Why study design? — tbpmx featuring Ashby Solano
The pedestal in which design was perceived as a purely aesthetic trade has been demolished, and despite some other professions still perceiving it just like that, we just need to take a look into the outside world to see how far design has come.
In a society in which the choice of professional studies is still a victim of stereotypes and going to school for a creative career is deemed as artistic, poetic and with little to no scientific value or prestige compared to others: why is it important to study design?
What most people don’t know is that design has matured and evolved since the times of “form follows function”/“function follows form” —depending on who you’re asking— to a collective of creative careers that involve research on topics like technology, robotics, programming or biological systems, to name a few. The pedestal in which design was perceived as a purely aesthetic trade has been demolished, and despite some other professions still perceiving it just like that, we just need to take a look into the outside world to see how far design has come.
Design is a prefigurative process in which humans can visualize solutions that align with a problem —or a collection of many— and the creative professions focus on strengthening this mental process. As a result, graduates from these programs have not only potentialized their creative abilities but also specialize in project management, use of digital and analog tools, storytelling and communication. This cumulus of knowledge turns creative professionals into multidisciplinary, collaborative and open members of the workforce.
Creative professionals —or members of the Orange Economy as some have named it in recent years— establish as a fundamental piece of their work the solution of strategic problems focusing on innovation that center in its users; professionals that in their look for constant balance aim for finding new business opportunities while also making people’s life better through generating experiences, products, systems or services.
Design practice can be connected to many others due to its thinking-based educational structure that allows the practitioner to adapt to any given situation, regardless of the area associated with the research being held. FastCo published in 2016 a list of careers of the future, where they mentioned design careers in AR/VR, human organs, intelligent systems, machine learning, and nanotech. This just a small sample of how creative careers evolve, adapt and diversify with time.
Design changes in a heterogeneous industry, in which it’s of utmost importance to have a creative profile with high levels of technical knowledge. Not everything is indeed fun and games, according to the Abilities for the Creative Economy Report published by the British Council in Mexico and presented at the beginning of 2019, only 29.1% of the programs revolving around creative careers complement the student’s formation with the development of entrepreneurial abilities, which reflects that many of the paradigms revolving around creative careers come from their foundations. We need to have more programs that focus on multidisciplinary education, with collaboration and connection in mind, in which students learn about financial, administrative and legal matters. We also need to integrate more courses that connect us with other disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Implementing these changes would give creatives a balanced education that truly arms them with both creative and technical skills.
It is a great challenge for universities that specialize in one particular aspect of design instead of seeing it as a holistic profession, whether they focus on aesthetics, design entrepreneurship or product engineering. The challenge becomes greater when they have to take into account other factors outside of the institutions themselves: the target audience, government organisms that oversee their performance, available resources, and many other pre-established notions built around education. Sadly, most of the creative programs that have been able to expand and diversify constantly end up falling behind without really fulfilling the market and industry’s expectations.
Due to the aforementioned, it is important to complement our future designer’s education with experiences outside of the classroom, networking with industry experts, spaces for feedback, etc. At the same time, it is relevant to understand that studying a career in design or creativity requires an open mind and flexibility to develop complex projects or that can be very diverse in their applications in the real world. A great deal of a specialized formation will require studies or certifications that designers will have to seek for themselves and for them to be willing to be self-taught. Above all, designers have to believe and give value to our trade by understanding that being “creative” does not rival being “technical or scientific”.
Ashby Solano – Industrial Designer, Professor, and Researcher.
Graduated from the University of Los Andes in Venezuela. Project Leader of technological research in the Laboratorio de Cómputo Afectivo y Narrativa Transmedia at CENTRO de Diseño, Cine y Televisión in Mexico. The lab has the goal of complementing and expanding the creation, production, and distribution of content about innovation and technology generated by the same institution. Solano was Industrial Design Department Coordinator and Project Manager at the Digital Fabrication Lab for four years, space in which projects are developed around applying the latest technologies and production ways in the design field. Solano has 15 years of experience in product design, strategic management, development, organizing planning and coordination of design projects.