Latest iteration on the redesign of design education (academic literature)

Shi Ji journal from Tongji University out of Shanghai has released a new collaborative effort to, once again, push for inclusion of more surveillance and product management pedagogy in undergraduate design education. Despite being a Chinese publication, most all of the administration and contributors are western academics.

cringe warning
This particular introduction paper reads like a riff of Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design. Most of the contributors to this release are near retirement age, so hopefully this will be their last effort to try to tell designers what they “must and need to do”.

Many of the contributors have been supporting this line of argument in design education for over a decade. Hopefully, this is their last gasp.

My views are obviously biased and highly critical of their approach. What are yours?

Other papers in the set can be found here:

Have a long couple flights to Asia in a few days, will read this over the Aleutians.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make it all the way through. I got tired of the false assumption.

But I do think this is the desired outcome of their process.


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I completely agree with you.

However, it takes time and distance plus experience and intuition all working together to see it as clearly as you do.

I do not think that they are doing this deliberately. Its a blindspot that has never been addressed since design as we know it today was born after the productivity gains of the post WW2 era led to the need to accelerate the consumption cycle (see Vance Packard, Hidden Persuaders:Waste Makers: Status Seekers). Brookes Stevens is credited with creating the idea of style obsolescence and selling that as the need for upgrades and replacements of perfectly working consumer durables.

The point is that design education has not been decolonized from its profit maximization through accelerating consumption at any cost roots and practice has changed so much that we recognize the gap between the academic lag and the evolutionary thinking styles of contemporary designers.


Now this is a hypothesis I love and actually would consider a worthy project of Design. (capital D on purpose, :slight_smile: )

I certainly don’t believe design is the root cause overconsumption/planned obsolescence/etc, it certainly does play an integral part of the process. But it is most definitely a problem worth solving.

So if Design can find a solution that excites the customer to solve the problem of an overly rapid consumption cycle, then I will agree design can be used to solve larger problems and this type of work in academia is worthwhile. If we cannot solve “large” problems in our own backyard, I don’t think we deserve a seat at the big-boys table and the paper in the op is just another crackpot manifesto.

Again, just my .02. ymmv.

Interestingly, the increasing formalization and scientification of the discipline of design in academia has led to people with PhDs teaching design without ever having practiced design professionally as an income source. This is not a new tension and one that was discussed at ID-IIT where Sharon Poggenpohl was counted amongst the pioneers of a PhD in Design in the United States. Like the MBA, the master of design was a terminal degree that allowed designers to specialize. What the arguments collated in this special issue take issue with is the proliferation of advanced studio master’s theses work as design doctorates.

Design research (academic style) has followed design practice and professional advances because they need something to study, if they are not themselves designers using design tools for knowledge generation. This is different from the natural sciences and the engineering sciences where advances in materials chemistry/biology/metallurgy may lead to advances in design practice professionally - see steel tubes in the Bauhaus for example which led to the evolution of industrial design for mass manufacturing as opposed to the previous handcrafted artisanal work of a Chippendale or Heppelwhite.

This leads to a lot of disciplinary fragility.

My jet lagged brain found this paper audaciously overextended. Nobody can do or study all of those topics or even integrate them into a degree, and I don’t think they should take responsibility for all that either.