NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 36, 2021 – Design Education Now

Since the emergence of design as a profession across the post-war Northern Hemisphere in the 1950s, the role of design in fuelling economic growth has become more pronounced across the globe. There are significant nuances between nations, communities and companies’ interpretations and use of design to tackle the problems they confront, including the degree of national commitment to design-led innovation, disciplinary orientations and the rich variety of philosophies and methods.

A number of contributions to this edition of NiTRO reflect on the state of design education: from signature pedagogies such as dialogue, critique and the studio translated for online contexts, and relational shifts between teachers and students; to design’s role away from an emphasis on creative solutions and outputs to matters of process and ways of doing.

Communication Design has expanded significantly as a practice since I graduated from Art School … it has transformed into a discipline encompassing its earlier aspects of publishing, print design, branding and packaging and extended through to experiential graphic design, interaction and interface design, user-experience, service and systems design.

Dominated by engineering constraints, the potential for human centered design to inform the design of extreme, isolated environments such as submarines, Antarctica and even off world habitation has been limited. Driven by economic pressures and profession cultures fields such as ship building rarely include human factors in their design.

The pandemic has presented design education with as many opportunities as it has challenges. With literally a day or two to prepare, most Australian tertiary education providers were hurled into a world of online learning at a scale way beyond what they ever really imagined or prepared for.

Current and future challenges around food security, climate change, migration, health, politics, and the environment, require positive, creative and ethical responses. COVID-19 has added layers of complexity to these global challenges given its precarious and diffuse nature. As the virus continues to cause disruption and harm, it serves to exemplify the need for advanced capabilities in open communication, advanced collaboration, and critical and creative thinking - core competencies of design.

“We are moving to an integrated learning model.” These exciting words have permeated discussions in the Higher Education (HE) sector most of 2020 and 2021. The incredible work of transforming teaching to accommodate COVID restrictions has disrupted many traditional teaching methods and forced educators to envisage new ways of delivering and assessing creative content.

As courses move online with the current COVID-19 lockdown in Warrane/Sydney, I reflect on the significance of material-making in design education and how the COVID pandemic has impacted on student learning experiences with mandated restrictions to specialised workshops on university campuses.

In this article we discuss models of design practice, based on three student projects from different program levels, the Bachelor of Design, the Master of Design (coursework) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Design, in the School of Art & Design at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

In late 2019, a panel of design educators came together at the ACUADS conference to launch the Communication Design Educators Network and discuss what we saw then as big questions: Is tradition serving or stunting us? And, are the most valuable skills future design practitioners need today being taught?