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we be teaching professional designers
today? Transcript of a dcbatc hcId
on Tucsday :i Scptcmbcr :oio at thc
RoyaI Socicty for thc cncouragcmcnt
of Arts, Manufacturcs k Commcrcc,
8 john AdamStrcct, Iondon wc:.
As innovation and participation
have swept design up in their diffuse
and inter-disciplinary embrace, the
crafts and tools that traditionally
constituted design have become
less distinct – what are they now?
With spcakcrs Robcrto Vcrganti,
EIIic Runcic and SamHccht, chaircd
by EmiIy CampbcII for an invitcd
audicncc of ;o dcsigncrs, critics
Introduction and spcakcrs
EmiIy CampbcII, Dircctor of Dcsign at thc RSA, cxpIaincd that its Iong
titIc – thc RoyaI Socicty for thc cncouragcmcnt of Arts, Manufacturcs
k Commcrcc – bctrays an ancicnt rcIationship with dcsign. In thc i8th
k i¤th ccnturics subscriptions fromRSA IcIIows wcrc rcdistributcd in
thc formof ‘prcmiums’ for invcntions and idcas of aII kinds – fromthc
cxtcndabIc chimncy·brush to thrcshing machincs and dcviccs for cs·
caping ﬁrcs and avoiding drowning. Thc Socicty was vcry instrumcntaI
in sctting up thc Grcat Exhibition of i8¸i, an unprcccdcntcd spcctacIc
of invcntion and dcsign.
In thc Iast ccntury thc RSA was principaIIy known in dcsign for
confcrring thc honour of RoyaI Dcsigncr for Industry upon thc country’s
highcst achicving profcssionaIs, and for thc NationaI Studcnt Dcsign
Awards. Sincc thcir birth as an industriaI bursarics schcmc in thc i¤:os,
thcsc awards cIoscIy mirrorcd thc cvoIution of profcssionaI dcsign.
Thcy cmbodicd thc carIy cIassiﬁcations of commcrciaI dcsign in singIc·
discipIinc craftsmanship and dcsign for industry: fashions and dccora·
tivc tabIcwarc, tcxtiIcs, typography, furniturc thcn Iatcr mobiIc com·
munications and ccramic futurcs and, in rcccnt ycars, a much biggcr
worId of opportunity in thc dcsign of intangibIc systcms and scrviccs.
Dcsign uscd to bc manifcst in objccts and cnvironmcnts and donc
by dcsigncrs. Nowdcsign has movcd into morc diffusc forms of scrvicc
innovation and sociaIIy·incIusivc profcssionaI practicc. Status has
bccn won for dcsign – ncvcr bcforc havc civiI scrvants, for cxampIc,
takcn such an intcrcst in what dcsigncrs bring to thc tabIc of pubIic
scrvicc thinking – but in this cxpansion of appIication and mcaning,
thc crafts and tooIs that traditionaIIy constitutcd dcsign havc bccomc
CampbcII rcmindcd thc audicncc that RSA studcnt dcsign awards
had mirrorcd this cvoIution, adding: “As studcnt dcsign bricfs cIassi·
ﬁcd undcr fashion k tcxtiIcs, ccramics or industriaI dcsign graduaIIy
gavc way to thc pubIic chaIIcngcs of agcing, disabiIity and mcntaI
hcaIth, prisons, pubIic sccurity and bchaviour changc, thcsc crafts
and tooIs aIso bccamc Icss visibIc in thc hundrcds of cntrics to thc
RSA studcnt awards”.
Shc said that on thc occasion of thc RSA’s annuaI bricﬁng to dcsign
tutors fromthc ;¸·odd univcrsitics that rcguIarIy participatc in thc
schcmc, thc RSA Dcsign tcamthought it worth asking of a pubIic
audicncc thc qucstion “What shouId wc bc tcaching profcssionaI
dcsigncrs?” Shc mcntioncd that a coupIc of months ago thcrc was a
IivcIy cducation dcbatc at thc RSA cntitIcd “What shouId cvcryonc
know?”, and that this dcbatc couId bc construcd as pursuing thc
qucstion “What shouId dcsigncrs know?”
Thrcc spcakcrs wcrc invitcd to givc a formaI prcscntation in
rcsponsc to this qucstion.
While status has been won for design in this expansion of application
and meaning, the crafts and tools that traditionally constituted
design have become less distinct —Emily Campbell
: What should we be teaching professional designers today?
( What should we be teaching professional designers today?
Roberto Verganti is Profcssor of Innovation Managcmcnt at thc
PoIitccnico di MiIano, whcrc hc tcachcs both in thc schooI of busincss
and thc schooI of dcsign, and at Copcnhagcn Busincss SchooI. Hc has
bccn a visiting profcssor at Harvard Busincss SchooI and is on thc board
of thc Europcan Institutc for Advanccd Studics in Managcmcnt.
Vcrganti is thc author of Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules
of Competition by Radically Innovating what Things Mean, pubIishcd
Iast ycar by Harvard Busincss Prcss and widcIy haiIcd as provocativc
Robcrto Vcrganti said that hc wouId considcr thc qucstion of what
dcsigncrs shouId knowfromthc pcrspcctivc of busincss pcopIc, that
is, thc morc visionary busincss pcopIc rathcr than ‘Iay’ busincss pcopIc.
Whcn hc startcd to tcach dcsign tcn ycars ago, dcsigncrs struggIing to
dcmonstratc thc importancc of dcsign at busincss confcrcnccs wcrc
ﬁghting to bc Iistcncd to. Hc dccIarcd “that ﬁght has nowbccn
won. Now, fcwcompanics don’t usc dcsigncrs”.
This owcs Icss to acadcmics than to companics Iikc ioro who havc
succcssfuIIy transmittcd thc mcssagc to busincss that dcsign is not art,
but a proccss. Thcy’vc hcIpcd to makc thc practicc of dcsign morc
visibIc and thcrcforc apparcntIy morc controIIabIc, which busincss·
pcopIc Iikc a Iot.
To ﬁII thc gap bctwccn dcsign and busincss, dcsign schooIs arc
tcaching a bit of busincss to dcsign studcnts. Thcy focus on cthno·
graphic cnquiry mcthods, brainstorming, busincss modcIs, stratcgy,
and so on, and try to conncct dcsign morc dircctIy to compctitivc
advantagc and proﬁt so that it’s morc ‘paIatabIc’ to busincss. This is
broadIy what Vcrganti himscIf docs at thc dcsign schooI in MiIan –
bringing dcsigncrs cIoscr to thc worId and Ianguagc of managcmcnt.
Thc ‘proccss’ approach to innovation promotcd by ioro has two
impcrativcs. IirstIy, that to do dcsign and innovation you shouId start
fromthc uscr. SccondIy, that if you want to innovatc you nccd a quantity
of idcas. This approach has bccn so crcdibIc to managcrs that nowbusi·
ncss pcopIc rcguIarIy taIk about dcsign and cvcn rcad books on dcsign
frombusincss pubIishcrs. Thc troubIc hcrc is that if cvcry company
rcads thc samc books, uscs thc samc dcsign proccss and thc samc
dcsigncrs |which aIso oftcn happcns) thcy wiII aII do thc samc thing.
IortunatcIy, somc companics do things diffcrcntIy. Artcmidc, a
company that makcs Iighting, with a vcry strong rcputation in dcsign,
rcccntIy produccd a Iamp that docsn’t iIIuminatc, but produccs an
ambicnt cffcct that makcs you fccI bcttcr. An mi1 profcssor askcd
Artcmidc about thc markct anaIysis that Icd to this innovation. In thc
worId of uscr ccntrcd innovation, it camc as a shock to this profcssor
that thcrc was no markct anaIysis. Ncithcr docs Nintcndo usc customcr
focus groups – thcy gct fccdback fromdcvcIopcrs in thcir industry. Wc
nccd thcsc diffcrcnt paths to innovation.
This is a goIdcn agc for dcsign, in which cvcry busincss pcrson can
undcrstand it: it isn’t a mystcrious art. But as wc foIIowthc uscr·focuscd
proccss that aims abovc aII to producc Iots of idcas, thc worId of dcsign
is bccoming Icss innovativc than thc companics wc arc taIking to.
Dcsigncrs arc saying thc samc thing thcy wcrc saying i¸ ycars ago. Wc
arc tcaching dcsigncrs thc Ianguagc of busincss and thcy havc Iost thc
Ianguagc of dcsign.
This commentary summarises the Q&A immediately
following the presentations, and the continuation of the
discussion among tutors later in the day.
Understanding howthings work
SamHccht was askcd if hc couId point to anything
in his cducation that nurturcd himas a ‘radicaI’ or
‘visionary’ dcsigncr. Hccht’s rcpIy incIudcd thc rcﬂcc·
tion that unIcss you havc thc grounding, it is vcry hard
to bc radicaI. You havc to undcrstand howthings work
in ordcr to commcnt on thcmcriticaIIy.
A tutor Iatcr compIaincd, in rcsponsc to a qucstion
about what this ‘grounding’ consistcd of, that it was
bccoming morc and morc difﬁcuIt to gct studcnts to
makc a physicaI modcI or prototypc, with diminishing
workshop faciIitics and studio spacc and dwindIing
tcams of tcchnicians.
Anothcr said that his univcrsity had transformcd thc
ﬁrst of a thrcc·ycar dcgrcc coursc into a foundation
programmc, to compcnsatc for studcnts’ Iack of corc
skiIIs upon arrivaI fromschooI, and thc dwindIing of
thc foundation coursc systcm. Onc tutor said how
frcqucntIy hc was surpriscd to discovcr that third ycar
studcnts don’t knowwhcrc thc workshops arc. Thc
dwindIing of foundation courscs was fcIt to bc disas·
trous by onc tutor who pointcd out that many studcnts’
difﬁcuItics arc compoundcd by poor Iitcracy skiIIs
and part·timc jobs that Icavc thcmIittIc timc to gct
into thc workshop.
Thcrc was somc discussion of what it mcans to ‘undcr·
stand howthings work’, and an acknowIcdgcmcnt
that function is not simpIc, but intcrtwincd with usc.
Vcrganti said that if you start to undcrstand systcms
of making and systcms of usc, you can start to makc
thc worId a bcttcr pIacc, thinking about thc impact of
a product on thc cnvironmcnt, on criminaI bchaviour,
and so on.
Anothcr tutor cxprcsscd thc caution “thc uscr·ccntrcd
stuff wiII not ncccssariIy takc pIacc in thc workshop”,
and it was fcIt by many that ‘howthings work’ cxtcnds
to howthings arc uscd, and thcrcforc naturaIIy to uscr·
ccntrcd dcsign. Iromthis point of vicwSamHccht’s
idca of going out with thc man on thc strcct rathcr than
staying thc studio was fcIt to bc a good onc.
Companies like have successfully transmitted the message to
business that design is not art, but process; apparently controllable,
which businesspeople like —Roberto Verganti
± What should we be teaching professional designers today?
Ettorc Sottsass was thc Icadcr of a circIc of architccts who brought
Post·Modcrn products into production, known as thc Mcmphis Group.
Hc proposcd that pcopIc buy bookshcIvcs not to storc books, but to
forman cmotionaI conncction to furniturc. It was radicaI and visionary
at thc timc. But if you go to a dcsign fair in MiIan now8o/of what you
scc is stiII inﬂucnccd by this movcmcnt. Wc havc Iost visionarics Iikc
Sottsass. Aftcr :o ycars thcir work bccomcs mainstrcam. Thc vision has
not bccn rcpIaccd bccausc dcsigncrs havc conccntratcd on
undcrstanding busincss. Thc bcttcr dcsigncrs undcrstand busincss thc
Icss innovation you gct fromthcm. You do not gct radicaI dcsign from
brainstorming, but that has Iodgcd in thc mind of busincss pcopIc and
dcsigncrs as an impcrativc stagc of thc dcsign proccss.
As a socicty wc nccd radicaIs whosc output is not an idca but a vision.
RadicaIs work in circIcs: aIonc, thcy gct Iost, but if thcrc arc a fcwof
you, you arc not so casiIy dismisscd as crazy. RadicaIs knowthat you
don’t nccd divcrgcncc and an abundancc of idcas, you just nccd onc.
It’s not about thc quaIity of thc idcas but thc robustncss of your vision.
McanwhiIc wc arc tcIIing pcopIc in dcsign schooI to bc cuIturaIIy
ncutraI in thc facc of busincss. But thcrc arc aIso radicaI busincsscs
who can’t considcr you a dcsigncr unIcss your ambition is to changc
socicty. Thcrc arc big chaIIcngcs in cIosing thc gap bctwccn bctwccn
mass and cIitc cducation. Most of thc companics in ItaIy that want to bc
radicaI ncvcr hirc dcsigncrs, thcy hirc architccts instcad bccausc
architccts havc ncvcr takcn a coursc in markcting.
Rathcr than bringing dcsigncrs cIoscr to busincss, bring busincss
pcopIc cIoscr to thc radicaI and visionary possibiIitics of dcsign. Protcct
dcsigncrs frombcing cxposcd to thc busincss stuff: somctimcs it is bcst
not to know.
Ellie Runcie is NationaI Programmc Dircctor of thc Dcsign CounciI’s
thrcc Support Programmcs: PubIic Scrviccs by Dcsign, Dcsigning
Dcmand, and Innovatc for Univcrsitics. Shc Icads a nationaI tcamto
dcIivcr thcsc programmcs with partncrs in thc privatc and pubIic scctor.
PubIic Scrviccs by Dcsign is a ncwprogrammc dcvcIopcd by thc Dcsign
CounciI to inspirc and cnabIc pubIic scrvicc transformation through
dcsign thinking and tcchniqucs in a scrics of piIot projccts. Runcic was
askcd to answcr thc qucstion “What do dcsigncrs nccd to know?” from
a pubIic poIicy pcrspcctivc.
EIIic Runcic opcncd hcr prcscntation by highIighting that thc
fundamcntaI purposc of thc PubIic Scrviccs by Dcsign projcct is to
cnabIc pubIic scrvicc managcrs and tcams to transformthc scrviccs
thcy dcIivcr through dcsign. As a rcsuIt thc programmc is both buiIding
innovation capacity and cuIturc in pubIic and opcning up thc markct
for dcsigncrs in projccts commissioncd as a rcsuIt.
Thc programmc is dcIivcrcd through thc Dcsign CounciI’s nctwork
of ¸o dcsign mcntors. Thcsc mcntors arc appointcd nationaIIy to work
with privatc and pubIic scctor organisations that knowthcy nccd to
changc and knowdcsign potcntiaIIy has a roIc, but don’t knowhowto
managc it to cnabIc changc or transformation.
EIIic Runcic was askcd if shc had any anxicty that
dcsigncrs wouId ‘bIow’ thc opportunitics nowprc·
scntcd in scrvicc dcsign and innovation. Hcr answcr
idcntiﬁcd dcsigncrs’ abiIity to dcaI conﬁdcntIy with
muItipIc stakchoIdcrs as satisfying a nccd that was not
going to go away. Shc aIso commcntcd that studcnts
nccd to Icarn by doing and gct as much cxposurc
to working with cxtcndcd tcams of stakchoIdcrs.
Dcsign awards Iikc thosc prcscntcd by thc RSA and
Audi Dcsign Ioundation, havc a vaIuabIc roIc in
providing this cxpcricncc.
A mcmbcr of thc audicncc askcd what combination
of uscr·ccntrcd incrcmcntaI changc and radicaI dcsign
is right. Robcrto Vcrganti rcframcd this qucstion as
about whcthcr wc shouId tcach both things to both
scts of pcopIc. “Maybc you havc two diffcrcnt schooIs”
hc said. “Thc onIy thing I amafraid of is whcn thc
discussion bccomcs monotonc. Most of thc radicaI
changcs happcn in schooIs bcforc thcy happcn in
socicty, it’s important that wc kccp hctcrogcncity”.
Thc casc for pIuraIity was cchocd by tutors.
As we followthe user-centred process that aims above all to produce
lots of ideas, the world of design is becoming less innovative than the
companies we are talking to —Roberto Verganti
It has never been more important for public service teams to think
differently, which is where design comes in. It’s a brilliant opportunity
for designers right now. We don’t have much time. Howwill we make
the transition? —Ellie Runcie
¸ What should we be teaching professional designers today?
Runcic dcscribcd thc difﬁcuItics prcscntcd to pubIic scctor
organisations as a rcsuIt of thc prcssurcs on pubIic funding. Shc
cxpIaincd that this had aIrcady had a considcrabIc impact on thc
organisations invoIvcd in thc programmc. Acutc ﬁscaI constraints
combincd with incrcasing dcmand for pubIic scrviccs mcan that thc
urgcnt prcssurc is to do morc with Icss. It has ncvcr bccn morc
important for pubIic scrvicc tcams to think diffcrcntIy, which is whcrc
dcsign comcs in: “It’s a briIIiant opportunity for dcsigncrs right now.
Wc don’t havc much timc. Howdo wc makc thc transition?”
Thc Dcsign CounciI’s programmc |covcring arcas such as aduIt
sociaI carc, young pcopIc at risk, obcsity, young offcndcrs and ncw
busincsscs incorporation) hcIp organisations Iook at thcir probIcms
and chaIIcngcs in ncwways and idcntify howdcsign can hcIp tackIc
thcm. Thcrc is a rcaI opportunity for pubIic scrvicc agcncics to harncss
thc cxpcrtisc and crcativity within scrvicc tcams, cspcciaIIy idcas from
thc frontIinc of dcIivcry.
Howcvcr, whcn signiﬁcant funding cuts arc approaching and
pcopIc’s jobs arc at risk, thcy might wcII ask why dcsign mattcrs.
Onc of thc PubIic Scrviccs by Dcsign projccts has bccn working with
thc Iondon Borough of Icwishamto addrcss thc nccds of homcIcss
pcopIc in thc borough. Icwishamsigncd up for thc programmc to hcIp
thcmundcrstand howa dcsign approach couId improvc thc cxpcricnccs
of pcopIc using cmcrgcncy housing scrviccs and dircct pcopIc not
cntitIcd to cmcrgcncy housing support to thc appropriatc tcamor
agcncy morc quickIy.
A ‘diagonaI sIicc’ of thc organization, fromscnior cxccutivcs to
frontIinc staff, contributcd ncwidcas for howto rcducc thc numbcr of
pcopIc rcquiring cmcrgcncy housing scrvicc, and ncwways to makc thc
proccss of support morc cfﬁcicnt, cffcctivc and targctcd. UnIikc thc
privatc scctor, thc chaIIcngc for pubIic scrviccs is to try and rcducc
voIumc and ‘rcpcat busincss’.
Thc projcct tcamagrccd that thcir impcrativc was to knowthcir
uscrs: who uscs thc scrviccs and howdo thcy fccI about thcm? Who is
gcnuincIy in nccd? What widcr situations arc pcopIc dcaIing with that
rcsuItcd in thcmbccoming homcIcss? Staff fromthc Housing Options
tcamsay this ‘upfront’ qucstioning immcdiatcIy hcIpcd thcm
undcrstand thc vaIuc of Iooking at a probIcmthrough a dcsigncr’s cycs:
it showcd thcmthat thcy had to start asking scrvicc uscrs howthc
scrvicc couId bc improvcd.
Thcy sct about thcir own cthnographic rcscarch, obscrving pcopIc
in thc rcccption/waiting arca of thc Housing Options Ccntrc and asking
thcmhowthcy fcIt about thc scrvicc. Thcy capturcd thcsc convcrsations
on vidco with thc hcIp of a scrvicc dcsign agcncy thcy had
commissioncd. Icwishamstaff rccordcd thc cxpcricncc, or ‘customcr
journcy’, as it is known in scrvicc dcsign, of morc than twcnty pcopIc
using thc Housing Options Ccntrc, and cditcd thc footagc into an
‘insights’ ﬁIm. It was anticipatcd that this ﬁImwouId bc morc cffcctivc
than a writtcn rcport in communicating what was and was not working
to cvcryonc invoIvcd in thc scrvicc.
Nurturing the radical
Thcrc was somc discussion of Vcrganti’s caII for an
cducation cIimatc that nurturcs thc radicaI. Onc mcm·
bcr of thc audicncc caIIcd his argumcnt ‘a bourgcois
account of acsthctic dcsign’ arising froma purcIy busi·
ncss Icns, and advocatcd divcrsity. Iroma practicaI
point of vicw, somc tutors fcIt that it was hard to tcach
studcnts to bc radicaI in IittIc, prcscribcd bIocks and
moduIcs. Othcrs spokc in dcfcnsc of thc thc studio
cuIturc traditionaI in dcsign – a sociaI and pcdagogicaI
cnvironcmcnt that cncouragcs studcnts thcmto qucs·
tion things and brcak thc mouId – whiIc admitting that
studio timc and spacc was bccoming morc and morc
of a prcmiumin univcrsitics.
Teaching professional designers
A tutor idcntiﬁcd thc Iack of radicaIs as owing to a
systcmthat just tcachcs pcopIc to havc jobs. Hc citcd
a coIIcaguc who bcmoancd “thc mcdiocrity of compc·
tcncc”, and cIaimcd to havc donc a Mastcrs dcgrcc
himscIf in ordcr to makc himscIf “cvcn Icss cmpIoy·
abIc”. Anothcr tutor fcIt, convcrscIy, that it was impcra·
tivc to marry up graduatcs with companics Iooking
to makc things.
EmiIy CampbcII citcd thc cxampIc of Dcborah Szcbcko,
who whiIc training as a graphic dcsigncr voIuntccrcd
for Grcat Ormond Strcct HospitaI, in a projcct managc·
mcnt capacity not obviousIy rcIatcd to hcr training as a
dcsigncr. Iinding ways to makc
hcrscIf indispcnsibIc in this cnvironmcnt of hcaIthcarc
scrvicc dcIivcry Icd hcr to cstabIish a scrvicc dcsign
agcncy – ThinkpubIic – which sustaincd in grcat mcas·
urc by projccts in hcaIthcarc. Thc cxampIc shows how
thc rcIationship bctwccn a dcsign training and indus·
try is not as obvious as it oncc was.
Staff say this ‘upfront’ questioning immediately helped them
understand the value of looking at a problemthrough a designer’s eyes
6 What should we be teaching professional designers today?
In an idcas·gcncration scssion Icd by thcir Dcsign Associatc,
Icwishamstaff uscd thc probIcms idcntiﬁcd in thc ﬁImto comc up with
ioo idcas for improving thcir ccntrc. Thc ‘quick win’ idcas that couId bc
prototypcd quickIy incIudcd:
— Right ﬁrst time: Ensuring staff knowwhat qucstions to ask and what
information to givc during a customcr’s ﬁrst intcraction with thc
— What next doc? Information dcsign prototypcs to hcIp housing
advisors cxpIain what happcns aftcr thcir ﬁrst intcrvicw
— Fact sheets: A scrics of fact shccts about thc dctaiIs of thc housing
options scrvicc for usc by staff and customcrs
— Storyboards: IIIustratcd sccnarios and story boards in thc rcccption
arca showing customcrs what to cxpcct whiIc thcy wait to scc an
Iow·cost prototypcs of thcsc idcas arc bcing tricd out in thc Housing
Runcic madc thc point that pubIic scrvicc dcsign is particuIarIy
compIcx bccausc you nccd to invoIvc a whoIc rangc of stakchoIdcrs,
fromscrvicc uscrs to managcrs and cxccutivcs. Shc outIincd thc cost of
onc agcncy participating as £:8k, pIus dcsign agcncy fccs of £;k.
Bccausc thcir savings arc projcctcd at £(68k pcr annum, thc SociaI
Rcturn on Invcstmcnt is io:i – a massivc potcntiaI cfﬁcicncy by
improvcd dcsign. Runcic summariscd thc most important tasks for
— Iinding ways to communicatc pcopIc’s nccds, which arc usuaIIy
— Working visuaIIy and tangibIy so that stakchoIdcrs arc aII Iooking at
thc samc thing – words arc not cnough
— Prototyping carIy and oftcn to managc risk – £ioo spcnt on a faiIcd
triaI is £ioo,ooo savcd Iatcr on
— Working incIusivcIy and coIIaborativcIy
EmiIy CampbcII pointcd out thc contrast bctwccn Vcrganti’s advocacy
for thc singIc·vision radicaI, and Runcic’s conviction of thc powcr of a
ioo smaII idcas. Shc qucstioncd whcthcr thc samc dcsigncrs arc
capabIc of big singuIar idcas and incrcmcntaI changc, and whcthcr wc
shouId bc cducating both togcthcr. Shc addcd that in rcccnt ycars thc
Studcnt Dcsign Awards had yicIdcd many modcratcIy compctcnt
cxcrciscs in uscr rcscarch but rcIativcIy fcwoutstanding dcsign idcas.
SamHecht is co·foundcr with KimCoIin of thc dcsign studio IndustriaI
IaciIity. IndustriaI IaciIity’s dccIarcd bcIicf is in dcsign as a progrcssivc
mcans of simpIifying howwc Iivc. Thcir rigorous path of invcstigation
and anaIysis has bccn wcII documcntcd and has won thcmovcr ±o
intcrnationaI awards, and a pIacc in thc pcrmancnt coIIcctions of thc
MoMA, NcwYork, thc Pompidou Ccntrc in Paris, Thc Statc Muscumof
AppIicd Arts, Munich, thc MuscumIur Kunsthandwcrk, Irankfurt, and
thc IsracI Muscum, jcrusaIcm.
Education and employment
Thc discussion of thc rcIationship bctwccn cducation
and cmpIoymcnt continucd. In spitc of Vcrganti’s
conﬁdcnt asscrtion that busincsscs arc Iooking for
radicaIs, not busincss·savvy dcsigncrs with markcting
skiIIs, thcrc was somc skcpticismthat ‘radicaIs’ wiII
Vcrganti dcscribcd a kind of cIoscd circuit crcatcd by
thc busincss of dcsign cducation combincd with an
ovcrsuppIy of dcsigncrs. “You spcnd ﬁvc ycars studying
in MiIan and thcn · no job. So you convincc your par·
cnts to Ict you do a Mastcrs in dcsign. Thcn you might
cvcn movc on to a Þho. It’s a hugc scIf·pcrpctuating
busincss, a bit Iikc psychoanaIysis. My fricnds who arc
dcsigncrs – ¸o/of thcir saIary comcs fromtcaching
At onc point EmiIy CampbcII askcd thc tutors if, givcn
thc pIuraIity of prcssurcs on thcm, thcy fcIt thcy wcrc
stiII producing dcsigncrs. Thc answcrs showcd howdif·
fusc dcsign has bccomc as a discipIinc to bc taught and
howconfusing thc mcdia and popuIar imagc of dcsign
is to young dcsigncrs. Onc tutor cxprcsscd thc prccmi·
ncnt nccd to opcn studcnts’ minds, to givc thcma
widcr vicwof what’s going on, to cncouragc thcmto
pick up as much as thcy can by simpIy sccing morc.
Anothcr pointcd out that dcsigncrs arc popuIarIy pcr·
ccivcd as Iiving thcir Iivcs in quitc an cxotic way. Dcsign
is soId around ccIcbrity, but it nccds to bc projcctcd as
about cxccIIcncc, about tcamwork for thc grcatcr good.
“Wc nccd to ask ‘Havc you got thosc spcciaI skiIIs – arc
you onc of oncs that can makc a diffcrcncc?’”
EmiIy CampbcII concIudcd thc discussion by asking
tutors what issucs thcy wouId Iikc to scc dcbatcd at
ncxt ycar’s scminar. “Thc big issuc is what studcnts arc
coming in with” was thc most dircct rcpIy. That is, thc
prcparation of studcnts for dcsign in sccondary schooI.
Anothcr tutor spccuIatcd that thc Iack of a criticaI atti·
tudc to thc bricf and socicty in gcncraI might owc to
dcﬁcicncics in thc sccondary systcm.
Samformcd PIatformi: in Dcsign Products with DurrcII Bishop
and Andrc KIauscr at thc RoyaI CoIIcgc of Art, and taught from:oo; to
:oio, whiIc hc and KimCoIin Iccturc and conduct workshops at schooIs
aII ovcr thc worId. Hccht was askcd as a RoyaI Dcsigncr for Industry and
dcsign profcssor what wc nccd to bc passing on to thc ncxt gcncration.
SamHccht opcncd his taIk by rcvcaIing that hc had rcccntIy
rcsigncd fromtcaching at thc RoyaI CoIIcgc of Art, and that hc wouId, in
his prcscntations, try to cxpIain thc dircctions that hc had propogatcd.
Hc rcﬂcctcd that thc vaIuc of dcsign cducation has bccomc uncIcar.
Hccht said that most of thc studcnts dcsigncd with thc mcdia in
mind, and with cxhibiting at thc annuaI MiIan Iurniturc Iair as thc ritc
of passagc into thc mcdia·dcsign worId. Hc pointcd out that thc kind of
work dispIaycd and discusscd at MiIan constitutcs about i.6/of what
wc usc and consumc on a daiIy basis. If young dcsigncrs aspirc to thc
MiIan modcI, thcir contribution to socicty can thcrcforc onIy cvcr hopc
to bc marginaI – to answcr a tiny portion of human nccd. Sincc thcir
cducation scts thcmon this MiIan·mcdia path, dcsign cducation nccds
Oncc, dcsign Icd scicncc and busincss, nowit sccms to bc Icading
thc mcdia |if it’s rcaIIy Icading anything). Wc’vc forgottcn that
cvcrything is a product and cvcry product is part of a systcm, a systcmof
making and a systcmof usc. Young dcsigncrs arc not bcing givcn thc
opportunity to undcrstand that systcm.
Hccht said that whcn hc taught at thc RoyaI CoIIcgc of Art, hc and
his fcIIowtutors aIways introduccd thc ycar with artists rathcr than
dcsigncrs, bccausc thcy had a bcttcr grip on thc way thc worId ticks.
Richard Wcntworth, for cxampIc, who dccidcd to takc studcnts on a
waIking tour of CoIindaIc – a pIacc on thc Iondon Undcrground systcm
bctwccn urban and suburban zoncs. Thc waIks, known as ‘WaIking with
Richard,’ wcrc about hcIping studcnts undcrstand thc worId around
thcmand why things cxist: why, for cxampIc, bricks arc thc sizc thcy arc.
Martin Crccd is anothcr cxampIc of an artist who knows that cvcrything
is a product and has rcasons for bcing thc way it is.
It’s a pity, Hccht said, that it’s bccn Icft to artists to maintain this
tcrritory. Many young dcsigncrs havc Iost that abiIity to undcrstand – or
pcrhaps arc not taught – why things arc thc way thcy arc. In a way it’s a
Ioss of Ianguagc. Hccht showcd a photograph of mn studcnts in onc of
his courscs taking apart a radio, and pointcd out that thc studcnts had
ncvcr takcn a product apart bcforc. It’s ncccssary to bc a spcciaIist as
wcII as a gcncraIist in dcsign. In ordcr to bc a spcciaIist, this abiIity to
dismantIc and anaIysc thc parts of somcthing is cruciaI.
Oncc thcy knowthc parts, dcsigncrs can crcatc somcthing out of
what’s thcrc. As a task for his studcnts, Hccht askcd thcmto ‘makc a
product by producing a sct of instructions.’ Hccht dcscribcd howonc
studcnt put togcthcr instructions on howto bIowa rcaIIy Ioud whistIc
using your ﬁngcrs, and with thc instructions, Hccht was himscIf abIc to
do it for thc ﬁrst timc in his Iifc. Hc showcd somc of thc othcr rcsuIts of
PIatformi: incIuding a foIding (·point pIug and a bikc that foIds into
thc diamctcr of its whccI. Thc dcsigncr was onIy abIc abIc to dcsign and
If young designers aspire to the Milan model, their contribution to
society can only ever hope to be marginal – to answer a tiny portion
of human needs —SamHecht
Many young designers have lost the ability to understand – or
perhaps are not taught – why things are the way they are; but this
ability to dismantle and analyse the parts of something is crucial
; What should we be teaching professional designers today?
producc a foIding (·point pIug bccausc hc undcrstood thc systcmof
pIugs as a whoIc.
Dcsign cducation is a ﬂourishing busincss and Britain is a popuIar
pIacc to study dcsign. 8;/of thc pcopIc Hccht has taught comc from
forcign Iands and ¸;/of thcsc had a poor command of EngIish. It’s
difﬁcuIt to taIk about compIcx issucs of dcsign at mn IcvcI in this
cnvironmcnt. Thc morc mcdia, thc morc busincss, thc morc forcign
studcnts wiII want to comc hcrc. Dcsigncrs in thc i¤¸os contributcd to
socicty. In thc i¤8os, thcy contributcd to busincss. In :oio thcy
contributc to mcdia. A Iot of dcsign is consumcd as imagcs rathcr than
as a physicaIity.
Wc shouId Iook at thc cxampIc of howarchitccts havc donc a
fantastic job in rcoccupying thc scctor of urban pIanning which thcy
oncc Iost to pIanncrs and othcr profcssionaIs: cvcn architccturc
studcnts who knowthcy wiII probabIy ncvcr dcsign a buiIding can stiII
contributc to this big and important arca of work. Dcsigncrs shouId
rcoccupy howthc rcaI worId ticks, undcrstand it and commcnt on it.
Thcy nccd to undcrstand howproducts arc madc, consumcd and ﬁt into
Þsn Dcsign k Socicty
Director of Design
Design &Society team
McIanic Andrcws, Scvra Davis,
janct Hawkcn, jamic Young
8 john AdamStrcct
Iondon wc:r 6rz
+ ±± |o) :o; ¤(o ¸ii¸
Dcsigncd by john Morgan studio
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