It’s too easy to get a degree in design

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Richard Roty on Foucault’s (inadvertent) influence on English departments:

“I think that the English departments have made it possible to have a career teaching English without caring much about literature or knowing much about literature but just producing rather trite, formulaic, politicized readings of this or that text.”

Substitute ‘design’ for ‘English’ and I think you get a pretty good analysis of the problem facing design education generally:

I think design departments have made it possible to get a degree in design without caring much about the design process or knowing much about how design works or affects people, but just producing rather trite, formulaic, aesthetic things with an eye on entry level jobs and the odd D&AD award. A degree has to mean much more than that

Too much focus on ‘making and displaying’ means the world is full of technically competent artworkers or prototypers or craftspeople, but who don’t understand the enormity – or potential – of the design process as a whole.

As I said elsewhere, making is to design what voting is to democracy – they’re just tiny parts of big and complex processes, and just as democracy can exist without everyone voting, so design can happen without someone making something.
I’m not sure why design education is still stuck in the idea that a student should be assessed (or even allowed in) based on technical skills rather than thinking skills.

(Via Foucauldian Reflections.)

3 comments on “It’s too easy to get a degree in design

  1. Angela says:

    I’m going to hae to respectfully disagree, at least for the program at Arizona State University. 🙂 I am a second-year student. We apply in the second semester of our second year for upper division. The entire program is four years long and requires an 8-week internship. Our studio classes revolve around the principles of graphic design. Freshman projects include black and white, color, texture, and 3D. Second-year (what we’re working on now) include static and dynamic relationships, spatial planes, working with the Fibonnaci sequence, and working with leaves to integrate those principles into a project. Our professor is amazing. He is very particular and expects so much out of us. While the projects are outlined in the syllabus, the actual particulars we have to figure out for ourselves. This has helped me to learn great discipline that I didn’t have before. Thanks for reading!

  2. Ian Hargraves says:

    While I share your distaste for “formulaic, aesthetic things” I think your citing of Rorty does a fundamental injustice to what he is saying. I read in Rorty a concern for literature as the PRODUCT of authorship, rather than literature as a distinct process of authors. I believe Rorty would look for the “enormity-or potential” of design in the product itself, and may well see design thinking as a trite, formulaic, and politicized reading of the the product being designed.

  3. Jonathan says:

    “I believe Rorty would look for the “enormity-or potential” of design in the product itself, and may well see design thinking as a trite, formulaic, and politicized reading of the the product being designed””Yet without thinking there can be no ‘potential’, and surely the key definition of design is that potential is realised – it’s no longer ‘potential’. A designer who says ‘look it this, consider its potential’ as though the craft itself is an excuse for its existence is an artist, not a designer.If indeed he sees design thinking as “trite, formulaic and politicized”, he’d be wrong – very wrong. It’s the casual dismissal of design thinking in favour of some mystical, mythic ‘craft’ intended to place designers on a pedestal that is trite, IMHO…

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