Rethinking Curriculum Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Future Scenarios for Graduate Design Education

Sapna Singh, Lecturer, The Ohio State University

This paper discusses future scenarios and curriculum for graduate design education developed by combining design research and strategic foresight methodologies.

The paper ‘AIGA Designer 2025’ points out that “curriculum based on industrial-age, message-centered perspectives on the fundamental principles of design is outdated.” Design is in a state of dynamic change. As design undergoes change, design education is expected to adjust as well but to a great extent its future is uncertain. Future scenarios exploring the role of design and designers in society can help envision the design education that could evolve from those scenarios.
This paper presents future scenarios for design education that were based on a research study conducted as a Masters thesis. The methodology adopted for developing future scenarios combined design research and strategic foresight methodologies for organizations as described by Peter Schwartz in his book “The Art of the Long View”. The research study was conducted with a focus on graduate design education in United States but the methodology explored could be applied to a global context.

Design research conducted for this research combined an information-based and inspiration-based approach (Sanders E. B.-N., 2005). Four stakeholders groups – students, faculty members, alumni and members of the industry – participated in the research. Stakeholders created visualizations of the future of graduate design education in a participatory design exercise using a generative design make toolkit (Sanders & Stappers, 2012) in the inspiration-based approach. The information-based approach utilized survey and conversational interview to reflect on current experience and future aspirations. Insights gathered from design research were combined with trend studies and identification of social, technological, economic, environmental and political drivers of change that would influence the future of design education.
The paper discusses the findings of the research leading to identification of key themes that would influence the future of graduate design education. Four future scenarios were identified that were translated into future roles for designers: traditional designer, constructive design researcher, hybrid co- designer, and systems sense maker. The identification of these future roles highlights that the role of a future designer cannot be narrowly defined as one who creates specific type of artifacts such as product, visuals or spaces but as being more diverse based on what they “make” – whether it is sense-making at the fuzzy front end or giving form to design process outcomes. The complexity of the problems will influence whether the future designer utilizes core design knowledge and skills or takes a transdisciplinary approach. These future roles will have wide ranging implications for design schools and selection of a direction to pursue would need assessing what would be a good fit taking into account available resources and ability to build competencies.

The paper discusses the four future scenarios, their implication on graduate design education and initiate conversations about developing future curriculum.  

The paper includes following sections:
1. Introduction
2. Problem Statement for Research
3. Methodology
4. Background information discussing current state of graduate design education in the United States.
5. Primary research, data analysis and insights
6. Scenario development methodology: Discussing development of future scenarios using the S.T.E.E.P. approach
7. Future scenarios
8. Implications for graduate design education