DS 83: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE16), Design Education: Collaboration and Cross-Disciplinarity, Aalborg, Denmark, 8th-9th September 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Christian Tollestrup, Kaare Eriksen, Nis Ovesen
Author: Arthur, Leslie; Marsh, Phillipa
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Section: Design Practice
Page(s): 158-163
ISBN: 978-1-904670-62-9


The education and training of designers to meet; graduate employability and career opportunities are
ever-present characteristics and central drivers in higher education today. The authors support this
aim, but have reservations concerning the educational experience of the student. There is the
possibility of under graduates thinking solely in terms of vocation only. This is not to criticise this
approach, but to question the educational values. Today, the central point of teaching is upon specific
skills and adopting a 'how-to-do-this' approach or learning to meet objectives. But, the dichotomy
between training and education remains a tension, which is almost tangible. Business and higher
education have deliberated upon this topic and its associated tensions for many years in polytechnics
and universities in the UK, particularly in the design disciplines. Business does not always allow for
risks to be taken, a template will always be used if a profit margin is guaranteed. This does not add to
the process of design, at various stages of evolving an idea or concept serendipity occasionally arises.
This could be due to; ‘connections’ made by the designer, a material behaving in a way that was not
expected and the importance of chance to a designer. This paper argues that design education allows
students to take risks. This work also advocates the need for students to take risks and sets out the
proposition that design education is too safe. This paper contends that product design students’ need to
graduate from T-shaped learners to 360-degree design practitioners. Their experience from five to
eighteen in their education has been dominated by set tasks and functions. This needs to be challenged
and not re-enforced in universities.
The product design provision at Nottingham Trent University forms the basis of the research findings
in this paper are drawn from a detailed review of these courses in 2013/14. This work highlights how
students appear focused on the need to be taught design skills. However, underlying this, students
often wish to extend their learning and are willing to take risks. These opportunities can develop
students learning, not simply in providing a different perspective and understanding, but also to allow
them to develop their own individuality, as designers. The research concludes by suggesting that this
speculative and serendipitous approach to design education may be a predominant, individualistic and
unique selling point for the student in the professional practice of design, as it is also the nurturing of
their ability to think independently and to convert the abstract into the tangible and in so doing
galvanize individual conviction to compliment the transition from the being descriptive in thought to
being able to critique a design.

Keywords: Training, education, taking risks.


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