Design Schools are experiencing and will continue to experience huge upheavals. They are benefiting from real opportunities in development proportionate to the large cultural and socio-economic stakes the world is faced with today. They take a predominant place in the Higher Education field. Engineering Schools headed the field during the jubilant industrialisation. 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 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.
The new industrial and commercial balance of the world, the green and sustainable economy, the management of a new social intelligence around networks are the principal stakes on which “globalisation of the economy and trade” will be dictated.
Designers will be the major actors to study and respond to the profound changes in which products and services will be conceived, sold and consumed. It seems likely that they will play a strategic role in the companies that need to develop. Many of them will have to adapt, mutate, and change their line of business if they wish to continue to live through the evolution and the industrial reorganisation. The socio-economic importance of the approach to creation and innovation in the global context follows the era of total quality: it is no longer a matter of “doing even better what we already know how to do” but doing by creating “the unknown from the known” in order to create new situations on a greater and sustainable level. This is probably how we should reconsider the industrial paradigms of western economies faced with globalisation. It is up to GM, Ford, and Renault to reflect logically and strategically on what they could produce as long as it is not cars. Who would have thought 5 years ago that Apple would be the market leader in music broadcasting apart from its designers perhaps?
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.
If professionalization has changed the academic curricula enormously, one question can be asked to the training centres: how can designers who are educated technically in Design Schools become “managers” and/or “strategists”, trained for the high stakes that firms are faced with today?
Should they (the designer) remain “technicians” of creation and let engineers and “marketers” become their bosses, in charge of strategic innovation departments or “product managers”? Or on the other hand could they not finally take up managerial positions today that correspond to their talent, their culture and their particular vision of tomorrow’s world?: a world where the user- Humankind- is at the heart of every reflection on economic development.