Monday, June 09, 2014

New design school initiative: 30weeks

This is how a new design school initiative, 30weeks, is presented in Fast Company:

"Following Apple's success, many companies are finally starting to recognize the crucial role design plays in building a desirable (and profitable) product. Yet very few companies are actually founded and led by designers. Here to change that is 30Weeks, a new program by a powerhouse team of New York design schools--Parsons, Pratt, School of Visual Arts, and The Cooper Union--in collaboration with the education company Hyper Island and Google."

The initiative itself has a video (same page as above) that quickly presents the idea. Here you can read more about the initiative on its website.

It is fascinating to see so many excited people around the world that believes that design in some fashion is the savior. In most cases of course it is seen as the solution to the problem of not having good enough innovations that can become successful startups or new product lines in slow moving large corporations. I will not here be critical to the 30week initiative since I do not really know much about it, except what the article and video says, which is not much. But just a couple of comments...

First, it is interesting to see that the people who will run this 30week program do not want to use the word "curriculum", instead the program is described as a set of crash courses, plus an ongoing design activity with support and critique from established designers. I would assume that if someone is to push for design then the "product" that is supposed to to this is well designed. A curriculum is a design. If you want to introduce design as an approach in 30 weeks, instead of a few years, it seems as if the need for a careful and detailed design is crucial and should be based on some foundational understanding of what defines design as a unique approach. I am afraid that if this is not the case then a program like this can do more damage than good for the general understanding and dissemination of design.

It is obvious that the program is aimed to "produce" people that will create and innovate and hopefully also develop companies. This is to me just one form of a design process which is much closer related to the process of invention and innovation, while less related to the design process where a designer works for/with a client. This is of course not a problem except that it presents design in a very narrow and specific meaning.

So while I am excited about the push for design and the extreme conviction about the power of design that this initiative shows, it is also a bit unsettling. I am afraid that this is what people will think about when they hear about design and design is reduced to a fairly simplistic process. Design is about changing our reality. Therefore design requires knowledge about society, people, and values, and about structures and processes, about impact and consequences. Any designer should have a broad and well rounded sense and understanding of the power of design, its responsibilities, the danger and evil of design, etc. I hope the 30week program includes some of that in their curriculum.