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    This is a presentation that was first given at the 4th IJADE conference in Liverpool at John Moores University in late 2012. It's a collaboration… Read More
    This is a presentation that was first given at the 4th IJADE conference in Liverpool at John Moores University in late 2012. It's a collaboration between Professor Alex Milton and myself, and discusses case studies, exercises and proposals for what Design Education might develop into in the future. It essentially captures some of the case studies, exercises and processes that I began at Heriot-Watt University in the School of Textiles and Design, at a student level and then what can be done at a structural level, using the National College of Art and Design in Dublin as a case study for these changes. Read Less
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A paper written in 2012 compiles various exercises, case studies and theoretical approaches to developing a 'new' type of design education.
 
This paper outlines the case for a new model, one that takes on board previous schools of thought but develops a new, relevant frame for design teaching, design learning and the academy in the future.
For this conference we thought it would be interesting to focus on one particular aspect of the paper.
 
Today we're going to discuss a few of the exercises that have been used as the basis for case studies in the paper.
 
Primarily we are focusing on demonstration our 3 strand approach to encouraging change in the design academy, which is a key aspect of our 'call to arms'.
 
A 'call to arms' asks for people to make changes, it should show people what's been achieved through change [previously] and should excite them to make their own changes.
The broad context for the manifesto, for the notion of changing the design academy, is the world we live in today.
 
Listen to the news, listen to people on the bus, train & streets, look around you, look at the newspapers, and now stop to think about what that all adds up to.
 
The world is as we've known it is in freefall, with economies crashing and life, globally, becoming increasingly difficult because of all sorts of socio-economic events.
 
The world is in flux, in a state semi-permanent upheaval.
Recently we've had 'Occupy Wall Street', we've had people beaten and abused by state police in Russia when protesting against Putin.
And if we look back across the 20th century this is a consistent pattern, but if you shift focus and start to think about these actions as statements, as moments of willful attempts to change history - as people, movements, moments that have attempted to turn bad into good...
 
....then surely these actions are what the world needs now?
 
Indeed the Berkley anti-Vietnam protests in 69, and the London riots in Brixton in ?? did knock down many theoretcial walls, which have allowed us to live the way we do today
If this is the case, and if we look at how, for example, people in Egypt have affected change by standing up and coming together....perhaps this is what we should be encouraging with design students?
 
Should we not be encouraging a riot, a protest, some agitation of our own? Should we not be stimulating radicalisation and loss of control?
 
Design should be a part of shaping a better world. Design should be helping people live. Design should be shaping the world we live in tomorrow.
 
How does the academy do that and move forwards in a more relevant way?
Our staff and students must understand what change is, embrace it and feel empowered to make it happen.
 
We, the academy, must prompt reactions which start change. And that doesn't involve burning or destroying, but what we might do is instigate small events, put little pieces of the puzzle in play; elements that start a process of change all on their own.
 
Fischli & Weiss made several installations/films that demonstrate the momentum and power created by one thing hitting another, nudging the next thing, dropping onto something and so and so forth.
 
Could this idea of the chain reaction be used as a basis for imbedding change in the academy?
We could, of course, burn the Sorbonne. But what have we learned from history, what have previous models, trials and design educational movements taught us?
 
Surely they've proven that burning down the house doesn't doesn't always result in the desired 'domestic bliss'?
 
Does destroying the ivory tower always create stronger students?
 
Does starting from scratch actually mean a clean slate and is that actually a good thing?
 
Initially we look at bottom-up change; student-led change.
 
Within my role, and through writing 2 new courses for final year 'fashion design for industry' students, I've been able to implement an innovative and flexible structure to encourage students to take control, to take the learning into their own hands.
 
By encouraging this 'loss of control' on the part of the institution, we have enabled the students to inform us about how they want to learn and what they want to learn.
 
By creating flexible elements, tools, within the course structure gives the programme room to grow, scope to develop to meet changing needs, and provides a platform for student-led learning that currently doesn't exist in the school.
This paper, and these case studies are based on almost 2 years of working at the SoTD,  Heriot-Watt University.
 
In this school I've written 6 courses across 3 years of the UG fashion programme (incorporating a stepped progression toward independent thinking as they move to the final year). The focus on design research authoring design direction, research methods and design thinking.
 
The aim of this approach is to instigate greater ownership of the design process amongst students and to strengthen their design output.
At the start of their final year, this year, the fashion students came into the studios to find political propaganda, tabloid images of riots/protests and Situationist slogans all around the studio.
 
This political, activist slant was particularly apt considering the school was restructuring and saw large numbers of staff leaving.
My approach to their teaching these students this year is all to do with taking action, making a statement and standing up to be counted.
We could, of course, burn the Sorbonne. But what have we learned from history, what have previous models, trials and design educational movements taught us?
 
Surely they've proven that burning down the house doesn't doesn't always result in the desired 'domestic bliss'?
 
Does destroying the ivory towers  always create stronger students?
 
Does starting from scratch mean a clean slate and is that actually a good thing?
 
Within the context of the 'call to arms' we want to show students what change is, we will talk to the students about change and we shall give them tools which they can use to make changes.
 
By showing them what change can look like and by giving them enough freedom to feel that they could shift/build/break what surrounds them....they become empowered and as feel that they could affect the system. And therefore, they do.
I ran this course for the first time last year, and to stimulate student 'action' then, I had written an initial manifesto 're:view, a manifesto for the new beginning'.*

*This was the introduction year of the course. I wrote a second manifesto in 2012  'rrrriot; towards an incubated space for design thinking'
 
 
In 2011, when I first wrote the course, the final year students had become disillusioned with teaching and the school; they were going into their final year very jaded and disheartened, not a good way to start.
 
Following lengthy end of semester meetings and discussions, I decided to start with the manifesto, and to create a set of lo-fi posters (mimicking zines, DIY punk aesthetics & influenced by John Baldessari's work) to accompany it - these were put up in the studios, so they were reminded of key prompts on a daily basis.
 
The first class of the year was delivered as a series of consecutive workshops.
 
The first exercise was called 'who do you think you are?' and involved students answering a set of questions - drawn from generic interview/profiling research. Instead of having to complete a standard academic form, the questions were shouted out, and they had 30 seconds to answer, on a post-it note, on the wall. By the time they'd answered all the questions, the walls were covered in brightly coloured bits of paper.
 
Students were then asked to go around the studio reading others answers and to post their own additional comments. This was a critical exercise to carry out, as in fashion, the students are extremely protective and competitive of work & designs - they rarely look at each others work or are allowed to. This exercise forced them to be more open and made them aware of what each other were doing, who they were looking at, what direction they were going in for this final year etc. etc.
The second exercise was titled 'And what do you want?'. After the students had reflected on their own responses, in comparison to others, they were given 5 minutes to draft a manifesto. They created statements about what they wanted in life, in work, for themselves, for their future, personal and professional. They then stood on a chair and read these out to the class - Dead Poets Society style!
 
QUESTIONS:
- 5 key words that describe you?
- 3 key words that others would use to describe you?
- who are you referencing this year?
- 5 key words that would describe the direction you're taking this year, or describe what you're looking at?
- if you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you want to take with you?
- are you happy?
- are you a follower or a leader?
- where would you go to research your project this year, hypothetically, in an ideal world?
- where do you see yourself one year after graduation?
- where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?
- who is your hero?
- what is the last track you listened to on your ipod/nano/phone
 
 
The response that these 2 initial exercises generated was quite amazing.
 
By methodically working through a set of questions which prompted them to consider their direction, their influences and to picture where they wanted to be in the future, the students approached the manifesto without hesitation.
 
It was a way for the students to engage in reflection and evaluation processes, without the usual academic formality. It was also a method that allowed the students to own the evaluation process.
 
Interestingly it was also a tool which they then used, on their own, to tackle problem solving for other aspects of this course and others.
 
The other interesting outcomes from this exercise:
 
- It gave me an insight into any potential problems - personal or academic - which these students were dealing with, without intrusive questioning or a traditional teacher-student approach
 
- It provided me with data to help enhance the new course ie. to incorporate more opportunities for 'risk', to integrate exercises or presentation/assessment techniques which allow students to express themselves
 
- it showed me what design directions they were taking, who they were referencing and key words or statements they were using. This again gave insight and allowed me to push them to diversify, or to push themselves a little further to reach their full potential (as a result, this first cohort were awarded 7 firsts, had stronger fashion collections, better portfolios and generally achived a higher standard of work - as noted by external examiners report)
 
After completing the first 4 tasks on the first day of class, students were given 'homework', to create their own statement and placard to be shown as an A4 sized photograph.
 
At the start of the second class, the students pinned up their final manifesto and statement image in the studios.

The work produced ranged from simple statements & shots, to very personal, creative photography. But overall, the pin-up was a very intriguing body of work.

Some examples of student statements - second cohort, academic year 2012/13
By going through the process - of the identity questionnaire, the manifesto writing exercise and the contextual mapping group exercises
- the students gained experience in self-evaluation, formalised peer group discussion, contextual analysis, and leadership understanding.
 
But perhaps the most important aspect of that first week of the course is that the students gained tools and methods for taking control of their course & learning in the final year. The students decided (or at least started deciding) what they wanted from themselves, their lecturer and the school.
 
They said what they were thinking.
 
 
If the students are given these tools or methods with which to take control, then this ensures that they lead the direction of the course.
 
It ensures that they are engaged in the learning process.
 
It ensures that they lead their own learning  - therefore taking responsibility for that.
 
It ensures buy-in from the students in the two linked courses across both semesters.
 
It also has an impact on the way formal crits, pin-ups, discussions, feedback sessions and assessments can be run. (the next paper/presentation!)
So, having looked at examples of exercises that have integrated change at ground level - the bottom-up change which is possible in a design school - we'll now look at top-down change.
 
What happens when you innovate the structure within which students and staff operate? Can the same principles and tools be applied?
Professor Alex Milton has recently joined the National College of Art & Design in Dublin as the new head of faculty, for the design school.
 
During the first few months the existing structure has been evaluated. Within the process of unpacking the teaching, learning & research culture, the need for implementing change has become apparent.
 
Traditionally, institutions follow classic models - design departments exist as stand-alone teaching cultures, they co-exist, but rarely cross over. It's the same at the SoTD and NCAD.
 
But then the question is should we continue to work within that structure or try something new? Do we try to find a way to encourage the silos to blend into one faculty so that the disciplines, skills, research & learning converge?
 
I suspect, unanimously, the answer is yes. We've seen this question come up again and again - Bauhaus, Ulm, Hornsey, St Martins, Domus - but can we answer it differently?
 
There are two options, blow up the silos so we can start from scratch, or look at the building bricks themselves and re-model them into something that could become a future architectural masterpiece.
Now, once you blow up the buildings all you're left with is a pile of rubble on some contaminated ground. It's perhaps been effective in the past, but this is the age of austerity, and it is time for a different approach.
 
So at NCAD, we're following the Lego model. We're going to take the essential bricks that have built the silos, and create the Villa Savoye from them. Beautiful But how exactly do you do that at a real scale, not 1:100(?)
The critical consideration is to look at what the school does, what it's ambitions are, and what it could achieve. We mapped the past to the future aspirations.
 
For example, in the past, the school had a dynamic which placed teaching priorities against research goals; in the future, a structure is developed which encourages research culture to lead & inform teaching.
 
Another important structural and cultural shift is from authoritarian, to self managing; in the new structure, staff should feel enabled to direct their teaching & research, within a supportive network, not to have agendas handed down from 'on high'.
 
This redefined structure is very much about ownership of process, and creating an option which allows staff to integrate with change and to help embed it into foundations of a new building.  
 
When we're talking about embedding structural change at this level, of course, it's not straight-forward, it's not a case of just merging departments and magically creating a Meisian masterpiece.
 
As at student level, staff are given sets of tools with which to address and impact on the process of change.
 
One exercise takes the notion of 'mapping change' as its start point. Within the format of meetings & consultations, staff identify valuable landmarks, important features of their landscape, and even key routes through the city - similar to the way that Guy DeBord re-imagined the situationist city.
 
The exercise gathers information and knowledge which inform the direction that restructuring follows.
From this first-hand knowledge, a roadmap is created which allows the institutional re-structuring to forge a dynamic ahead.
 
Frameworks for change.
 
Map reading skills are critical in navigating new territories, but so too are the basic tools of building a shelter - since the dawn of time mankind has followed the basic principles of navigating to 'green pastures', sheltering, settling, dwelling and living.
 
The generation of a successful design school is dependent on staff mapping routes to the future, and on their ability to build into the future.
 
With the restructuring , NCAD is proposing a framework of scaffolding which will wrap existing buildings, but facilitate extensions, interventions, re-modelling and the natural development of new sub-structures.
 
Even the framework itself is not intended to be entirely stable. We're proposing an organic, flexible framework of bamboo, not the conventional steel poles & locked joints!
 
In being 'unstable', we're hoping that this structure becomes an active framework within which staff can actively navigate. The lack of stability encourages constant re-configuration and adaptation of the initial network.
 
Through it's various iterations, the framework allows staff to climb in and out of rooms, to add layers onto the existing facade, to create/use openings & connect to different parts of the building.
 
Workshop activities can be plugged into this framework and events such as Pecha Kucha, or fly-postering could be incorporated as/when useful.
 
As the scaffolding moves & shifts through use, the activities respond and change too. Nothing is locked in place, or clamped permanently to another element, but the essential framework always remains.
The framework is only valuable if it's useful, and used.
 
To encourage staff to leave their rooms and start negotiating the structure, the staff have been grouped as one faculty, led by 'heads' who are responsible for three key aspects of the school growth (not, as traditional models determine, as heads of disciplines).
 
Not only does this immediately remove any barriers to investigating the structure, but it provides a broader platform for staff to step out from. It invites them to start moving elements, building, exploring, experimenting and playing with the structure - internally and externally.
As soon as you create this framework and embed the approach - that it's okay to climb around, to modify and move elements about - you intrinsically create a new pedagogical philosophy, one that's appropriate to the world we live in today.
 
The scaffolding framework which was put up around the original buildings has given staff the materials for creating real structures, ones that can become integral to the creation of constantly evolving learning spaces, for students and colleagues.
 
 
And once the frameworks start to become spaces, they immediately act as a stage for everything the school does.
 
Once the learning, teaching and research is on a stage, this unstable, impermanent, unconventional scaffolding structure begins to impact on other aspects of the institution e.g. increased student recruitment (nationally & overseas), CPD, research activity/funding and retaining staff & recruitment.
 
Once those knock-on effects take hold, the structure begins to grow again.
 
The framework allows staff to take new routes through previously 'familiar' territory, they see opportunities where there weren't before, and most importantly, they see the institution from new perspectives.
 
And within this, the bandwith of skills & knowledge grows too. Which, once again, encourages new frameworks & structures to be built.
 
As you can see it is an approach which instigates a constantly evolving architecture for the institution, one without limit or pre-determined shape.
 
It's an exciting time for NCAD. In the early stages of embedding this framework we're already noticing huge impacts and some exciting changes. All of this is encouraging us to push ahead with our ambition of becoming a key player on the global stage.
 
If changes are made at the bottom, and at the top, what will the future look like for the academy?
 
We've discussed two institutions, as well as a series of exercises in creating change and shaping the future. But does any of this apply to pedagogical practice in design education, does it apply to the design academy in the broader sense?
 
We have shown a set of approaches to implementing change from the bottom-up, and the top-down simultaneously.
 
We have emphasised the need for a new structure within which design education is delivered and developed.
 
We demonstrated exercises which lead toward a new methodology and a new kind of academy.
 
But in essence, all we have presented is ways of building platforms and unifying change.
 
And actually, all we've said is that we need to make changes, and find a way to pull those disparate, exciting components together to provide the foundation for 'the new'.
And sometimes the only way to create change is to spill a little blood!
 
(But of course what we actually mean is that the way to create 'the new' is to pool resources, experiences and methods from across the academy, and engage & interact. No blood loss required)
It's a brave new world out there. Change is coming.
It's not about resisting or hanging on to what was there before
It's not about resisting or hanging on to what was there before