GRADUATE EDUCATION: PREPARING DESIGNERS FOR JOBS THAT DON'T EXIST (YET)

20 March 2008
Anne Burdick
Anne Burdick

This article abstract is reprinted with permission. The full article is available online at Adobe.



In the late eighties, Masters students critiqued the status quo to shake up their thinking about design. In Europe and America, students and design critics were busy arguing about the value of post-structural theory, legibility, the vernacular, and deconstruction. The most influential graduate programs were form and theory playgrounds whose impact on the profession was marked by new stylistic genres while the theoretical critique endured in the classroom. In the midst of all this, Gillian Crampton Smith introduced the MA in Computer-Related Design at the Royal College of Art in 1989 (which later became the first degree in Interaction Design), and a new imperative for graduate education began to emerge. Though few in the established design domains—product, environmental, and communication design—understood it at the time, the status quo was about to deconstruct on its own.

While the profession has never been static, it seems like old news to report that the rate of change is increasing exponentially. Studio-based degrees such as the BFA and MFA have always involved learning how to design in addition to learning a specific body of knowledge. And for many years, professional categories such as graphic design or product design have defined what to design. But now both the how and the what changes daily.

Generational differences, particularly in relation to technology-driven cultural practices, introduce a new kind of energy to classroom dynamics. With emerging practices, it is frequently the students who lead the way. As a result, the relevance of teaching strategies that rely exclusively on apprenticeship and/or technical mastery is fading. Educators are struggling with what gets lost—from craft and hand skills to an easily identifiable domain of expertise. To prepare for a future in flux, students must learn to be adaptable, agile and strategic. Clearly this calls for a new kind of pedagogy.

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About the author
Anne Burdick is the Chair of the graduate Media Design Program (MDP) at Art Center College of Design and Design Editor of Electronic Book Review. Anne collaborates with texts and writers to produce new modes of reading and writing in diverse media, including the Mediawork book and web supplement, Writing Machines, by N. Katherine Hayles. Most recently Anne was the lead designer and a contributing writer for the MDP’s first transmedia publication, The New Ecology of Things, which includes a book, cell phone content, a book jacket/poster, and a website.