Blueprints for Designers’ Lifelong Learning

04 June 2017
Competences, Credentials, Actions at 3rd Istanbul Design Biennale (Turkey).
Report by ico-D Vice President Cihangir Istek

Report by Cihangir Istek

As one of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennale activities, ico-D Member Istanbul Bilgi University organised a workshop entitled Competences, Credentials, Actions: Blueprints for Designers’ Lifelong Learning in collaboration with ico-D, the International Council of Design, and IIDj, the Institute for Information Design Japan. The workshop took place between 22–23 October 2016 at the santralistanbul campus.


Background and Introduction

Developments in society, professions, and technology are driving change at a rapid pace, pushing both formal and informal education to adapt to new needs, constraints, and opportunities for learners, mentors, and facilitators from a wide range of age groups and disciplines (1).

There are several statistics that strengthen these insights:

  • According to Wells (2), who says that, in Europe, only 25% of students are satisfied with the skills received in their formal education. This means that more than 75% of students question the quality of their education and how meaningful it is.
  • Heffernan (3) quotes MacArthur Foundation’s report that, 65% of today's school children will eventually be employed in jobs that do not exist yet
  • The McKinsey Global Institute (4) foresees that 20 to 23 million workers in advanced economies do not have the skills that employers will need in 2020.
  • A projection in 2010 by Anthony P. Carnevale from Georgetown University (5) states that by 2018, 60% of job openings in the United States will require workers with at least some college education.

These changes challenge long-held assumptions. In the short-term, they ask that there should be more inclusion across disciplines, which, up until recently, has not been considered relevant. They also afford new formats such as multichannel curricular offerings, virtual classrooms, real-time reviews—including monitoring and assessments by social media audiences. Furthermore, long-term education/training schemes from kindergarten to post-profession groups of elderly are being reformatted.



As complexity and interconnectedness increases, the field of design also gains more recognition as a discipline of great relevance and potential for impact. Communities, cities, and even countries emphasise the inclusion of design for understanding, planning, and for the implementation of solutions that benefit its members/citizens.

All of this suggests that there is not only an urgent need for new paradigms in Design Education—to employ a broader perspective/understanding for the learning, personal and professional development of designers—but also tremendous opportunities for change. For example, ‘schooling’ is only one format of learning. However, there are many other opportunities to further knowledge and enhance the skills that designers would need throughout life both for personal and professional development.



Reaching beyond traditional formats of learning, we think that designers’ education should be understood from the holistic/broad perspective of “Lifelong Learning”.


Our understanding of Lifelong Learning focuses on:

  • Gaining competences across ages and disciplines in formalised and informal training
  • Sharing of knowledge, recognition, and practice in learning throughout life
  • Engaging outside the classroom/school within a diversity of settings and sectors



As first steps, Istanbul Bilgi University in collaboration with ico-D and IIDj, the Institute for Information Design Japan, organised a special workshop “Competences, Credentials, Actions: Blueprints for Designers’ Lifelong Learning” in Istanbul, Turkey organised an intense brainstorming on these views/insights of an extended Design Curriculum.



The workshop was also held as part of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennale activities, where professional designers and experts from non-design areas, including academicians, administrators, educators, government representatives, corporate specialists, and activists gathered between 22 - 23 October 2016 at santraistanbul campus.


David Grossman, President of ico-D, Prof. Dr. Halil Nalçaoğlu, Dean of the Communication Faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, and Sébastien Shahmiri, Corporate Communication Specialist/Consultant, joined the workshop as group-work moderators, while ico-D Vice President Cihangir Istek (Istanbul Bilgi University) and Andreas Schneider (IIDj and Guest Faculty of Istanbul Bilgi University) acted as curators.




‘3Factors Model’—a structured method for assisting the modelling of design planning and developments, informed the conceptualisation and structure of the workshop, departing from the permutations of 3Factors (6). The group-work sessions were organised around three aspects that we consider to be the core constituents (tracks) of Lifelong Learning: Competences, Credentials, Actions. Each of these core tracks was led by one of the moderators.



Examining relationships with a range of other factors we brainstormed on ideas and visualised the results as blueprints for new vocational visions and formats. Teams investigated particular aspects in three sessions of explorations, discussions, and presentations:

  • Session 1: Contexts
  • Session 2: Scenarios
  • Session 3: Future Projections/Agenda

Shuffling each group’s participants across sessions exposed everybody to a wide stretch of questions, supporting the workshop’s principal line of cross-disciplinary collaboration.



Expert-presentations provided further insights and helped keep discussions focused on the demands, constraints, and opportunities of Designers’ practice in different fields and contexts.



01 Competences
Competences describe a person’s special abilities or qualifications for doing good work. Identifying and communicating somebody’s competences successfully makes that person a desired partner to collaborate with. As there are many competences that defy standard categorisation, the workshop sought schemes to help giving individuals appropriate recognition and valuation.


Personal development and fulfilment, active citizenship, social inclusion and safe employment require competences that complement knowledge with the motivation for long-term learning and holistic understanding of particular contexts.



Throughout the three sessions a common thread emphasised the significance of learning in the very early stages of a person’s development. Lifelong learning becomes a natural perspective for people who experience the cyclical patterns that hold observations, understandings, and modelling of knowledge. Seeded in primary education, such experiences drive a motivation and ability to learn throughout life, leading to the sustained growth of competences.

02 Credentials
Credentials are essential ingredients to a person’s motivation. Confirmation and appreciation of achievements by others become a seal of achievement and also a ticket towards taking next steps. Framing received credentials as proof of recognised competences is an active strategy in deal-making communications. While a range of standardised professional, national, and international certification schemes, such as ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Articulation System), WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and etc. exist, Lifelong Learning requires other protocols for endorsement. During the workshop, this track explored formats that can provide proper credit for achievements of varying complexity across different contexts as defined by age, expert domains, profession and other factors.



Lifelong Learning happens at any time, and in many ways. Credentials vary from the very personal amongst peers—informal, yet delicately tuned by those who share the same language, to the framed documents that are recognised by the general public—these could be trophies or the space/attention given in mass media.

It was recognised that certification schemes of established educational institutions are not able to appropriately keep pace with developments in society and technology. Hence, the challenge for this group was to identify the gaps that are not covered by credentials as dispensed through formal systems.

Credentials may thus describe modes for successful hacking of accepted norms and values, producing highly personalised badges of recognition and trust that cannot be collected, augmented, traded for higher valuations, and exchanged in various denominations.

03 Actions
Lifelong Learning goes along with Evidence-based Education/Learning. Blueprints—made up of new concepts for new vocational formats, should consider how project-driven learning within concrete use-cases can enhance the development of competences and produce meaningful credentials that help people join or build the best working environments for them.



The broad, ever-growing realm of competences required by professional designers is fairly easy to chart, as is the map of very diverse and multi-faceted spectrum of learning opportunities.

The challenge is to infuse a ‘culture’ of Lifelong Learning in the minds of designers as an accepted ‘professional/social more’. This can only be achieved by a concerted effort of the professional community, academic institutions, and perhaps governments, to engage in collaborations that span the development of curricula, the coordination of certification schemes, and the provision of working opportunities.


Conclusion: Preliminary Agenda

The workshop concluded with a Preliminary Agenda coupled with a diagram. The Preliminary Agenda lists the most critical points for the development of Blueprints for Designers’ Lifelong Learning—a list of actionable ideas on new curricular contents and formats for decision-makers, academicians, administrators, educators, government representatives, corporate specialists, and activists:


  1. Seeding at an Early Stage
  2. Mapping of Competences
  3. Identifying within Contexts



  1. Holding Communities of Professionals to Ac-count
  2. Badges of Recognition
  3. Patching Gaps left by Formal Education



  1. Building a Culture of Learning
  2. Lifelong Learning as Professional More
  3. Engaging in Cycles of Actions




The final diagram reflects the participants’ shared understanding, that Lifelong Learning has a continuing relevance around people’s life trajectory. Recognising Lifelong Learning as the glue that holds a heterogeneous realm of Competences, Credentials, and Actions together will help in the developing of appropriate curricular concepts to seed, breed, and cultivate it.


Future Projections

This Istanbul workshop was the first of a series of multiple gatherings. The outcome of these expert-meetings will be summarised in a proposal to the First Global Design Summit in Montreal, 2017, to advance discussions of future vocational learning models with a more international scope.

The theme of Designers’ Lifelong Learning connects ico-D’s Educational, Professional and Promotional Members. The outcomes are also expected to help/coordinate the existing Work Groups of Curriculum Development and Accreditation, Certification & Professional Development.




(1) Istek C., Schneider A., Andıç A. (Editors, 2017). Competences, Credentials, Actions: Blueprints for Designers’ Lifelong Learning - A Workshop on Curriculum Development. Istanbul Bilgi University, October 22-23, 2016.

(2) Wells, K. (2016). “The Holy Grail of Future Work”

(3) Heffernan, V. (2011). “Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade” The New York Times.

(4) McKinsey Global Institute (2012). The World at Work: Jobs, Pay, and Skills for 3.5 billion People

(5) Carnevale A. P., Smith N., Strohl J. (2010). Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018. Georgetown University

(6) IIDj - Institute for Information Design Japan. 3Factors Model.