• Random

  • 09.Aug
  • Queen at the London Riots
  • Many people are upset that The Queen wasn’t in London for the London Riots. So… Ladies and gentlemen who are leaving comments on The British Monarchy’s facebook page, worry no more. She was there: Click image to enlarge at full screen. Okay, I may have used a little Photoshop skills here. It’s actually a different […]

  • Design Process

  • 16.Apr
  • 5 Intelligent Questions to Ask
  • Here are 5 categories of questions good designers ask. I’m looking forward to being more self-aware of the questions I ask in the generative phase, making sure that they are diverging and not converging. I think it likely requires a little patience but I’m willing to wait for the ideas to ripen.

If I ran a design school

My dream would be to run my own design school. This post is about how I would run things at MyU.


My dream would be to run my own design school. This post is about how I would run things at MyU.

1) I would get rid of the idea that design is about the designer.

Design is very rarely about the designer, it’s about the person that has to use the design. Yet many times in a design project students are asked in an implied way, “What would you want if it were you?” Students would take classes in sociology, psychology and ethnography. They would learn how to observe, interview and understand people. Every project would be about finding problems, working with people and getting feedback from users and integrating it into the design. It would be human centric, not ego centric.

2. I would get rid of the separation between product design and service design.

In this case a “product” is anything tangible, whether it’s a poster or a car. But in order to get any product, there is a service that exists to support it, be it fully integrated or not. While there may be different skills needed for each type of product (such as editorial vs. branding design), the emphasis should not be on the specialisms of design (what ‘kind’ of designer are you?), but rather how to understand and then design for the whole system of goods and services in a range of media. This would involve understanding the relationships in the system between people, objects, rules and power and designing in a balance for those relationships. I’m currently developing a game that helps teams design for that balance.

3. I’d make them travel.

Having attended and organised study abroad programs before, I’ve seen the dramatic increase that leaving one’s homeland produces in creativity. Students would be required to spend at least one summer designing in a new place.

4. Students would feel socially responsible for the outcome of their work.

This means that students would have to assess if their work was a success or if it has done some harm. This would apply to designing voting ballots, to wayfinding for storm shelters. So much of the responsibility is put on the client that it degrades the contribution of the designer. If designers share the responsibility they also share the success.They are invested in the project doing well and for the design to be meeting the right needs. It becomes a partnership. This would be done by working with real clients, learning how to develop good relationships with them and how to evaluate the impact of their design on the community. Design and culture are interdependent. Designers should also feel that they can refuse jobs they don’t believe in.

5. I’d make them read and write.

Designers should be able to communicate not only through visuals but through sentences too. Every student would be required to have a blog. Reflecting on their progress, having to articulate their design process and soliticing feedback from others is key to improvement. Most critiques would be conducted on their blog via Flickr (I did this and students really enjoyed it). Students would debate design books and methodology in class and their blog. The blog would be open to the public which would generate interest by those outside the university. When students graduated the blog would be part of their portfolio, revealing the process behind the finished works. It would be something an employer could really appreciate and get a grasp of who the designer is that is applying for the job.

6. Designers would work with non-designers.

It’s more than likely a designer is going to be hired to work for someone who is not a designer. Part of being able to do this is to have an understanding of other disciplines and to be able to communicate to others the role that design has in their field. To gain that understanding, multidisciplinary teams would be set up to allow students to practice working with those who aren’t emersed in the design field.

7. Students would not be given assignments where ‘the client’ knows exactly the problems and requirements for the project/service.

Designers should be part of making the brief and would be responsible for making their own briefs for projects instead of being handed an assignment with pre-identified problems and constraints. The aim is to engage designers with projects from the start, not after the problems have been decided by someone else. Too many design assignments start with a 1-page brief where students don’t question the needs of their professor who is going to grade them on their work. Instead students would be handed a newspaper article talking about a problem in society with a simple assignment to “find the real problem and propose solutions.” Often the best chance for innovation lies at fixing the right problem and that involves questioning the client, and doing primary research to get to the brief. The valuable part of problem-solving shouldn’t be removed to make it easier on the student.

8. The university would always be open, professors would have regular office hours, and it would be located in the countryside.

Students need access to the large-format printing machine at 2 am. Professors should be available on a consistent basis outside of class. And it would be located in the middle of an open park-like space where people can relax and be inspired by nature. Flowers, insects, wildlife, streams, trees are all perfect examples of the best kinds of design on the planet.

9. The university would be social and students would teach eachother.

Time would be built-in for students to critique eachother and show new classmates the ropes. A large wall of work would always be on display in all stages of development. Any student can use the space for an hour or a day to get feedback. The whole university is made available to help a student with their work, not just the people in the class.

10. Students don’t pay for their final year of school, and are sponsored by outside companies/gov’t organisations.

This system encourages students to finish their degree and to build connections with potential employers and keep the university a tangible state of currency. Work that students do in their final year for their sponsors is paid to the university which funds student living expenses, research, benefits society and builds the university’s reputation. Relying on student fees alone can contribute to a sense of complacency. It’s also a way of the university saying “Thank you for investing in us, we are now investing in YOU.” It also makes the faculty want students to succeed, knowing that if students don’t do well the university will have to cut-back due to sponsors pulling-out. Of course this would only happen once the university was established.


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