Have Design Schools Stop Teaching Design?
Updated: I cleared up a few statements and typos.
Dan over at his Adaptive path blog, has written a interesting rant on the quality of graduates today. He bemoans the lost of thinking designers that can “think, make and do”, and furthermore blames the schools, especially the D-Schools in producing curriculum that do not reflect the real needs of industry.
Oh my D-School ranting, one of my favourite past topics.
Dan’s article provides a great insight and is very well written, and is something I have been experiencing myself when I conduct interviews or receive portfolios. Designers I have seen seem to miss half of Dan’s equation, either just “make and do”, or only “think but not make”. With D-Schools seeming to fall in the latter mix, could it be that the reason for this is its very close attachment to business schools? Looking into this a little more could this D-School issue be similar to the perennial problem the business world has, which is the argument of training managers who can only manage vs. managers who rose from the ranks? Tell me which one you think gets more respect or can do the job better?
Not only this, perhaps the part of the problem here with designers is the same as in any profession, may it be engineering, medical, accountancy, and marketing etc. You basically get two types, the front room or the back room people. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it’s about employees who are just “another pair of hands or a tool” or you get those that can “think outside of the box” and are leading your charge.
The ability and the how of design, as well as the process or theory of doing it, is a huge and complex problem. Designers have been arguing “what is design” for many years, without any hard conclusions. Basically my point is it is very difficult to manage design if you do not have a feeling for it. And the only way to get it is to have classical design training. That’s where my problems with D-Schools come in. By focusing on design thinking only, this really becomes all talk, and as the saying goes talk is cheap. The moment you have a manger or design leader who really knows what it takes to create a good design it all suddenly becomes a whole different story.
I’ll close this short post with this. With regards to education it all amounts to positioning and industry relevance. Schools struggle to find their niche in a really competitive market, as well as to produce graduates that can find jobs or are employable. With all this design thinking excitement going on, it throws a spanner in the works and makes things even more confusing in a school’s bid towards a good market position.
There is nothing wrong with going to a D-School if that is the education that you want, however the detailed information of how you will apply your education in industry is sketchy at best, especially with the graduate’s roles (or lack of) in design organizations. Perhaps that’s the key, D-School graduates are not really meant for design organisations.
This quote from Dan sums it up nicely with an expansion of the problems companies have with MBAs:
What we’re going to end up with is a generation of “innovators” who are MBAs in MFAs’ clothing, who can neither create or run businesses like entrepreneurs can, nor design products and services like designers can. It’s the worst of both worlds.
So the worry for me is not so much the graduates, but for students ENTERING a program and then find out its not really what he/she wants to do with design.