Finding Purpose in Design Education
William Heywood, Tamara Christensen, Arizona State University
In today's world, the ability to respond creatively to new challenges is demanded by everyone but making the switch from imitative and rule-bound behavior to creative innovation and flexibility requires a profound change in our attitudes about the environment, our capabilities and our selves. We currently teach a course entitled 'Finding Purpose' within the College of Design at a major university. The purpose of the course is to complement students' design skill development (a.k.a. know thy craft) with intrapersonal reflective development (a.k.a. know thyself).
'Finding Purpose' is a personalized professional orientation course designed for upper division students studying design, architecture, studio art, art or other related programs. This course provides students with the opportunity to explore alternatives open to them once they have graduated with an undergraduate degree. It also provides a time to explore and discover unique talents, and ways to express those talents in the world of work. While the course is offered within the College of Design, the number of students from outside disciplines (including journalism, education, and business—to name a few) and the number of graduate students who enroll in the course serve as testament to the powerful learning experience it offers.
Students often report that this is the single most important course they take during their academic career and we would like to share their experiences as well as reflect upon how the lessons from this course can inform and improve design education. This paper offers a descriptive overview of the course beginning with an explanation of the conceptual framework guiding its development and delivery. This is followed by a description of the course curriculum, including the learning modules and related assignments/deliverables. We conclude with the words of the students, reflections from those who have taken the course and the value they have taken from it.