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Design Education: Then and Now

Design Education: Then and Now

Today we have CRE8’s Founder – Kris Verstockt – who lectured at Shih-Chien University, and CRE8’s Sr. Design Manager – Willie Wu – who is currently a lecturer at Tatung University to talk about how design education has changed over time.

The Internet and the Hyper-Connected World

Willie: To compare the time when I was a student with the present, students nowadays have more access to the Internet and to resources worldwide. They could easily learn from other designers, get the latest information, and find solutions needed, enabling them to be self-taught and grow faster than ever. Also back then, 3D software was less used, and had very limited functions. We had to make every prototype and model by ourselves from scratch.

Willie: Now students are not used to making models anymore. Most of the times, they are asked by schools to finish works within a minimal time frame, so they use 3D renderings or even outsourced 3D prototypes to be their deliverables. Students are often graded by their software using ability rather than their design capability, thus missing the essence of design.

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Get Your Hands Dirty

Kris: As we already know, the world is flat. With the help of technology, knowledge becomes easily accessible. Back in ancient times when I was a student, we were largely influenced by our school, local culture, and our surroundings. But now one can argue that designers have higher possibilities to become “world designers”. A new challenge thus occurs: sometimes when you have too much information, you easily get data overloaded and end up giving up good ideas because you are afraid that they have been done before. But the truth is, if iterative process can be properly involved, innovation could still happen.

Kris: With the help of technology, schools tend to allow shorter time for students to develop good ideas. Teachers should bear in mind that not to sacrifice the prototyping process just because they have 3D software. Students need to make their hands dirty in order to learn.

Technology Should Come into the Design Process Later

Kris: When you are prototyping, with every part you make, you are still designing. It is the same in real design industry. In CRE8, we have a model room dedicated to hand-made models when many design studios have given up. Technology should come into the design process later. We often say that design is not about making a product more beautiful, but better. However 3D software is enhancing that problem.

Reality Bites

Kris: Universities should try to hire industry professionals to lecture in class. We think it is the main job of the school to prepare students for their future career. With industry people’s help, like our Senior Design Manager Willie did, students can learn marketing insights, understand how to face clients, and prepare themselves for the real world.

Willie: Taiwan government is starting to promote the design industry which subsequently makes people value design education more. Schools should take this chance to encourage students to work as interns or to get actual work experience in the industry, as learning from the real world is much more beneficial for students’ career paths than absorbing theories in the classroom. One good practice is to attend design competitions worldwide, which can be a powerful drive for groundbreaking design innovation.

Willie: After 2 years of teaching at Tatung University, I found that my students have become more mature over time through the learning process and workshops led by CRE8. They start to care more what the industry thinks of them.

Old-school is Cool

Kris: Schools are adopting new technologies too soon. Many students have lost the art of sketching: a crucial tool for fast iteration. Design schools should not lose emphasis on sketching classes.

Willie: I second that. Some students may be good at drawing landscapes or still life but are poor at using sketches to express their ideas. However, this is fundamental for good design.

In conclusion: In a world that is moving faster and faster, designers should play the role to remind people to slow down and look at things differently because there is simply no short cut to make good design.