Be a Better Designer 3: Know thy self

What I am about to say is the hard truth.
No matter what they tell you, no Design School can completely train you to be 100% ready for the workforce.
That’s right. I’ve heard that even designers from the famous Art Center College in Pasadena, in the US, still need to be properly re-trained before they become useful in certain situations.
Why is that? Why is it that some universities can hit the mark and while most arecompletely off track in the training and eventual employability of their graduates? My feeling is that we should look towards the design industry for answers, as well asthe Industrial Design profession as a whole.
Industrial Design as a profession which is, I must say, one of the most varied professions out there. This is largely due to the length and breath of the product development process of which an Industrial Designer should be a “custodian” to. Therefore, technically speaking, an Industrial Designer can therefore actually position himself in any part of this product development process depending on his skills and interests. I have many designer friends working in non-traditional, non-styling ID fields such as pure Product/Design Management, 3D Architectural Design, Product Marketing, Case Part Design and even Packaging. All this professions actually need very varied skill sets to be successful in.
This being said, my feeling is that it is extremely difficult to teach you all you need to know in a 4 year ID degree course. I shudder to think how much you can lean in 3 year courses or courses that are offered on a polytechnic/diploma level. Furthermore to proper appreciate the scope of ID you need a certain level of maturity and thus I continue to feel you need to study this course at an institute of higher learning.
With that in mind, we now look at the design industry. As you can see the profession is varied and the process is long and all require different set of skills to survive. Invariably a university course set out to teach for a certain employer in mind will satisfy that type of employer but totally miss out the others. Thus to me this discussion of whether a graduate designer is relevant to industry is a moot one.
For example a conceptual designer can find work in a slower pace in-house design team. On the other hand this designer may not be so employable in a design consultancy as more practical skills like design detailing or 3D CAID are required.
Now back to the topic at hand. To survive in this field, you will need to know thyself. Know what your strengths and weakness and your interests. Be aware that there are many possible types of ID jobs out there, other than the traditional “make it beautiful” one. Then make sure your strengths and weakness matches the type of design profession YOU want to apply to.
In this way you can continue to be relevant in this fast pace ever changing design profession. Good Luck!

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4 Comments
  • dianne

    June 19, 2006 at 10:03 am Reply

    Agree that it’s hard to teach everything in 4 years. I shudder too because i “wasted” the first two years in NUS. I learnt nothing and it even demoralized me a bit.
    Behind all the PHD, Dr, Prof, of a person’s name, they are still deemed useless unless they know how to teach.
    Having a PHD does not mean you are qualified to teach. I’d rather have a person with a diploma status but 10 years in the industry to teach rather than a PHD greenhorn.
    That being said, I guess we still have a LONG way more to go. And I accept that.

  • joe

    July 18, 2006 at 11:26 am Reply

    nice article, totally agree with you. ūüôā the problem with NUS is that they give too much credit to paper qualification.
    I remember we had a tutor who proclaim to the class: “Do you think I care, i am only here for the funding….”
    Its sad coz you are wasting ur parents hard earned money on crap tutors who has ZERO work experience (design related).

  • Design Translator

    July 18, 2006 at 11:50 am Reply

    Hi Dianne and Joe,
    First off thanks for your comments they are very true. Next sorry for the crazy formatting got that fixed.
    It has been said that some designers become teachers because they are much better off there. Thus as a result you often get people teaching you without much or any experience in the design field. Hence the recient trend of getting Heads of Departments as actual practicing designers. I think Yves Behar is a head somewhere, as well as Tom Kelly.
    The other thing with this is crediability. If a designer teacher is already famous or made it in the real world dont you think students will listen to him more readily?
    Unfortuantly people like this a far and few between. This is because a good designers not necessary can be a good teacher. Simply because it take a lot of elequent skill to translate the complex design terms and methodology into a simple language a budding designer can understand.

  • Jieyu

    September 26, 2006 at 5:01 pm Reply

    Yea.. in china they encourage their tutors to have their own studios outside of school so they can bring ‘practical experience’ to the students.. it also keeps the tutors in track with whats going on in the industry.. so as to better prepare the students for it..
    haha and joe and dianne..dont take it too hard.. at least we have a common topic to joke about everytime about ‘u know who’ hahaha..
    i think all tutors should take morality and responsibility psycho test before allowing to teach heehee

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