A Model for Raising Business Consciousness among Design Students
Uday Gajendar, Interaction Designer, Usability and Interface Design Group, Oracle Corporation
It is not surprising to find a disconnect between U.S.-based design education and practice; this is a known and common problem in many domains. However, there seems to be an alarming lack of responsiveness within design education circles to the emerging “normalcy” of practice: globalization, cross-disciplinary communication, integrated business processes, and time-to-market pressure all affecting design roles and activities. And as noted in one session at last year’s IDSA National Education Conference, there do not seem to be adequate changes in curricula to keep pace.1 The persistence of this gap will slow the rise of qualified design professionals, potentially endangering design’s role in leading complex problem solving as engineering and marketing solidify their lead.2 What needs to be investigated are the areas of intersection between design and business to cultivate insights that can lead to a model that can prepare students for the realities of practice.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to initiate a constructive dialogue among design educators and practitioners on closing the gap between classroom and cubicle. A model is recommended for preparing students for the competencies and problems central to practice, organized around four topics: culture, leadership, strategy, and innovation. The goal is to improve upon current offerings for students in increasing their potential for influence in dynamic, cross-disciplinary contexts. Signs suggest the design profession moving towards becoming an integrative business process, from merely an industrial asset; the proposed model should prepare young designers for this transition.
Preparation for writing included the summer 2002 Design Management Journal, October 2002 International Design magazine issue on design education, interviews with practitioners, and research into the topics that comprise the model. Readers should note this paper and the model are not about how to operate a design firm or how to land a job— these topics deserve their own space for study.