Design Education in the 21st Century
Naomi Gornick | University of Dundee, UK
Introduction: The Designer’s Status
Since the dawn of the new millennium, design practice in many areas has undergone rapid transformation. Changes have occurred not solely as a result of massive technological progress. Many designers in USA and Europe are reappraising their roles and starting to make a more profound contribution to a larger range of decision-making embracing user, market and global issues. Individual experience in business life can enhance designers’ frame of reference but it is designers’ basic education that will largely determine how well equipped they are to undertake a more rounded range of activities appropriate to the world’s current complex conditions.
The year 2001 saw the completion of my 12 years in full-time postgraduate design education. My aim, at the Royal College of Art and Brunel University was to produce design-trained graduates who would take up senior roles in industry and commerce that would enable them to help integrate design in companies on a long- term basis. The programs were started in the late 1980s when the work of designers was little understood and design was not seen as a major corporate resource. Much has changed since that time. Most organizations now recognize the value of design thanks to many individual champions of design and the promotional activities of many design societies and institutions. My own and other advanced design programs also played a significant role in helping this change to come about.
Emerging from a full-time educational role seemed like a good time to reassess the conditions that had started me on the education process in the first instance. My concern at the outset, was, and still is, with the status of designers internationally, the relationship of designers and their clients, the evolving roles of designers working in-house and the connections between design practice and design education. Looking at the steady progress of design endorsement by companies and consumers over the last two decades I found a number of lingering inconsistencies still to be addressed (Gornick, 2001). Despite progress made in education and practice, research findings would indicate that there remain four persistent dilemmas (comments within parentheses are 2007 additions)