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Design schools, what are they missing?

Dear friends,

today’s post title is a question: Design schools, what are they missing? The question is almost a must if we consider all changes we assist caused by the financial crisis and social changes all over the world. Some important design schools, since few years, implemented their design courses with Master Programs trying to help students to have better chances to get a design job and also trying to meet industry needs.
In some cases this new opportunity is working and in Europe governments are waking up about the importance to put together industry and schools to fight loss of jobs. This is happening for many different type of fields and, even if it is not enough, we are happy it is happening opening minds for a more useful exchange between job world and academic world. Internships in Europe are growing so it is good news.

However lets talk about Design schools because few weeks ago I had a very interesting talk with a friend working for an important car design school. He was asking me to reason about what is still missing in schools to really satisfy professional Design studios needs. The intent is to be as realistic and close to the real world to serve better as school. Excellent position!

Since my private talk with my friend I couldn’t stop thinking about the question motivated by my passion and past involvement with design schools.

In my opinion Design schools today have reached a very professional level teaching drawing techniques (extremely important), design thinking, problem solving, modeling, visual arts, digital reality, presentation techniques…at so on.
But something is missing and to me it is teaching, to any student, how to be a good manager of him/herself to be able to manage projects on a larger scale.

Design Management is poor or missing!

Design Management my favourite subject when I do my lectures in schools.
It is important for  students because it is about: discipline, planning, schedule, strategy, research, benchmarking, equation between cost/timing/quality/design, industy platformes, tactics, lobby, politics…team work.

When I go to visit schools and I start talking about the role of a an expert designer withing a design studio…students ask me: how do you start a car project? Why? How do you make your model in a real car?

With those questions I understand that there is still a sort of barrier between the artistic evolution of a school project finalized with a nice model cool drawings  nice clean presentation and what could happen after! I believe that if we do not explaine what happens after…we leave students in a sort of protected limbo that keeps them too far from what the real world will ask them to do once they are real designers working in team.

So, if it were for me, I would teach (at the final year or semesters) short principles or lectures about: working in a design studio, the designer project team, all different design roles, all different responsabilities, differences between design director and design project manager, how design is connected to engineering departement, how a design manager has to interact with a platforme project director, how a designer has to interact with engineers and suppliers…in a few words I would try to make them understand how they have to use all they learned in school how to apply it on a real design studio action.

The important point is how to help a young designer to get faster and professionally into the real system. How to make him/her confident about what will happen next.

Thanks for reading.

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  • Luciano Bove
    April 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    OK dude I'll try to improve it, thanks!

  • TKauranen
    April 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    What is lacking in design schools are avenues that enable students to start their own companies. Most design schools expect graduates to pursue employment within a already existing company. Entreprenuership programs and classes on patent protection options for those who are inventors, these are some ot the real voids. Don't subject all design students to be cogs, empower them to invent their own machine.

  • disotto1
    April 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

    thank you to highlight this painful aspect on what is missing in schools. The picture you're showing transmit well the idea. I agree with you: one of the most important thing that is missing in a school is the way to tell students what kind of experience they will find when they'll be working in a real situation, in a real company or in a studio in which their role won't necessary be so important as they were trained to do and what they learnt while studying might appear insufficient.
    I strongly believe that the presence of open minded companies in schools of design (not only car design) is relevant but not so easy to achieve. Actually the way companies are involved (I'm talking about my experience in Italy in private master courses) is more based on the idea of what companies can get from the school (projects, ideas, people) rather than to what company can give to the school in terms of know how and/or advices or assistance.
    It seems to me that for the companies it's a must to say they are working with a design school and vice versa, but at the end the dialogue between the two is not so deep as it could be, for many and evident reasons of time and money. Do you think the actual crisis is limiting the possibility for companies to send their staff for such a long term activity in the schools and universities or/and what could be the ideal way to organize this kind of relationship?

  • Luciano Bove
    April 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Dear Disotto1,

    you are right but one problem is also given by people interacting with design schools from companies…not always people that attended design school or believe in this mutual relationship. So the exchange never gets deep enough to be a win win relationship.
    My case is particular because I have been involved with design schools teaching for many years while being a designer and today I stilltry even if my role became more complicated in terms of business schedule and responsabilities.
    However I think that design schools should propose a new model to companies to interact in a more productive way.


  • Make me learn
    May 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Good post . I'm glad I found your site

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