in Industrial Design Education: Bane or Boost?
R. Brent Adams, Professor, IDSA | Brigham Young University
Virtually every project that an industrial designer is involved with in business is a group effort. Marketing departments help conduct research indicating what a consumer might buy. Engineering departments definitely have opinions as well as a say in how a product is designed and manufactured. Increasingly, retailers are having a say as to the design of products that they are willing to stock in their chain stores. As business becomes more competitive, designers are encouraged to become more specialized in their expertise. The complexity of new devices requires a variety of designers and engineers with a diversity of knowledge. Interface designers work with stylists who work with human-factors experts who work with anthropologists. Yet, in education, many programs have few opportunities for students to learn how group dynamics work.
If students do have a requirement to work in a group, it is ofttimes undesigned as an education process. Individual roles of students working in groups are not always understood; sometimes roles are not even established. Also, many of the projects assigned are not suited for a good group experience.
There is a plethora of books and articles on the principles of establishing good group dynamics. Many of these are applicable to the design profession. Few, however, are applicable to a design education. It is not the intent of this paper to duplicate or rehash these ideas. There are plenty of resources on the Internet and in business-practices publications for those who are more interested in learning more about group dynamics. The intent of this paper is to help in the understanding of the benefits to students who have group experiences as well as a word of caution on when not to use groups.