Out of sight, out of mind: curriculum representation in design education today

Aitchison, Iain; Dewberry, Emma and Lotz, Nicole (2015). Out of sight, out of mind: curriculum representation in design education today. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers (Vande Zande, Robin; Bohemia, Erik and Digranes, Ingvild eds.), Aalto University, pp. 1536–1551.


Within industrial design education, curriculum visualisations have historically – in modern-era Germany and USA in particular – played a powerful role in communicating the purpose and content of design education. However, as design practice has diversified and knowledge proliferated the task of visualising complex curricula has become increasingly difficult, to the extent that curriculum visualisations are a rare sight in education or research today. Why do design educators, not seek to give form to the products of their curriculum design process? What value could curriculum visualisation have for educators today? Through reflections on literature, educator interviews and workshops, this paper will argue that – far from being an outmoded form – the value of curriculum visualisation remains undiminished. Visual representations can serve three main functions): to aid thinking (for individuals) collaboration (with someone specific) and communication (to an audience). In this vane, curriculum visualisations can aid the design process for individual practitioners, or as boundary objects that mediate the collaborative process of curriculum design between different actors (professors, tutors, administrators) and situate the position of a programme within the institution, discipline and society at large (to prospective students, staff and academic colleagues).

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