the old adage... what are design schools teaching?

I tread on this ground lightly, as not to offend, but why do so many of the product design and ID’ers promo-sites bear remarkable similarities to each other.

As always the “cool” sketches of the ubiquitous sport show followed up with a slick cell phone flow through most of the pages i have seen.

Once again this is not a slam at the students and graduates; it is perhaps more toward teaching instituitons.

Where are those offering innovation for people with disabilites?

Why are more students not involved in the Victor Papanek type of thing?

This stuff is definitely going on and especially in this back to “green” environmentally friendly revolution.

Are design schools churning out flashy designers.

Thoughts and discussion is welcome.

Post it up. A picture speaks a thousand words. Start it up and I’m sure more will follow…

right on yo.

check this site out

it was started by Ralch Hotchkiss, who designs wheelchairs that could be built in developing countries.

Why are more students not involved in the Victor Papanek type of thing?

Maybe because Papanek is far to idealistic for the real world? I will leave it at that because I am sure I could stir up a hurricane with my real views on Papanek.

Granted, I don’t know why I go easy on the guy considering he had no qualms about insulting anyone who didn’t have the same idealistic views as he has.

(fyi…my son decided to not sleep last night which puts me in a snarky mood. It took GREAT restraint to be this kind to Papanek)

Just curious iP … what lights you up about Papanek, aside from his idealistic view toward design(ers) ?

You may disregard the tradition of not speaking ill of the dead.

I will preface this with the fact that I haven’t read Papanek for over 10 years. So this is a decade’s worth of irritation augmented by fuzzy memory…

hmmmmm…what irritates me about Papanek? I remember, very distinctly walking away from reading Design for the Real World thinking that this guy is nothing but a whining, idealistic, granola eating, tree hugging, anti-establishment, Henry David Thoreau throwback. I thought Thoreau was a buffoon as well.

What has changed since I read him is that I now think of him as a well-intentioned whining, idealistic, granola eating, tree hugging, anti-establishment, Henry David Thoreau throwback. I still think Thoreau was a buffoon.

Like most things in life anything that is extremist in its views, and I definitely took Papanek’s views as extremist, is polarizing. He gave you no choice but to believe the he believed. No area of gray. Like it or lump it.

As me papa used to say, “That simply ain’t realistic, Son”.

You see, I come from the camp that believes Industrial Design is for the masses. It is not an artisen field. Not that you can’t be called an Industrial Designer if you produce one-off pieces of furniture…I simply tend to call someone in that profession an artist.

I have looked into the idea of producing products as valxcurry proposes. The problem being is that the numbers don’t add up. Well, they do, but the risk/reward ratio is low. There are some huge gaps in the assisted living catagory, but they are low volume relative to most consumer products Example: Augmentative Speech Devices (look them up). They are horribly designed. There is a huge gap to improve and make significantly more usable. They aren’t because they require a huge amount of time/capital to implement (correctly). It not realistic. Someone can, and likely will, do it one day. It just is not something that should be preached to every student that this is the way to design.

Industrial Design is chock-o-block of well intentioned humans. A significant amount of Designers seem to believe that the Lowest Common Denominators of the world requires our attention. When, to the contrary, there is are some processes of thought that there is too much intervention going on (example: in the sense that the Western World is providing too much charity to Africa creating over-dependency).

Back to Papanek. As I have stated, I believe he is well intentioned. As is anyone who wants to do the world good. My beef is that I would have much preferred business intelligence (a la Gore and his Inconvenient Truth approach) to extremist arrogance (which is how I read Papanek’s take).

ip_wirelessly had some strong opinions about papanek; which i respect.

Imagining that you are not alone in your beliefs I did not realize there was such strong oppositions to his “work”.

But we may have gotten a little sidetracked from my original question; are there not enough cell phone and running shoe designs already?

There are definitely some cool designs but what else is there?

Let me through this name out to intersect your business plan need ip_wirelessly.
William McDonough. THis man has a proven track record of financial and environmental success.

comments please.

Another comment to all.

Always the devils advocate, even against myself, I explored the possibility of cell phones and running shoes as symbols of America.

We are a culture based on intercommunication and movement.

Are these things more than they are?

its the semiotics of the products we purchase in our country…
not just that our culture is about comm and trans… but that we define ourselves through the products we wear and use… it’s communication in and of itself. like “what does this cell phone communicate about me”… not “does this cell phone communicate”

i’ve always found that strange…

Absolutely. I am far more likely to listen to McDonough than Papanek. Although, I have to say that when I saw McDonough speak at the IDSA conference back in Pasadena, he was painful to listen to as well.

There was a significant amount of arrogance in his presentation as well. What he did/does far better than Papanek is support his beliefs with numbers and facts. While Papanek seemed to be emotionally driven.

As for cellphones…there are absolutely too many cell phones out there. And 90% of them are complete and utter crap.

Right on ip_wirelessly.

Thank you for your insights on these guys.

So anyway what are your thoughts on Design schools in reference to the question I posed?

I know there is alot of talk about what schools are teaching, but I am still interested in you views.

In school we had classes where no if’s or but’s, everybody is designing a kitchen timer or a wheel chair. And then we had classes that were open, and that’s when cars/cellphones/sneakers galore thing happened.

i’m not sure how much of it is what schools are dictating vs. what an average student is enamoured with? Why are they enamoured w/ it? Pop-culture? What we perceive as cool? What draws people into ID? For me it def. wasn’t sustainable design. It is something I learnt and became interested in college around my sophomore year… If somebody gets into ID because they’re nerding out about sneakers, you probably are going to see a couple sneaker projects by their final year. One of them might be a “green” sneaker. Oh, goody.

Schools might try to force ethical agenda, but then you’ll get bitching students that are rebelling because they don’t get to have a portfolio piece in the field that they’re interested in…“But why do i have to design a kitchen timer if all i want to do a footwear design? i spend all my time designing kitchen timers! i don’t have time to do a project outside of school!” Professor gives in, student , because now he can finally design “sexy” stuff, puts an extra effort in the project…the renderings be poppin’…making it a better portfolio piece?

Check out the book

“Watches Tell More than Time” by Del Coates…

Check out the book

“Watches Tell More than Time” by Del Coates…

oooh don’t have that one in my library yet. i will definately check it out… thanks.

no prob…

Page 3 has one of the watches I worked on while at Evo by the way… sorry.

nice thoughts ! I am thinking how come no college academics are answering this thread. It would be interesting to know how university profs think about this.

I have always come to think that good schools should not be dictating students. (As a side point, there is a separate thread that people think that profs should not be tenured in any case. I had objected then. Now thinking about it, it does make a lot of sense. Over in my country, there are very few tenured teachers. Most are on contract. So if they underperformed or do anything wrong, their contracts can be terminated immediately.
On the other hand it can be very unfair if the students were only in for trouble. There are students who do not want to learn.And the quality assessment may damage the teacher. ) What are schools teaching ?
If we could see flashy work, or grads churning out to be so uncannily similar like their instructors/teachers, then we have a problem. It means that colleges fail to cultivate individual’s styles and talents.

How many great schools out there genuinly teach diversity and accept diversity without being too quickly disregarded ? Its a challenge I think.
And how many schools are willing to teach great character that is not discriminating and even petty is another. For the students today are the leaders of tomorrow.

Want to watch fur fly, put a kid that has conservitive political beliefs in a design course.

I was also noticing a couple of trends of how certain schools teach design.
Some are really influencing the students — if you do not follow your master, be sure your grades are low. I will post another thread of enquiry about this.

I think a school that fails to be open to different thoughts and fling though a work without looking through the efforts of a student is plain wrong. They are afterall in the midst of learning and by that it really means the process should be studied.

In the end the students are there to learn a process, and generally in the final year all the students get to develop there own brief, thus allowing them to extend their knowledge and to try it out on their own.

This normally leans towards something they have always wanted to do or have built an interest in while being at uni. One route would be to show the students what is being done in this area, then inspiring the those who want to build upon that.

To quote from the Matrix (1999)

Morpheus: “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

My friends are teaching in a certain local art institute. I can assure you the desire to teach ‘proper’ design is high. It’s the bureacratic wrangling and the obsession with national goals, coupled with bad hiring policies.

The school has hired back a few graduates that most would agree, don’t make the cut.

And lastly, you can’t motivate the uninitiated. Considering the Singaporean pysche, how many students willingly enter such art and design courses?