The schools of design will take a predominant place in the Higher Education field. Engineering Schools headed the field during the jubilant industrialization. Business Schools fell in behind them when the economy switched over from a production to a market economy. Design Schools, aware of the social responsibilities of designers as well as their economic responsibilities regarding innovation are becoming the key actors in Higher Education capable of uniting “science and conscience”, “social and economic”, “use, expectations and needs” with the aim to plan for tomorrow, a more sensible future than the present.
Design and designers have essentially the responsibility to change the world around them. At a time when the planet is threatened, when science has limitations, when the economic world is upside down, designers could have an immense responsibility. Design Schools should take their responsibility and train designers to become aware of these stakes.
The need to adapt curriculums to a shifting context
All higher education institutions are soon going to have to cope with major development-related issues, namely:
Strengthening the winning triumvirate “research – education – business” shaping their curriculums. If obviously most schools now favor work-based curriculums, there is still a lot to be done to organize research and knowledge production activities in coherence with social and economic. “Research in design” raises many interrogations thus giving researchers much food for thought. But it often amounts to conducting research about what “research in design” could be. Of course, such a mise en abyme is far from being efficient or serious. Nonetheless institutions must imperatively voice their opinions about this issue so as to improve the quality of their outputs. Along the same line the bond between education institutions and their industrial partners should be redefined and clarified: schools can no longer stand to be substituted for agencies. “Incubation centers” – where new projects will be hatched – must be implemented. Moreover, like engineering schools, design schools must evolve into “innovation centers.”
Giving a true international dimension to curriculums. The signing of the Bologna Treaty which lays the foundation of a worldwide organization of higher education curriculums around Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD’s will probably result in students pursuing their Bachelor’s in their native country and their Master’s Degree abroad. Master’s Degrees in design are but a budding initiative for now. Only the most competitive Master’s Degrees – complying with the winning triumvirate “research–education–business” will attract foreign students.
As schools gradually begin to organize their training courses around “socio-economical themes,” cross-disciplining and versatile skills will undoubtedly be brought to the fore. The former segmentation framing design education according to traditional categories such as product design, interior architecture, graphic design, and multimedia is going to be shattered to pieces, giving way to a more global-scoped practice of design. Moreover this new segmentation will also tighten the bond between engineering schools and business schools through jointly run curriculums. Because design is a technical activity fundamentally grounded in graphic representation and handcraft no other training course will be in a position to claim to be able to train operational designers in a few weeks time. Merging design education with other training courses could result in depreciating the very job-title “designer” because this label would be used to refer to activities other than design. A true designer is a professional who masters specific skills and a very unique technical know-how.
Education institutions are also going to implement exemplary sustainable development policies. The recent signing of the Cumulus Kyoto Declaration by all Cumulus Network member schools shows how committed institutions and designers are. Schools must strive to grow into some kinds of idea labs where projects would be conducted with a view to setting up a conception-based marketing to be implemented prior to any market creation.
To finish with I would say that there are two ways to consider globalization and the emergence of newly industrialized countries. The first point of view equates challenging and questioning our whole economic system; it has resulted in a bottomless economic crisis. The second one opens up doors to new gigantic markets. Today all designers must busy themselves with adapting products to the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian markets… This opportunity will probably trigger new reflections about identity issues and how to make a difference. In this overwhelming global market where cultural standardization based on a shared bastardized lingua franca looms on the horizon, the identity of creation takes on a revolutionary depth. Economically and socially speaking designers must strive to make sense out of differences, because differences are what makes Humankind so complete and plentiful.