A New Directive for Design?

At the end of last year, Pearlfisher – along with hundreds of other agencies – pledged its full support to the UK’s IncludeDesign campaign to oppose the Department of Education’s proposed changes to design education.

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IncludeDesign is not just opposing the removal of design and arts based subjects from the curriculum but is suggesting options and the changes that could be made. And this is the crux here. This issue has brought the whole issue of design education to the fore. And it is an area that is ripe for change.

As designers, we are agents for change. But it's not just change for the sake of change. We firmly believe that we can – and do - make the world a better place through challenger design thinking and that we should fearlessly continue to strive for this. And how we help change our current design education system - to foster the new generation of change makers and shape the future of design (and society) should be high on our agenda right now.

We are not knocking the caliber of our design schools and colleges but we do need to look at the set up of our entire education system. Not only is it founded on archaic principles and processes but schools are now being run like businesses with the aim of fulfilling the aims of these principles and processes to hit targets. A block to creative development? And certainly no longer reflective of the world we live and operate in.

The physical and digital craft of design has been (successfully) forced to merge to maximize creative output and opportunity - and the same approach now needs to be applied to design education. The whole education process needs to be redesigned for today’s needs and what we need is creative platforms for quality of knowledge sharing and learning - in all areas.

This has, of course, already started to happen with a boom in creative opportunity and output afforded by the accessibility of online and mobile technology. The growth of (often free) creative courses is growing at a phenomenal rate. In addition, easy to use skill development sharing, like Skillshare, the growing availability of digital apprenticeships, creative growth groups and open-source creation are all signs that we're evolving the ways in which we develop our creative selves and curate creativity.

Similarly, creative brands and companies are finding ways to mentor and foster new talent. The success of Jon Oringer and Shutterstock (microstock photography website) has been well documented. Shutterstock’s business model is based on championing amateur photographers and videographers from around the world. The business has also recently introduced its own photography courses.

A recent think piece by Cheryl Heller of the AIGA also discussed ‘Where design is going, and how to be there’. And she observed:

“To fulfill design’s promise, the most important shift we need to make is letting go of the entrenched mental model of design as the point of itself; as the end product rather than as a means to something greater…We will only make design a force in creating the future if we see it not as an end in itself, but as a tool, a medium, a lever in a process of ongoing transformation - and if we take full responsibility for the transformation we engender.” (Source: AIGA)

We need to recognize and champion the evolutionary power of design and the growing importance of establishing a new, more fluid and holistic design directive and approach across all areas of society. And, as part of this, the changing face of design education needs to be embraced by a dedicated mix of government, schools, brands and businesses - to nurture and inspire the next generation of design and creative talent through new systems and programs that reflect the new world order in which we are living and which make design accessible and transformational for all.

Jonathan Ford, Founding Partner & Chief Creative Officer