Help me teach design


I’d like to ask for some input to improve design education. I teach industrial design in Delft, where I’m mainly involved in the big design projects of our Bachelor’s course. And as I’ve been doing that for a number of years, I’m getting a little bit frustrated with the fact that there are a number of questions or subjects that all my students struggle with at some point, but for which there don’t seem to be clear and concise discussions of the relevant theory I can point them to. So I’ve decided to try and write a set of those articles myself, to hand out at the exact moment a student is struggling with some subject. I’m aiming at less than a 1000 words plus some clear images and examples.

So, my question here is this: are there things that you struggle with or remember struggling with in the early years of design school that you feel should be the subject for one of these? And do you think it would help to have a little booklet, pdf or post somewhere that your teacher could point you to? I’m thinking more in the realm of theoretical concepts than skills.

Two examples of the sort of thing I get asked a lot:

  • What is a concept? And why on earth do you guys keep asking me to come up with three of 'em, when I already have a solution?
  • How can I justify my choice for a certain concept or design? What are the ways in which to say a design is ‘good’ without it being completely subjective?

Now, I know that most of design isn’t something you learn from a book. But I do think that there are some important theoretical points that my students could benefit from having explained clearly, in a format that they can take away after we’ve talked it over in person.

I’d love to read your thoughts.

Welcome to Core Bob,
As people here mull over your question, take a look at the top of the stuent and schools boards and read the: If I Knew Then What I Know (Advice to students) thread. it’ll probably give you some ideas on where the community feels education is lacking.

Hey. And thanks!

And having lived on a few of these sorts of forums elsewhere, I realise I’m not really sticking to etiquette with this as a first post :wink:.

But I did look through that discussion, actually. Much of the advice in that thread is good stuff, but also mainly in the area of habits, skills, portfolio building and so on.

Points like this one:

Draw and sketch constantly. go to flea markets and buy old well-designed products and surround yourself with them. Take them apart and understand exactly how and why they were made

This is a great habit to develop, and super educational. But I find that I can only get students to invest in these sorts of things if they get why this is such a great habit (for which, in this case, I usually go over one or two pages of Bryan Lawson’s book ‘What Designers Know’ with them). But a lot of those theoretical reasons that seem to hit home are buried in a book somewhere that, taken as a whole, is far too much work to study, and probably not worth it for a first year’s student.

So that’s sort of the direction I want to look at. And maybe that should have been the question more: what ‘Eureka’ moments do people remember, what lightbulbs do you remember going off theoretically? (an additional goal would be to make my teaching a little more at home at a university, in addition to being a good preparation for professional life).

Another one:

You are there to learn how to give valuable, timely, incisive, inquisitive, critique.

I spend a lot of time in discussions with students about what, exactly constitutes that sort of critique, and why.

So again, what I’d like to try to add, and what I would be interested in talking about here is not so much what students should do (and asking them to trust me on that), but helping them understand why those things are important (so that I can appeal to reason, in stead of authority and experience).