Teach Less, Integrate More

Posted by Joligne on 27. Sep 2011

<p><a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/teach_less_integrate_more_by_paul_backett_20264.asp">Teach Less, Integrate More by Paul Backett</a></p> <div>Posted by <a href="http://www.core77.com/about/cloggers.asp#core jr">core jr</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;22 Aug 2011 &nbsp;|&nbsp; <a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/teach_less_integrate_more_by_paul_backett_20264.asp#comments">Comments (6)</a></div> <p><img src="http://s3files.core77.com/blog/images/2011/08/sketching.JPG" alt="sketching.JPG" width="468" height="336" /></p> <p><em>This is the first post in a 6-part series from Ziba's Industrial Design Director, Paul Backett, on rethinking design education.</em></p> <p>A lot of recent discussion about design education argues for expanding the design student's skill set. Many of today's Industrial Design programs ask their students to be social scientists, technologists, business analysts and brand strategists&mdash;just about everything. The reality is, most of these skills are best learned through experience on the job, and the traditional ID skill set still makes for the best foundation: framing the problem, exploring ideas, making prototypes and storytelling.</p> <p>What's far more important, and more neglected, is that students learn to properly integrate the skills that they do learn. It's not enough to know how to sketch, model or do user research; these skills must connect to each other, in every project the student undertakes. Used correctly, they enable us to find the solutions and tell the stories that ensure their success. But by expanding the list of "capabilities" students have, many schools are sacrificing the most important capability of all: to approach a design problem with tools that work together seamlessly.</p> <p>And this has had serious negative consequences. In the 11 years I have worked as a designer, I have seen a deterioration of the core skills of design&mdash;the essential craft of what we do. When I left school in 2000, CAD and digital rendering were simply tools at our disposal. Since then they have become so powerful and so easy that they tempt students to skip over the fundamentals of the design process. It's far easier today to jump into CAD and deliver a glossy rendering that disguises lazy design work. This simply wasn't possible in the past.</p> <p>So what should design schools teach? Or, more important, what should design students make sure they learn? Trends in the design field shift and evolve with incredible speed, and while schools have an obligation to stay current, they do their students a disservice when they completely overhaul their program to reflect the current vogue. The best prepared students still have a few basic skills, but use them with familiarity and fluency:</p> <blockquote>1. Research - Great designers are great empathizers. Design schools need to teach the difficult skill of taking on the perspective of someone completely unfamiliar, and incorporating that perspective into a design. Instead, we're content to let students design with themselves as the target user. <p>2. Sketching - The ability to rapidly express ideas using sketching is essential; it's also the indispensable exploration and development tool. But most schools are teaching pure visual expression. They aren't teaching students to think while they sketch, or to infuse their sketching with research-driven insight. As it stands, design students are mostly sketching without purpose.</p> <p>3. Prototyping - Comfort with 3D representation as a sketching tool as well as a way of understanding form and construction. If you can build it, you're halfway to knowing how it's manufactured. But over-reliance on increasingly accessible digital modeling means we're having students jump to 3D before they understand form and construction.</p> <p>4. Collaboration - Students are graded individually and therefore have to travel the design process on their own. This never happens in the professional world. Learning the skills of teamwork is essential, but under-emphasized in most design programs. We're letting students become lone wolves.</p> <p>5. Presentation - A good design that's poorly presented is dead. Students should graduate with dozens or hundreds of presentations under their belts, both designer- and client-oriented. Both internally and externally, we're not demanding good enough stories.</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than just helping students through their academic careers, these skills remain the basis of what we do everyday in the professional world. Design is a constantly changing field, with new practices constantly appearing and evolving. Students need to understand how these changes will affect them, but I firmly believe that the best way to really learn them is in practice, in the real world, from real experts.</p> <p>A solid, integrated approach to the design process is the least we should be providing our students by the time they graduate. Over the next five posts I'll try to outline those basics and explain how they can be taught in a way that's not just useful in professional practice, but integrated with each other, to give students the flexibility to adjust to an uncertain future.</p> <p><strong>Rethinking Design Education</strong><br /><a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/research_learning_extreme_empathy_by_paul_backett_20375.asp">&raquo; Part 1, Research: Learning Extreme Empathy</a><br /><a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/sketching_approaching_the_paper_with_purpose_by_paul_backett_20422.asp">&raquo; Part 2, Sketching: Approaching the Paper with Purpose</a><br /><a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/prototyping_learning_to_think_and_make_with_your_hands_by_paul_backett_20482.asp">&raquo; Part 3, Prototyping: Learning to Think and Make with Your Hands</a></p> <p><small><strong>About Paul Backett</strong></small></p> <p><em>Paul leads industrial design teams at Ziba on a variety of strategic and tactical design programs ranging from medical devices to consumer electronics, apparel and footwear. He is responsible for the design intent for all industrial design products, and a mentor to the Ziba ID team. His diverse experience, coupled with the desire to immerse himself fully in the target consumers' world, has helped Paul deliver innovative brand building solutions for clients such as Nike, P&amp;G, Respironics and Dell. Paul enjoys uncovering solutions to problems of all sizes and particularly finds the prototyping process to be an inherently rewarding part of the design process. </em></p> <p>Prior to joining Ziba, Paul was a designer at Seymour Powell in London, where he was involved in programs for Nokia, Unilever, and Mission Speakers. Paul is a native of Edinburgh, Scotland; and holds a First Class Honors degree in Product Design from the Glasgow School of Art.<br /><br /></p> <div> <div><!-- <script type="text/javascript"> tweetmeme_style = 'compact'; tweetmeme_url = 'http://www.core77.com/blog/education/teach_less_integrate_more_by_paul_backett_20264.asp'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js"></script> --><a href="http://twitter.com/share" data-url="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/teach_less_integrate_more_by_paul_backett_20264.asp" data-text="Teach Less, Integrate More by Paul Backett - @Core77" data-count="horizontal">Tweet</a> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script> <iframe 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&bull; <a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/education/teach_less_integrate_more_by_paul_backett_20264.asp#comments">Comments (6)</a></div> </div> <!-- OUTBRAIN FOR DEV & PROD --> <div> <script type="text/javascript" language="JavaScript"></script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://widgets.outbrain.com/OutbrainRater.js"></script> <div id="outbrain_manager_helper_div">&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div id="outbrain_widget_0"> <div id="outbrain_container_0_stripBox"> <div id="OutbrainVoterDiv_0_stripBox"> <div> <div id="recommendationsFieldset_0_stripBox"> <div>You might like:</div> <div id="ob_strip_container_rel_0_stripBox"> <div id="ob_strip_container_0_stripBox"> <div id="item-container-0-0"> <div>&nbsp;</div> <a href="http://www.core77.com/blog/sustainable_design/quadror_a_new_structural_joint_to_build_on_18629.asp" target="_self"><img title="QuaDror, a New Structural Joint to Build On" 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Problems are often confronted with our faculty as a lecturer in art and design at Makassar State University is a variety of academic rules that seem to have sided with the design of teaching methods. The following issues that we face is behind us in the design. As information that we faculty were aged 4 years and the courses that I coached two years old. Glad you can read and useful for us to implement it.</p> </div> <div><span><strong><a title="http://flynn-product-design.com" href="http://flynn-product-design.com/" rel="nofollow">Product Design</a></strong><em>August 22, 2011 3:37 PM</em></span> <p>Great article. Have to agree with you on a lot of this and empathise with your reasons for generating the article. It would be useful in the UK at least to see an improved method for the government assisting the integration of grads into industry, that fail to hit the ground running for some of the reasons you stipulate. Anecdotal; but I have seen grad designers from the 'instant gratification age' struggle with the idea of developing skills, less glamorous perhaps.</p> </div> <div><span><strong>Derek Crenshaw</strong><em>August 22, 2011 3:39 PM</em></span> <p>Great article. I worked for one company were this was very true. The new designers had no fundemental skills in actual ID, but had all the business educational background from school. We had to train them to build products. On the other hand, another company had a specific way to design products, and you had to understand the process end of it to get to your product builds. I believe your idea is the way to go, after weighing in on both positions.</p> </div> <div><span><strong>tim Rowledge</strong><em>August 23, 2011 5:03 AM</em></span> <p>"It's far easier today to jump into CAD and deliver a glossy rendering that disguises lazy design work. This simply wasn't possible in the past."</p> <p>I disagree strongly; I saw plenty of gorgeous rendering disguising poor actual design when I was at the RCA 30 years ago. The delicious irony is that Powell was teaching rendering at the time.</p> <p>One advantage of good CAD system is that it makes it easy to spot where you are doing something dumb that might be hidden from a particular viewpoint, since it is so easy to view your model from any direction. Another is that you can avoid lying to yourself about whether an item will fit in the place you want to put it.</p> <p>Unfortunately most CAD systems that get used for making renderings aren't so hot on the actual 'D' bit and make it really easy to build an empty shell that renders all pretty with dramatic textures and lighting etc. It just ends up being magic markers without the xylene vapours. Mind you, given the altered mental states I remember that causing, perhaps that is a valuable difference...</p> <p>An important factor that appears to be forgotten too often is that Industrial Designers are designing items to be manufactured; to do that well they must have a considerable degree of engineering sensibility or they will end up being mere stylists. That does no one any favours.</p> <p>I'm pleased to see that your list of skills is reasonably congruent with the general flow of the scientific method but I worry that with a large portion of ID students having art- heavy educational backgrounds (at least that's how it was) they won't have much sense of what to do with it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And could somebody please turn on some comment formatting code? I've tried putting in some paragraph breaks to o avail.</p> </div> <div><span><strong><a title="http://ritasue.com" href="http://ritasue.com/" rel="nofollow">RitaSue Siegel</a></strong><em>September 6, 2011 8:45 PM</em></span> <p>I agree with Paul 100%.</p> </div> <div><span><strong>Neil O'Connell</strong><em>September 6, 2011 9:19 PM</em></span> <p>Great article Paul. I have to say I've always been suspicious of ID firms that don't appear to have problem with dust in their studios :-) We are unlikely to see evidence of actual people in the final design if nobody has actually run their fingers over the surfaces and edges and physically moved or shaped their work into sense. I think.</p> </div> </div>



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