The Evolving Role of The Industrial Design Studio Space in Higher Education.
Shea Tillman, IDSA, Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Design | Auburn University
Marise Evans, Graduate Student, Department of Industrial Design | Auburn University
Industrial design has increasingly been thrust into the spotlight as a newfound push for innovation has become a key differentiator for companies to succeed on a global scale. In recent years, publications such as BusinessWeek and the Harvard Business Review have devoted entire sections of their content to innovation, and have contributed considerably in raising the awareness of design as an innovation catalyst within organizations. Not surprisingly, as the demand for designers in business has grown, so too has the demand for design education.
Over the past fifteen years, the profession has witnessed a 42% increase in the number of NASADaccredited industrial design school programs, with 34% of that growth being in the past five years (IDSA Directory of Industrial Designers 1993–2008). As the scope of profession has expanded, design schools are continually being asked to mirror practice by integrating increased computing technology, rapid prototyping, and specialized coursework within their curriculums. In addition, the design profession has continued to gain momentum by working collectively with other disciplines in the design process, and educational design programs are seeing interdisciplinary collaborations as the new language of innovation.
Increasingly, RFPs for large grants and external funding are seeking interdisciplinary efforts spread
across colleges and departments, not just concentrated in design. Universities and research institutions are discovering the value in teaming dissimilar disciplines on campus to offer a diverse set of viewpoints and fuel innovation on projects. In addition students often collaborate with corporate sponsors giving students opportunities to work with multiple disciplines within a company. Throughout most student design projects there is also collaboration of peers within the class on a daily basis.
With the emphasis in education shifting towards collaborative learning and working, questions are raised: Just how collaborative are our educational design studios, and are these studio environments and the components they contain effectively preparing students for these interdisciplinary efforts?