms of design have to be done and more importantly, all must be perfectly coordinated and aimed at the common goal.
The value is in the orchestation, not in any particular part. Cells of a living being.
In such a context, aesthetic designers should do their work in a well defined environment, with well defined limits and constraints. Same as all other pros.
Such an environment is to be designed and implemented by a lower management level, mostly technical, where all disciplines collaborate.
Is this manager, the one that's is close to the actual work, who must we aware of what can be done in every area, while heavily consulting with all area experts.
He must be aware of orthographic issues, just to mention an area, whilst relying in a language pro for the wording of the UIs and the documentation.
The lack of such management kind is what led Alan Cooper to write "The Inmates ...". As of then the inmates were the programmers, now the "designers" might be replacing them.
So, let's not teach orthography to the artistic-minded designers, and instead try to develop better managers, who know a little about everything, instead of specialists who ignore but one thing.
I think that Design Education does not need to change, instead it should constantly evolve just as everyone and everything on our planet.
I agree, designers should know more about related fields. business,marketing, engineering, psych, sociology...., but these are all separate professions each taking years to gain a workable knowledge. It is impractical to have a school that properly trains a student in all these fields. It would take 20+ years.
An education in design is just that. The solution is to always be pursuing education, taking classes and reading
As an interactive media lecturer at a small design college (and without a PhD as yet), I know myself, my colleages and my head of department are constantly rewriting our courses and reviewing methods for delivery to ensure we are turning out well rounded students who have both practical skills and theoretical knowledge - and are able to apply both in developing design solutions.
However, this is not always easy within the time frame allocated for each course by the college and is very much dependent on the students themselves in terms of how interested, dedicated or motivated they are.
What I would personally love - and I'm sure others would too - are strategies and/or curriculums that could be easily implemented into existing courses. Institutions may not change quickly but in my experience, the individual lecturers at the front line are more than happy to with the right guidance.
nonetheless, i am still considering transferring to a rigorous, specifically design oriented program because i worry that i will not be able to achieve any level of expertise in design, and limit myself to pure management. i have heard arguments for both sides, and this is a very compelling one for the path that i am currently following.
Thanks for this insightful article Don, and thanks to everyone who commented. There are some very useful perspectives.
"Sorry Don Norman, but I think you're really out-of-touch on design education. It takes EVERY minute of design school to hone the skills required to be working design professional. From what I've seen, people who try to do interdisciplinary work in HCI, design engineering, or business end up producing more research than good design work. In the end, those types of majors don't become designers in the future, they become researchers. Your website is a really good example of this: a lot of long-winded essays on design thinking and absolutely no physical embodiment of good design or usability. "
Why is doing research any less worthy than creating "physical embodiments of good design or usability"? Have you actually taken the time to read Don's Norman articles? Do you actually know what Don does? He is "a design thinker, not a designer. He studies, analysis, teaches, and preaches good design"
Your reaction of feeling personally attacked along with your feeling that people think "design itself is inadequate and must be bolstered up with other degrees in order to seem significant and useful to other people." betrays more about your own shortcomings than that of the industry.
After reading your article I feel much at ease. I am currently a freshman at MIT planning on majoring in Brain & Cognitive Sciences. I have recently found a passion for graphic design and plan to also gain a certificate from MassArt or SMFA by the time I graduate in four years. It's nice to hear that I'm going down the right path. I'll be rereading this article when balancing both programs becomes all I do.
I was really delighted reading your article. This is what we do in "Design Science" program at the University of Michigan! this is fairly a young program that approaches design as a multi-disciplinary major and applies scientific quantitative or qualitative methods of research. All the researches within this program are interdisciplinary, addressing the research question from (at least) two different disciplines (mostly psychology+ design, and another one like engineering or business) . This is quite a bit unusual for people like me that come with an Industrial Design background since we have no idea how to look at design as a science.
thanks for your article which made me more determined in challenging all the difficulties I face during this transmission.
If the designer is posited as the ringmaster of this effort, then the primary skill set starts to become one of broad familiarity with a variety of domains/disciplines and skilled facilitation of conversation and work across these areas, coupled with the ability to express the ideas that emerge from this effort in a variety of physical and narrative forms. Is this really the province of just the designer, or is this a wider issue?
Perhaps what's needed is not so much a new approach to the designer. Perhaps it's a new emphasis on the idea of collaboration as the natural way of doing things, and an increased obligation on experts of all sorts to also be skilled contributors to these types of collaborative efforts.
It's always worth broadening the designer's knowledge base, but what might a "collaboration curriculum" look like -- one that could be implemented across many domains and disciplines? Could that yield more bang for the buck?
But there is only so much you can accomplish in a day a month a year. We as humans have other demands, to our emotions and the positive applications of everyday life.
To be socially mindful and knowledgable with your products is to be able to use both sides of the brains together simultaneously with a partnership.
One side needs to know alot of what people are about and the other side needs to know mechanics.
To master these two sides in this world, would take the most priveledged with the best guidance and support on every level.
otherwise get a team together and somehow get them to cooperate on every level to create a product based on all their "expertise" somehow finalized as to where everyone is satisfied on the developers side and as well as the customers.
Talk is Cheap, TOO high of a demand for whatever the incentive is TOO high of a demand.
As for the approach to educating design (with sciences & engineering in mind). This would obviously not be an easy task.
Another issue that I'd like to share/discuss is in regards of change to the marking system at a design institution. Already, at different design institutions the education marking system varies - the one I went to students really did suffer if you didn't have a good head on your shoulders. For example, certain features of a design were rewarded marks, but a student might lose marks for choosing a "too generic" material (e.g. plastic).
A friend told me at the Design Academy the marking system was a little different - tutors would give you a pass or fail for a project. He said the tutors would present a Phillipe Starck attitude/response. "Its crap cos its crap"
So with this existing issue of the marking system, the scale of difficulties to implement sciences & engineering modules into existing design education curricula would be extremely challenging or could require a risk?
How would it be possible to alter the system?
Personally, I'd suggest working in a multi-disciplinary environment, so Don's suggestions are very credible. But as a mandatory module for all design institutions teaching industrial/product design - guest speakers from different fields and also the importance of actually experiencing working for real clients, no nonsense education with real results for the clients. This is why when I learned of Hyper Island's (interactive media institution in Sweden) education approach I was fascinated.
Your article demonstrates perfectly the paradox of contemporary design; that design be all things to all people at all times. Why is this design education's problem alone to solve? Why shouldn't all the various schools and colleges at all the various universities evolve their approaches? Indeed the most success efforts from consumer products, or space travel, or healthcare innovations, are those undertaken by multidisciplinary teams.
While it is possible for one person, over the course of their lifetime, to learn all the skills and science you outline it would indeed require a lifetime. (For all your knowledge and experience, I would wager you still can't sketch or create nice forms.) I agree with you that the problems design is being asked to undertake today are bigger than ever and who's scope go well beyond the boundaries of traditional design education. But I would take your argument farther: these challenges are indeed too large for one discipline to solve. I think the conversation you are trying to start would be more productive if your arguments were applied to ALL of University level education. What if those things you see as a failures by design educators are simply their attempts at solving this short-coming in traditional higher education?
Frankly, as someone who has hired from the best schools for the last 20 years, I think universities--ALL universities, need to rethink how they prepare students They need to work across disciplines and stop siloing their faculty and their programs (which as a former academic I am sure you can attest is primarily a legacy issue stemming from out of date social and political models). Universities should focus on teaching holistic problem solving to ALL their students, enabling them to work as cross-disciplinary teams on these challenges. Universities and Colleges should be collaborating in the development of various frameworks for use in analytic, generative, or iterative problems that leverage the knowledge and skills from individual areas of study to empower the students; transforming the whole into something greater than the sum of its parts. To be sure Design and Design Educations can play critical role in facilitating this process, but it will take a greater effort than just design education to bring about the change you are alluding to.
In short Don, great article but think bigger.
In my group of tutors at university there were those with PHDs who had never designed any products, and also those who were less educated but preached a similar design ethos to that which you mention in this article.
In short, education is important, but I believe you learn ten times the amount as a practising designer and that you cannot always judge the value of a designer by their academic achievements.
Let me posit another idea.. That the intense monetization of "learning" with "digital tools and means" of the "social network" generation - has and will begin to erode "design education" in ways most havent yet seen. Even "traditional general" education and its pundits will soon "encroach" and alter design education forever..Tools democratize - if allowed too-but we seem to no longer continue to strengthen that path to fairness and human rights were "virtualization" is involved..
We as designers/professionals/ and design educators must offer some resistance and or solutions that allow us to continue to offer 'the best of what the design process can offer all of humanity"...etc. etc.
Yes, as silly as it sounds, I'm being told by IBM "designers" that I'm picking on IBM...;) Im sure that 1984 APPLE commercial was a joke. right Don?
Enough of your griping already.
The world of design will change and mature at its own pace. People like you enjoy being in a position of 'knowledge' and telling others how you see fit. You write wonderfully, and you have an authoritative tone that has no doubt served you well in your business life. Having graduated from a 'top' design school, I can tell you that all of the students I met were trying to cram as many new skills under their belt and experimenting with new theories and materials. Of course our portfolios look like chicken soup when we graduate. I would be suspicious if they didn't look jumbled and across the board.
Please do all of us a favor and go back to school for 2 years. Try looking at the course catalogue and get frustrated when you want to take two classes that meet at the same time or require a prerequisite. Try performing a scientific test while waiting for the bond to dry before your 10am class. Slip away to the library and try reading Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky when all you can think of is how are you going to fare in the crit at 4pm.
Graduate and Undergraduate programs are difficult. They are not perfect, and never will be. What is not very helpful is hearing a lecture from someone who is so far removed from the experience of being a student.
it's published in interactions mag at
but you'll need a subscription to view it there.
A copy of the keynote presentation that article is built from is freely available (with slides) at
I've found my education in human factors and behavioural sciences to be perhaps the most important influence in my design practice.
The upsurge in demand coupled with a lack of resources has propelled many woefully unqualified people into roles as experience and interaction designers. Many of the discussions I see on design forums reflects the relative lack of knowledge in the areas Don identifies, and these knowledge gaps are common even amongst those with lofty positions in the design industry.
But ultimately, this lack of interdisciplinary knowledge (and a lack of knowledge of other disciplines themselves) is a more general theme in society at large.
I've always thought that a lack of a well-rounded individuals with an interdisciplinary view on the world has a negative effect on society as a whole. The move from a broad, arts style education to specialized, "job" oriented programs may have something to do with this. This may be due, as Don suggests to correlations between the complexity of systems and the complexity of problems.
But I must strongly, vociferously disagree with your stolid assertion that the solution is the "scientific method." While I agree that systematic inquiry is a requirement, I most definitely do not agree that "double blind" and control-based studies are the solution. Indeed, I would argue that they are often the *problem* in innovation!
Your position is that designers are full of "biases." Indeed, they are. So are scientists, as we know from ample ethnographic studies of their work. The scientific method does not remove bias, it merely cloaks that bias in a White Coat. You may argue otherwise, but "scientific" investigations of interaction design, in particular, are often couched in narrow, reductionist terms.
I agree that systematic inquiry is required, but I'm surprised and concerned that you completely disregard qualitative methods in your post. Surely you must agree that qualitative social scientists can offer something? Then why completely ignore their systematic methods of inquiry, including ethnography, in-depth interviewing, and participant observation?
Perhaps you are only referring to design *evaluation,* in which case, I would agree that there is a dearth of such expertise in design schools. But I am concerned that your narrow definition of systematic inquiry (e.g., the scientific method; double-blind studies) are clouding the issue.
Design students should learn rigour in qualitative methods as well. I would argue that ignoring these methods creates an artificial adulation of deductive reasoning, which is the very thing that hamstrings innovation itself.
But I find it hard to accept experimental studies as the gold standard (especially with research/practice concerning human beings). Controlled lab setting experiments don't reveal the true nature of interaction with the design. I think Design Based Research (http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Design-based_research) or Quasi-Experimental studies are more appropriate. DBR is used a lot in educational interventions so it might be worth looking at to test designs as well....
Thanks for a refreshing perspective of the field. Seems everything is becoming a "science".
In the interim, for designers practicing "in-the-trenches" perhaps you could give us a reading list and set of "best practices" that could at least help us to move in the right direction?
Also, might you consider adding some tips for better understanding "business professionals" and selling this new, more considered and scientific design approach to the small organizations most of us work in where novelty, time-to-market, and short term profit are the main drivers.
Don is just plain wrong.
His need to end the article with this paragraph...
"But beware: We must not lose the wonderful, delightful components of design. The artistic side of design is critical: to provide objects, interactions and services that delight as well as inform, that are joyful. Designers do need to know more about science and engineering, but without becoming scientists or engineers. We must not lose the special talents of designers to make our lives more pleasurable."
..ultimately contradicts the whole article.
This quality you warn about us losing, is what we need to support and strengthen.
Empathy and understanding the value of a strong team are the keys. It is also unfair to expect a graduating student to be more than a strong set of skills which can then evolve in the applied space that is real world experience.
Firstly, this thought about having scientific thinking influence design is not new. It has been articulated by Buckminster Fuller, about 60 years ago (see http://www.bfi.org/design-science/overview for a summary on design science). Fuller has been an influence on several design schools since, and particularly on the ones like ours where we are literally surrounded by technologists and scientists (http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/).
Secondly, there seems little "rigour" in the concern that designers "do not understand experimental rigor or the potential biases that show up when the designer evaluates their own products or even their own experimental results". Agreed, that rigour could be missing among many design students. But would it be significantly less than in equivalent students of other disciplines?
Or in the exasperation that "I have yet to find a design conference where the rigor of the peer review process is satisfactory". Well, if it was entirely true, perhaps the latter could be the cause for the former - if there are no such conferences or journals, there is no reason to learn that rigour in the first place. Yet, I must say there are conferences and journals that do have extensive peer review. (And not just in the design of interactive systems that you mentioned, for example, see http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/~typo/ or http://trex.id.iit.edu/visiblelanguage/Directory.html )
Finally, I must point out something else that you missed and others have hinted at - design of interactive and social products and systems is, and will continue to be done by teams - precisely for some of the reasons that you have pointed out. This form of teamwork seems to be somewhat different than than the one usually envisages in formal corporate management (which we designers critique as - a camel is a horse designed by a committee).
Some have suggested that this could be like the teamwork in (building) architecture. It could be. But that model makes one feel that most of the juicy creative work is done by one or two individuals - which could be a problem. My (so far unsubstantiated) opinion is it is more like making films or playing a game of cricket as a team. There are many talented and creative individuals trying to give their best - and there is one very talented and respected individual who know hot to make the most out of each of his team mates - the director or the captain. (More of my thoughts on this from year 2005 are at http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/~anirudha/pdfs/JoshiADETM2005.pdf ).
First, I agree that Design Education in general must change. Design schools in general don't provide for enough cross-curricular training so that the students gain an understanding of engineering, sales and environmental restraints. Likewise, engineering, business and science programs don't provide much in the way of training for design and how people will need to interact with the "stuff" they come up with. Some programs are starting to integrate design classes into their curriculum so that their students have some kind of experience, but it doesn't seem to be enough to meet the challenges of today or tomorrow.
And this is where the problem lies. As a teacher of design with students who range in age from 14-18, I have observed with great interest how they approach a design problem. Often, it is literal - presented with a problem and a sample solution, their own solution will often emulate the sample. Breaking the students of this is both the challenge and my greatest joy when it happens. Teaching students not how to "think outside the box" but to use the box as a guide and tool to direct their own personal creativity is quite a rewarding task.
The challenges of educating the design student are that the multitude of opportunities presents a temporal problem - there simply isn't enough time to teach them everything, unless we want to be training them for ten years as we would a doctor or a lawyer. All that a design education can do - even at the college level - is provide core concepts and training on best practices, with an introduction to the wide variety of opportunities and career specialties that are available. It is left to the students to pursue additional training or insight into a specific field of study.
For most students, this involves getting an entry-level design position or internship at a studio that aligns with the student's goals. This is not unlike the old guild system, where a master would train children for many years to eventually replace him or help him expand his business. The master would teach skills and business strategies and the student would pay his tuition by performing menial tasks.
Fortunately, we have more sophisticated methods of educating students these days. But the education isn't as well-rounded as it was in the days of the guild system - perhaps it needs to be. Design students need to understand how their work will be utilized and viewed in the real world, just as engineering students need to know the same thing. Different sides of the same coin.
My suggestion is that with the proliferation of higher education schools in the United States, it should be possible for a sharing of resources. Why can't design and engineering schools in the same geographic area share teaching staff? Why isn't it possible for schools to provide cross-curricular programs across campuses?
It's articles and thoughts like this that cloud the minds of design professors and schools into thinking they should be doing more than just industrial design. As if we need to be producing super designers who can handle any issue without consulting engineers, production specialists, scientists, etc... The Industrial Designer plays a very important role among a TEAM of other professionals with various backgrounds to execute a successful product.
It's like saying plumbing schools need to be reformed because all they produce are people who know how to fix pipes, and aren't suited to wire a house. A plumber isn't suited to wire a house, because he's been trained to do something else.
Industrial Designers, as they are trained today, SHOULDN't be attacking those issues alone but should be part of a team with members who DO know how to solve those issues to create ideal products.
"Today, however, designers work on organizational structure and social problems, on interaction, service, and experience design. Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully undereducated for the task."
To me that says a lot more about corporate america misunderstanding the value of an industrial designer for what they are, and attempting to mold them into something else. It's articles like this that back up those ideas, and further confuse the profession of industrial design.
To use another analogy, it seems you want a circle to be a square. Circles exist so they can be CIRCLEs, not squares.
Every profession has to decide what they are going to produce, and this proposal is interesting for the design that most interests me. But, I do believe that I am an oddity in terms of being both science oriented and art oriented. Recruiters and such admit to this as well.
How would these courses be balanced to avoid killing the participants. Frankly, I had to leave school taking both.
So far, 30 years of US - UK "education" has rolled over and mass produced many of Nicks "bots" to serve "relevant" systems. It's not a new way for humans to interact, but its always ended pretty messy.
I assume i dont have to pull up numbers of where US education is "globally ranked" today. If jonny's cant read, write, or televise,or draw, as a method to think before he gets to the 40k "design school"... one cant expect them to "understand" much more than what they are told/rewarded to do.
And no amount of "Gamified badges" as offered by TED pundits will solve that,
PS- that Autodesk Sketch 2011 Pro article was "pretty" on the Core77 homepage. To bad I cant be "relevant" because all I have to afford to "rent" is the 2010 product.:)
Education is now firmly a product sold to offer "relevancy" in a culture that believes in the value of "beta or obsolete". Change it to that? Maybe....
30 years of being told "information wants to be free" but being licensed our "tools" and "artifacts" by those shouting it the loudest, and of course "owning" the "specialized method patents" now "coded".
Are we asking the "relevant' question about education?
Design modules that are intent on preparing a student for the real world should simply focus on teaching the tool-sets required to design for the user based on objectivity.
About the generation of ideas, its called creativity. You don't need to be trained in design to have it.
However, it is still the designer's job to consider the emotional aspects of design. Considerable research is still on-going in this field to derive strategies to design with this aspect in ming.
Design Schools have to change, but instead of attempting to create "Broad T" polymaths, schools should perhaps refocus on the specific narrow band of skills that has given us the real talents that have gone one to become real game changers. I'm a well rewarded practicing designer, and over 30 years I've also taught in multiple leading UK and US schools, and it's been the students who really narrowed in on and perfected their craft that are now well known names in the biz. When I hear words "strategic design thinking" and "process", my heart sinks. It often presages thoughtful, and earnest fluff. With some exceptions, design schools for the most part are producing dreamers that occasionally inspire, and/or ask, legitimately, "why not?...".
Great, if schools could embrace "science, technology, people society, appropriate methods of validation of concepts and proposals.." etc, but the schools that try to do this seem to produce a flatter "T", more generic graduates who drift into project management and wind up, ironically, managing those inspirational specialists who honed their narrow T specialism. I've witnessed these types passing through well respected generalist design companies, to go on to become stellar in their own dazzling niche of talent.
Digressing- "the rigor of the peer review", before challenging design education, we should look at Design Competitions, where vanity, and self serving peer groups dish out awards on the basis of often flimsy processes of evaluation (if any). What kind of message do they put out to schools and eager young students?
also another school would be "kaospiloterne" google it if your are interrested
I think web design has reached a milestone
It would be far better for designers to have enough experience working with other disciplines to know how to turn to their practitioners for help. This recognizes the role of designers as interpreters of information, underscoring that working with other disciplines is the key, not trying to make a designer omnipotent.
This may not be popular with designers who want to be able to do it all, but in reality many projects fail because designers have the hubris to believe that they can know it all.
Listen > Read /Collaborate > Critic/ Analysis > Make. Repeat the cycle until you meet the right people and find the right question to answer.
We often here and say that designers should not seek truth in whatever they claim, but relevancy, and that they should satisfy themselves with propositions that are "good enough". This is not a reasonable assertion as designers need truth, and need to understand how they can achieve truthfulness as much as lawyers, politicians, social workers and the likes. Achieving relevancy doesn't allow anyone to put aside his obligation towards truthfulness (sincerity, authenticity). And that doesn't have anything to do with knowing Karl Popper by heart...
The other argument that raises some big doubts is the fact that design would need science in the form that Norman describes, which looks like a set of experimental procedures to test and to refute propositions. The humanities and social sciences have been challenging this dominant view of science for some time now, some 200 years actually, and it is of the utmost importance that designers now come to realize that there is a life for science outside Popperland. I think even the founders of Ulm HfG would agree with that.
When I read the article I wandered if we are not where Don describes we are due to the games we play.
We play with values of society that want to be played with.
Look at all the "design thinking" in business.
Look at design celebs and the horrible Design Art...
They want it- and we give them what they want.
Research into society and it's workings help prevent many from reinventing the wheel and actually forming something of which is sustainable and worthwhile
As Programme Director in Product Design at Aston University (an Engineering and Applied Science based Design programme in the UK) we have (this year) made real changes to the way we deliver our courses and expect our students to question, challenge and seek answers to what they see around them. Our Designers work along aside our Engineers (50/50 in the first year) and increasingly with our Postgraduate and Research students as they progress through their 4 year sandwich degree. This rubbing of shoulders exposes these designers to other more scientific experience, measurement and rigour in their ideas and proposals. Wherever practical we demand experimentation and testing of design ideas by the students as a key part of their learning. Increasingly projects are inspired by activities with other science faculties and not just responding to a market need from industry. No one course can hope to provide a complete answer but we must support new ways to develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities of all of our young aspiring Designers. It is they, amongst others, that we will rapidly depend upon to give answers and direction to making the world a better place for all. So... We had better train them well but not by repeating how we were taught all those years ago. We too must change our thinking/approach and realise that the world has changed and will continue to do so at a fast pace.
We continue to need Designers who see and think differently, aspire to a better world by being inspirational and innovative yet able to clarify their proposals with well supported facts, tests and verified research.
What a great service design problem!
As recent graduates of the CCA MBA in Design Strategy, a program that has attempted to redefine design education by integrating business and sustainability, we hear your call and agree with many of your premises (especially about rigor and peer review). Our DMBA program set out to train us to "understand human beings, business, and technology and the appropriate means of validating claims"
Unfortunately, like most recent graduates, our more pressing concern is:
Who will hire these newly educated designers?
Where are the job descriptions calling for designers with an understanding of the scientific process? Or for scientists that understand the design process?
As two designers with training in engineering, social science and a respect for the value of experimentation, we are also concerned by a couple of additional questions:
We can agree that more rigorous testing would be valuable; however, where will the funding come from for this? Do we need a parallel organization to the NSF and NIH to support this inevitably expensive, long-term design research?
Do design problems really justify the rigor necessary in materials science or drug trials? The development of new materials like graphene or antiretroviral drugs have much larger impacts both in terms of society and finances that they warrant large-scale investment.
This isn't to say that your points aren't valid. We are true believers in the sway of design thinking (and have the student debt to prove it), but we would like more than a manifesto.
Let's figure out who the stakeholders are that need to be involved--let's secure the right internship programs, develop research programs to validate the promises of design thinking and begin the discussion of the right PhD programs. And lastly, letâ€™s start building the demand for these right-left brain thinkers in the marketplace.
Beth Berrean MBA, MLIS
Kathryn Hautanen MBA, MS Materials Science, SM Nuclear Engineering
During the past 3 months, our students learned the role of quantitative analysis, the impact of bias, the value of tight project management, the use and abuse of different methodological approaches, the incorporation of information design, the art of brainstorming without disregarding your research findings, and the value of refinement testing. All this within the context of a highly realistic process (every team worked on a fictional RFP from a real company) that emphasized collaboration and measured risktaking.
I'm astounded at how well the students have done. With very little money and extremely tight schedules, they found insights and opportunities I expect from much more seasoned design researchers with much larger budgets. My assessment is the capacity is there - the students just need guidance and encouragement.
I also think that the more rigorous, robust teaching methodologies will also help in the understanding and de-mythification of Design (within the realm of partnering and related specialities) as a pure subjective process as it is often perceived, thus gaining respect and understanding.
Excellent article, for both the reasoning of the current ideas about design teaching, as much as an analysis of the reasons for the current perception and impact of design in our everyday professional lives.
We need designers of all skill sets and abilities, somebody has to design the toys that you get out of gumball machines for a quarter. What we need less of is the smoke and mirrors designers use to pretend they have more insight than they really do. Eventually there will be a deeper divide between the stylists and designers. Those interested in taking a shot and hoping their singular viewpoint will be a success, as temporary or fashion driven as it might be, and those who accept their true level of knowledge. The ones that can admit their limits will, on average, have longer and more meaningful successes.
This broad based, well rounded liberal arts education doesn't always translate effectively in a portfolio. What we have seen is that while our students can come up short against their peers in core ID skills sets at the start of their career, in the long run, they pick those up quickly and rise faster into strategy and management positions. Our collaborative courses with the business and engineering schools may play a role in helping to turn out the designer who can contribute to and harness collective intelligence. We are working to always balance these concerns, and ensure that our students can do both and do both well. Our recent successes have shown that it is possible.
It's good to look at the sciences - though don't forget that even Einstein's theories don't quite hold up for the Galileo probe.
But what about management? Shouldn't we experience and interaction designers feel relieved and vindicated that we have a more reality-based practice than the profession where a case-study or two will support a theory even in the most prominent journals?
Or how about economics? This area of study is so closely intertwined with politics that it's hard to make a statement about what evidence is, much less about what the reality it's supposed to represent is.
I think a better model for design is pure, abstract mathematics. Sometimes called the queen of the sciences, mathematics is a sort of midwife of the greatest accomplishments of physics, engineering, and even business (to the extent it depends on finance). By exploring and codifying new ways to analyze, decode, and organize things (often before the reality represented was identified) people like Hilbert, Mandelbrot, Cantor, and even Godel provided new viewpoints, new tools, and new possibilities to scientists.
While we must keep working to build up the ability of design to take advantage of the enormous value of rigorous testing against reality, we must also keep in mind that there is a fuzzy boundary between reality and perception - and that this is at least as important an opportunity space for design.
very true. there is little separation between facts, methods and opinion. very much an essayistic style embraced by TED and so on. thought provoking? yes, but not a systematic approach.
they evangelize faith, not a learnable system. be very skeptical of what you read from those with their agenda.
I have enjoyed your articles and their in-depth look.
This particular one made me curious in reading your book "Emotional Design", which I'll probably do any time soon.
I'd like to know you oppinion about the ethics and morality in designing things. (and here I have in mind thousands of designers and engineers working for millitary institutions, automotive, or else, where a lot of useless if not harmfull objects are designed).
Shouldn't this be an important course in your oppinion (along with your other suggestions), since ethics is also add more responsibility and awarness for a better world?
As the scope of design expands, we can begin to think of design undergrad programs as a 'foundation' program for the field, where in a addition to learning the craft skills of design and the basics of form giving, students are introduced to important fundamentals in a variety of relevant disciplines: interaction, business, engineering, etc. Deeper specialization could be mastered at the graduate level, but only after the design student has been exposed to the multiple languages that inform design. How to make undergrad programs more trans-disciplinary?
- Designers should get MBAs
- Designers should be patent attorneys
I'm really tired of these arguments. It's not that there is a lack of need for these sorts of cross-disciplinarians or that the fall of US manufacturing doesn't demand a redefinition of ID.
I've gone down the road Norman recommends. I am happy and 10 years later it is becoming very lucrative.
My issue is that what Norman suggests is much like providing engineers or MBAs a class in 'design thinking' or reading Norman's books. It's fun and insightful, but it doesn't qualify the trainee as a designer.
I have worked with Harvard and MIT PhD.s with this training and the results, from a design viewpoint, are laughable.
Real learning takes real time and effort. The reality is that for most people, getting a high-quality base degree and topping it off with a degree in design is financially and temporally prohibitive.
The reality is that designers with the secondary skillsets that Norman describes generally have a base degree, say in cognitive psychology or business or engineering and then an advanced degree in design.
Even if most designers had the aptitude for these fields, it's simply not possible for this sort of training to happen in 4 years or 6 years. It typically requires substantial professional experience in one's first field before entering design...and then a pay cut.
Oddly, researchers, engineers and business people who are in demand typically don't choose pay cuts and time out of the workforce over their current trajectory. Funny that.
Ps: The last paragraph was a nice addition.
If I am a designer at the core, I am better at applying form to solve problems and looking at those problems innovatively than I am at crunching numbers. The same can be said for social sciences. Yes, each needs to understand the language of the other. But I want a team of people who are REALLY good at what they do rather than a collection of people who know a little bit about everything.
Yes, design education must change. Rather than infuse design with science or science with design, they need to work together. The hardest part of university education is breaking the silos but that is what needs to happen to create a stronger future of problem-solvers.
The academic activity is as you point out equally uninteresting as the frames works used for discussions are often ancient and self refferencial.
Not sure where ID is going. Things are happening differently in Aisa, where similar mindless teaching is happing in unimaginable scale. Skills once thought to be the preserved of the skilled are being mastered very fast. So there is a glut and such skills will no longer command value.
ID as we know it has hit a dead end.
Dutch Design Week website (http://www.id09.id.tue.nl/exhibition.php)
Education guide (http://stuvo.tue.nl/fileadmin/stuvo/ID/onderwijs/ID_Education_Guide_2008-2009_02.pdf)
Really nice article. I agree with you. I have started a small movement to educate design to business students and engineers, for isntace at IE (Instituto de Empresa in Madrid). This is my way of spreading the concept of design thinking to new disciplines. What I like about your article is that pushes to consider that design as such needs to evolve, be more scientific and deeper in the understunding of the fields it works with.
What are in your view the most advanced institutions in this field?
As a designer and PhD student I am agree with you. Different areas of professional designs require different of design courses. Anyway, as I understanding the PhD education are moving "the new kinds of designers" . And some of younger PhD students are arrangements to Europe, United States and Japan to learning.(for I knowing)
But in school education, we ignore the fun of learning and a better life on the human imagination. As their are not easy to learning from our Asia education's cultural background. Therefore, I am thinking the PhD education to the presence of both rational and emotional that would be great.
Victor Margolin has written in Design Issues on the lack of consistency in PhD programs. He speaks about esoteric, paleoteric and neoteric research. Designers (at least this one) want to discover new things and be on an equal footing with the sciences. At Stanford their approach to design research is the study of designers and engineers and how they manage creativity or processes. It is very interesting stuff for people who want to teach design but not what I would define as design research.
Here at CCA our design research is more in the mold of IDEO where subjects are interviewed and observed. After living in your subject's world you collect your findings and then propose a solution. I consider the teachers at the top of their game. One had a design research firm. Another has a wealth of experience far beyond design. Two of the other teachers come from practicing design and leaning more towards research at their respective firms. I have learned a great deal from them as well as my other courses. Hopefully this article will trigger a new curriculum or program for others to take. If I were to go on to a PhD this article would guide my studies. Right now I am overjoyed with my choice for a grad school since it has a good balance of theory as well as application.
I was fortunate enough to do a post-grad IDE at the RCA (thirty years ago, gulp), after getting a couple of engineering degrees. I was astonished at the way the students with a straight arts background not only didn't know how things worked but mostly didn't care. It just got in the way of pretty drawings. As a nice contrast, *some* - I'm vaguely remembering Napier college grads I think - had a very good grasp of manufacturing needs and processes.
Designing modern products is a complex job and all sorts of people are needed to make effective teams, so there is room for very nuts-and-bolts people like me, and artsy-fartsy people, and good organisers and good critics and on and on. But everyone ought to have at least a working grasp of what the whole process requires so that they can at least appreciate the contributions of their colleagues.
On the downside I always feel like I'm playing catchup- like I'm missing something. I read everything I can on the social aspects of the job (Clay Shirky, Kevin Kelly et al) but definitely lack the formal, holistic framework of formal training in these disciplines.
It's a dangerous time for designers. We risk becoming an anomaly in the corporate world. It's hard for companies to figure out where we belong. Marketing? Operations? We have intangible, but somehow valuable skills. Worse, from a career perspective we risk becoming low value practioners in the digital domain. Pixel pushers. You don't need to be able to draw or to model to create the next facebook.
We need to own the thought leadership and can't do that without the relevant skill sets. Once upon a time that was a thorough knowledge of the manufacturing/systems design combined with design thinking. Now we need to combine social interactions with design thinking.
Its a 20 year call (rejected by the old ID magazine world) that has been ignored by most "designers" of the last 20 years for one overiding reason.
They believed the myth that "computers" were just "tools".
So today the educated designer is no more than the product of either the Apple, Autodesk, or Adobe brand. With some smattering of Dessault or another smaller brand of the minute ( zbrush- unity3d)
Hand eye skills were to promote not the making of artifact, BUT the making of MINDS.
But that idea has been all but eradicated by 20 years of what creative people can do.. manipulate others... and in this case, themselves.
I remember the birth of Core77 and the defacto death of ID magazine. I saw the end of "the educated designer of thoughts" toward the mass produced designer of a "functionary skill" That was the worst aspect of confusing the disiplines of science and art with technology and its own mechinations.
And the second overiding truth of todays designed world, is that as creators/designers we no longer can even "own" our tools. (Adobe - Rome) and the overall direction for the last 20 years to make, whatever it is we do- the property of another, just for the "usage" of the tools to excercise the actions.
Do "professional" designers really understand the "cloud"? probably as much as they understood that the MAC "just wasnt a "DTP tool". And btw- stats are not truth, but tools as well.
So design eduction must change, yes. but it also must remember its failings - before- the age of the computer- er adobe apple autodesk... AAA. and see that the entire concept of "industrial" and "digital" mechanations are now at another time and place-- as they were in 1970, and again in 1990, and again in 2010... to be examined by those who claim to care anf build a new A, B. Cs for those who "design" for humans.:)
the class of 2020 awaits. ... will those designers be humans owning their efforts?, or just the first iDesigner app carried by the needy teen of a stock broker in a gated community?
I don't like arguing against expanding one's knowledge by any means, but in my opinion, asking designers to be more like scientists is a bit like asking an accountant to design a running shoe. Those two sides of the brain do not always play well together.
We also need different approach to the design process. More paper prototyping and testing with users on the early stages should be wide spread all across the world.
That's why we've created UXPin paper prototyping kit, hoping that more people will be tempted to work on paper with their new idea, bringing more mature project to the next design stages.
And last words: recently I've made paper prototyping workshopes for 50 people - developers, designers and PMs. They were astonshined by the possiblities of co-working session with paper prototyping and usability test of their paper prototypes made them seriously thrilled.
Hope more and more people will visit www.UXPin.com and the idea will be spread all over the world. Cheers!
Though my own firm may be less guilty than most, we need more structure to our pursuit of knowledge, and all of us must bring some formality to the advancement of "design thinking" as a legitimate science.
When do we start the Journal of Applied Design?
But is it possible to educate designers who are capable in all the the areas you describe? Or will we just end up as jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none?
But, are designers really going to design school because they dislike science, engineering, and mathematics...... seriously?! or is it because they have a creative passion burning inside them? something many engineers lack. Designers are often the misfits, cast-a-ways, it's what makes us as "Designers" unique.
Most of my students can't spell ( and they will never learn) let alone formulate a good paragraph in English about the projects they are working on and present it well to a group. They often don't master basic perspective drawing until their senior year. Almost none of them can pick out the right colors for the products they are designing. This stuff takes years and years of practice.
Teaching them to do studies using the scientific method would be a daunting task.
What would this curriculum look like?
Could you create a rough four year outline and post it?
This is like changing that hippie motto of "trust your intuition" to a better "test your intuition".
Great article btw. Congratulations.
this is a chance to differentiate the field. as education in design in most places has a huge focus on the craft of visual and spatial representation techniques, the ones with talents in these areas outsmart the others - the ones with high empathy and interpersonal communication ability, but no feeling to sketch cars and so on. these talents should be much better integrated in the profession as they are today.
it boils down to the point, that there is not only the need to channel the right knowledge into the mind of students. it is also our set of values as an profession we should question. and in respect to the call for more scientific methodology - are we as a profession ready to take the level of responsibility that comes with this approach?
and maybe the most crucial aspect for most who come in touch with design on a monetary level : will there be acceptance for the resulting costs from greater responsibility? both in business and education?
lastly, this questions shouldn't be put, as it is done a lot, solely in the context "design for a better world". the world works somehow and smart people other than designers can have an impact as well. it is more the question of how much are we willing to change in order to still get our piece of the pie in the future.
A lot of the time (most of the time) those sensors and microcontrollers and LEDs and radio transceivers are a really bad idea, (this coming from a robotics guy) which is another reason why a physical science grounding is important. Most designers probably don't think that it takes kilograms of raw materials to produce a single fractional gram microchip. That dematerialized, lightweight, 'eco friendly' widget with the software interface to promote social collaboration leaves a massive footprint. Maybe we need board games instead of touch screen tables.
The real value of the capital 'D' Designer is the ability to keep some perspective on the whole process, and in that sense the more generally literate a designer is, the better. I think that loss of perspective and accountability is responsible for most of the ills of our modern world, and the stream of ill-designed toxic overproduction we're pumping out hard and fast is the clearest of examples.
Are there any design schools that currently even get close to teaching as you're advocating here?
I believe that the emerging discipline of Service Design in particular needs a lot of support from better design education and industry expertise.
Teaching some of the basics across behavioural sciences and technology will help, but a design education cannot deliver enough depth for a graduate to actually apply in the real world. In large parts, like with other design disciplines, I believe the education system needs to stress the importance of collaboration with other non-design disciplines.
We need to educate designers of the benefits of working with others. How they need to sell in their services. How to change their language and personal styles to better collaborate with those of a different species.
You're right that we mustn't lose the delightful components of design. We need designers' optimism. But we have to shift graduates away from being naive and thinking they can solve world hunger or obesity with a bit of observation, a few brainstorms and beautiful sketching of tomorrow's nirvana.
It would be good to teach systems design and a little bit of consulting basics as well, but where do you stop?
I was lucky enough to study an Industrial Design degree at Brunel, just outside London. It was a Bachelor of Science degree and was heavily affiliated with engineering practices. It was incredibly multi-disciplinary and gave high level exposure to lots of different fields (microprocessor programming, marker rendering, ergonomics, HTML coding, 3D modelling, design strategy). Many of the people on my course went into Interaction Design, Front-end web development or into companies like Dyson where the blend of design and engineering was paramount.
However, as a design course, it didn't teach enough of the conceptual thinking that other arts-based Design courses invested so much time in. Getting the balance right is critically important for giving student their best opportunities when they graduate.
I am keen to support this shift, but displacing the uninformed educators or judges is not that straightforward, especially in the UK.
Let's hope others can weigh in and help make the necessary changes.