An epoch is upon us. Like the shift from the middle ages to the renaissance, or the dawn of the industrial revolution, our culture and civilization are in a fundamental pivot. At the same time contemporary business has embraced design thinking to adapt to this change, actual design education is failing to prepare designers for a new world of blinding pace, intelligent software, and a burgeoning layer of experience that is going to bloom everywhere. Maybe more important, Designers are desperately needed to find the critical changes that must happen with proper design, and create them. Right now design education is failing to do this.
Here’s how to fix it.
Teach adaptability. At the same time business and strategy teams are learning and deploying design thinking, Designers need to be applying the fantastic business practices of agile process, focus sprints, and scrums. Are you confused by the terminology ?
Here’s the deal – It used to be that expertise was walled off by access to information. No more… The internet has leveled this playing field. It’s time for designers and creatives to amplify their effect by adopting new thinking and strategy that is there for all to learn. And it’s time for formal design education to begin looking outside the box and teach designers how to help everyone create effective change.
Teach Scale. Let’s stick with business for a bit. As the old agency of record models give way to project based ecosystems, the opportunities for smaller shops and independents to create significant work is exploding. That means it’s time for design education to fully embrace teaching the business of design. Client management. Project management. Financial best practices. In a world where we are all now our own brand, it’s time to start acting like one. And in a world where everyone can have effect, it’s time for designers to be taught to find bigger tasks and tackle them.
Teach forecasting. Design education needs to introduce the idea of formalized exploration. The pace of cultural preference, thinking, and craving is moving at a blinding speed. Design education needs to create curious humans who are well equipped to be perpetual students, constantly learning and then deploying what that new knowledge. Designers are nimble thinkers – They are best equipped to see what is new, critical, or evolutionary and bring that distilled benefit to the masses.
“Comfort is a slow death…” – Noreen Morioka, W+K
Create leaders. It is not a time for comfortable complacency. It is time for designers to LEAD. As we see design thinking becoming the heartbeat of strategy, product development, supply chain analysis, organizational management, government, it’s time for Designers to lift up their heads, and find the interesting questions that need answering. The current political and economic instability is a result of poor design. Poorly designed elections. Poorly designed governance. Poorly designed agency of the people to effect CHANGE. Design education needs to prepare students not merely to produce beautiful results, but also to take the tools of curiosity, experimentation, and iteration and apply them to the larger questions that face us all.
Design education has to stop creating order takers, and start creating order makers.