Design Education: Don’t be Separate!

I’m very interested in how we develop the next generation of interactive design talent. Partly because I’ve been both a educator (teaching and developing curricula at Art Center) and an employer (my own studio, Triplecode, and within other firms). And also because my own personal path has covered a wide range of professions.

David Malouf wrote a interesting post on Johnny Holland about design education: Interaction Design’s Early Formal Education & Beyond.

He starts with something which is common for many of us:

There are many interaction designers like myself whose growth into the field was a feat of organic if not chaotic chance. Our community of practice was born out of the convergence of people who did not have the option to be formerly trained in interaction design in almost any way what-so-ever. So we educated ourselves – sometimes alone and sometimes with the support of peers and mentors…

He talks about the current problem common in schools:

At the core of these issues is the belief in the separation between form and interaction. This myth can no longer be maintained – definitely not in education.

And that this separation continues on in professional practice:

I would challenge that to have “design” separate from “user experience” – as many creative agencies have done; or having “user experience” be the name or structure of your “design organization” – does neither scenario any long term use…

His article is a thought provoking look at how to start changing design education, and hopefully have a broader impact on the profession.

2 thoughts on “Design Education: Don’t be Separate!”

  1. Great article, and great post!

    I have had a lot of interaction (no pun intended) on this particular topic over the past 6 months, likely because the question is beginning to demand answers, not only for designers, but perhaps even more for those whom employ or interact with designers. What are we? Interactive, interaction, user experience, graphic, or visual designers?

    Obviously these labels aren’t all siblings, but rather belong to some complex hierarchy that seems to be mostly affected by infastructure. There are a lot of obvious patterns when you look at a small studio or firm compared to a corporate environment.

    At any rate, I must say I agree that separating skill sets out at such a minute level [to use a crude metaphor] creates more ‘moving parts’…which in the mechanical world eventually leads to a much higher chance of momentum loss, error, and even breakdown. The same applies here IMHO. As an example, I believe it’s a very rational expectation for an interaction designer to have visual communication skills… just as it makes sense to expect a visual designer working on interactive software to lack a background or experience in interaction design since interactivity, visual cues, sound, etc. all must swim in harmony.

    I won’t get started on the educational side of things, but I do wish to say, congrats on the new blog!

  2. Hi Dane – thanks for the comment. Yes – I totally agree. And I’d add the need to understand programming as another skill designers should have (I just posted about that today). There’s a definite need to re-think design education. I know some places are working on new approaches – and I hope to post about them in the future.