Revealing design complexity: Lessons from the Open University

Garner, Steve (2005). Revealing design complexity: Lessons from the Open University. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, 1(4) pp. 267–276.



Design is an inherently complex activity. Design thinking is cognitively complex and design practice is contextually complex. This has implications for university-level design education which has traditionally displayed clear distinctions between the full-time and part-time undergraduate sectors, particularly in their teaching and learning strategies. However, a number of pressures and trends are evident which suggest that these two sectors are moving closer together. One of the drivers in this phenomenon is the need for students to be exposed to realistic levels of design complexity. This paper examines complexity in design and draws some significant parallels between modern design practice in general and the production of a new undergraduate course at the Open University. Both are used to illuminate design complexity. The paper suggests that some of the tools, techniques and approaches of part-time, undergraduate, distance design education might usefully be exploited in more traditional, full-time course models.

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