The Legacy of Design: What Contribution does a Degree make to your Future Design Career?

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Evans, Martyn David; Spruce, Jon
Series: E&PDE
Section: Professional Perspectives
Page(s): 385-390


Much research has been conducted into the content of design curricula (Design Skills Advisory Panel, 2007; UK Design Skills Alliance, 2008) yet limited research has been undertaken into how early career design professionals view their undergraduate studies. This paper explores the relationship between product design curricula and the professional practice of design. The authors consult with early career product design professionals to understand the perceived link between their undergraduate studies and their everyday practice. Specifically, this paper reports upon the realities of working in the design industry and explores the extent to which their formal training supported the transition from designer-in-training to design professional. Data was gathered via semi structured interviews with early career design product design professionals. The research was conducted in a context of increasingly fluid contemporary design practices where traditional roles for design are being challenged (Lasky, 2010). Design graduates are now being called upon to not only possess high level design skills, but have a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between design and the business context in which it operates. The educational implications of a changing design industry have, to a great extent, focussed upon the need for design graduates to be business savvy while operating in multi-disciplinary contexts. This discourse is characterised by issues of increasing emphasis of design within commerce; multi-disciplinary design engagement; broadening the understanding and skills of tomorrow’s design entrepreneurs; blurred career paths for design graduates; and the increasing demand for designers to possess complementary skills that can be applied beyond traditional design boundaries (Cox, 2005; Design Council, 2010; Design Skills Advisory Panel, 2007; ADM-HEA, 2006; Guardian, 2008; UK Design Skills Alliance, 2008). In line with current UK government initiatives calling for ‘education and professional practice to be better connected, to ensure that educators as well as students are developing current, industry-relevant skills’ (DSAP, 2007), our research provides a product design viewpoint on the (perceived) link between design curricula and professional design practice. The paper concludes with an overview of key relational factors that support the transition of design graduates to design practitioners. This paper forms part of a broader investigation being undertaken by the authors that interrogates students’ experience of product design education, explores students’ expectations of working in the design industry, and details working practices of early career design professionals. These investigations are further underpinned by the perspectives of HE staff in response to the research findings.

Keywords: Design industry, design skills, design curricula, early career design professionals, professional practice


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