Envisioning Futures of Design Education: An Exploratory Workshop with Design Educator

Singh, Sapna; Lotz, Nicole and Sanders, Elizabeth B.-N. (2018). Envisioning Futures of Design Education: An Exploratory Workshop with Design Educator. Dialectic, 2(1) pp. 15–42.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3998/dialectic.14932326.0002.103


The demand for innovation in the creative economy has seen the adoption and adaptation of design thinking and design methods into domains outside design, such as business management, education, healthcare, and engineering. Design thinking and methodologies are now considered useful for identifying, framing and solving complex, often wicked social, technological, economic and public policy problems. As the practice of design undergoes change, design education is also expected to adjust to prepare future designers to have dramatically different demands made upon their general abilities and bases of knowledge than have design career paths from years past. Future designers will have to develop skills and be able to construct and utilize knowledge that allows them to make meaningful contributions to collaborative efforts involving experts from disciplines outside design. Exactly how future designers should be prepared to do this has sparked a good deal of conjecture and debate in the professional and academic design communities.

This report proposes that the process of creating future scenarios that more broadly explore and expand the role, or roles, for design and designers in the world’s increasingly interwoven and interdependent societies can help uncover core needs and envision framework(s) for design education. This approach informed the creation of a workshop held at the Design Research Society conference in Brighton, UK in June of 2016, where six design educators shared four future scenarios that served as catalysts for conversations about the future of design education. Each scenario presented a specific future design education context. One scenario described the progression of design education as a core component of K-12 curricula; another scenario situated design at the core of a network of globally-linked local Universities; the third scenario highlighted the expanding role of designers over time; and the final scenario described a distance design education context that made learning relevant and “close” to an individual learner’s areas of interest. Forty participants in teams of up to six were asked to collaboratively visualize a possible future vision of design education based on one of these four scenarios and supported by a toolkit consisting of a set of trigger cards (with images and text), along with markers, glue and flipcharts. The collaborative visions that were jointly created as posters using the toolkit and then presented by the teams to all the workshop participants and facilitators are offered here as a case study. Although inspired by different scenarios, their collectively envisioned futures of what design education should facilitate displayed some key similarities. Some of those were:

Future design education curricula will focus on developing collaborative approaches within which faculty and students are co-learners;

These curricula will bring together ways of learning and knowing that stem from multiple disciplines; and

Learning in and about the natural environment will be a key goal (the specifics of how that would be accomplished were not elaborated upon.)

In addition, the need for transdisciplinarity was expressed across the collaborative visions created by each of the teams, but the manner that participants chose to express their ideas about this varied. Some envisioned that design would evolve by drawing on other disciplinary knowledge, and others envisioned that design would gradually integrate with other disciplines.

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