Singapore's 4th Multi-Disciplinary University

Hot on the heels of my recent post Blueprint for Design Education 2.0, is the announcement of Singapore’s 4th University that has a niche focus on Engineering, Design and Business.
With a target of 2,500 students a year, it will “…take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, for instance, combining engineering and design or engineering and business so that graduates will go beyond having core knowledge in just one discipline.”
I belief this is a great step forward for the country and for the creation of graduates suitable for any profession that requires multi-disciplinary influences. There are a lot actually these days.
Not only that, this University seems to foster the idea and the development of “T” shaped people, who also can be a huge asset to any organization.
Just to expand on this personality, Tim Brown of IDEO describes T-Shaped people as:

“people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T—they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers.
But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need”.

Also, too many education institutions have Schools that suffer from egos that prevent them from seeing the advantages of a multi-disciplinary working and learning environment. I believe Singapore’s 4th university got it right by building the multi-disciplinary foundation from the start, rather than forcing the different Schools to work together.
I hope they will offer an Industrial Design course, as this sort of learning environment will be perfect for it. If so, you will probably be seeing me as one of the first teaching there as soon as they open. I will be closely watching the development of the curriculum for sure.
Via: The Straits Times

4 Comments
  • O

    June 30, 2008 at 11:42 pm Reply

    Hey DT,
    Do you think that the setting up of a new university that develops these ‘T-Shaped’ designers will lead to a bigger over-supply of designers once these students graduate?
    As things already are, it seems that many graduates don’t end up working in the design industry because the design industry in Singapore still seems to be governed ALOT by manufacturing.
    This was the problem about 6-7 years ago and it still is now (although things have improved a little).
    I might be a little bit cynical of the government’s drive to push design (or ID in this case).
    They seem to be doing things from the top down (i.e. painting a rosy picture / making pretty things / arts fests etc etc) instead of starting at the bottomline (i.e PROPER education AND creating a change in the mindsets of local manufacturing companies).
    Perhaps you could share some of your thoughts?

  • DT

    July 1, 2008 at 12:18 pm Reply

    Hi O,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment and question. I will do my best to see how I can respond to it.
    Really my heart does go out to designers that want to do design but cant find a job. The reality though, for the policy makers, only the top 10% will make it as talented designers or find a design job. So if the policy makers want more designers, they need more people in the system, so that the top 10% quantum can go up.
    This is the reality of design all around the world, not just in Singapore. I had the same discussion with Dick Powell on this very issue. He was more blunt, and said that there will always be those that don’t making and it is a fact of design industry life.
    That is also all about any profession that boils down to basically talent, and in this case only the best will survive. Not only that, increasing design jobs is a pointless exercise as design is only a function of the entire product development and EMS industry.
    So I think what I am also alluding to is the Industrial Design training, the multi-disciplinary one, is one of the few courses that arm you with skills that can be applied in many other professions. I know of ID trained graduates in high executive positions in Non-Profit Orgs, entrepreneurs in their own companies, marketing executives, graphic designers, even in the finance industry. The “T-Shaped” individual has truly many homes.
    Education and sensitivity to design is a long, very long process. Perhaps we are born in the wrong time, but Singapore has come along way since I came back to work in design more than 10 years ago. Have you considered this possibility, that perhaps the issue could be the lacking of designers with the ability to convince local companies how to change their mindsets?
    While i agree with that only working with a top down approach is wrong, however just seeing things from the bottom up only is also myopic. I’m not trying to put you down, in fact, I see you have a lot of passion and that is a damn good thing. Just be patient, keep on improving, and never stop learning! You time will come soon, I promise.

  • O

    July 10, 2008 at 11:38 pm Reply

    Hi DT,
    Apologies. This reply is many days late.
    Thanks for your honest thoughts.
    I do agree with you on what Dick Powell said about having designers who do not make it in the design industry.
    I also do believe that the T-shaped designer is essential to being a good designer. Having been working in the design/product development industry for the past 3 years, I have found that the soft skills I learnt in school have been applied through and through at work.Even now,design is less than 50% of my workload at the moment. Most of the time i’m involved in project management and other side projects that the team has initiated at work.
    And YES! I have considered that designers are lacking the ability to convince local companies to change their mindsets! I, myself, am totally guilty of it. I tried to do it with my previous company…but i failed miserably. I took alot from my experience there. I guess changing mindsets does take awhile. heh.
    I have to admit that the government’s push for design has opened the eyes of these manufacturers to the importance of design…but it’s not enough. I guess cost always drives a manufacturer’s bottomline and that’s one of the primary reasons which holds them back from seeing the need to invest in good design.
    Thanks for being honest with your views on what I said about the top down approach. I didn’t take any offence to that.
    I applaud you for having the courage to come back to Singapore to work in design. You have definitely seen more than I have as a designer and that’s why I like to read / hear your thoughts on the industry.
    To end, perhaps what we need right now is for the govt’s drive to publicise design,and the push for design education and changing mindsets to meet at the halfway mark. Perhaps when that happens, the design industry in Singapore will see a revolution.

  • DT

    July 14, 2008 at 5:17 pm Reply

    Hi O,
    I believe so. The design revolution will happen eventually, but slowly.
    Thanks for leaving your comments and please keep in touch.

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