Nice discussion starter Jen, I've studied at two university. University of Western Sydney (UWS) and the Köln International School of Design (KISD), in Germany.
I found a massive difference between the two, I found that UWS taught design in the same way they teach engineering, maths or medicine, with classes, tutorials, lectures, readings. Each class and each semester separate from one another. It was only in final year that we had anything that resembled a real design studio experience, even then we still had classes not too different to those in primary school.
KISD was completely different, it is a groundbreaking design education model created by the school, although it's still moving and evolving it has been adopted and mimicked by numerous design schools across Europe. Entry is gained via an interview. There are no classes, instead there is projects, some are one day a week, others are full time 9-5 for a full year. You choose what you wish to study in all kinds of subjects from treehouse design, to design research, entertainment, interior design to one off guest lecturers and short term software skill workshops as well as all students being required to pick projects to actually run the administration of the school, like enrollments or run the Cafe. Almost every creative field is catered for including some you wouldn't expect, like business projects or one were some students turned the basement in a restaurant and ran it for two weeks. Every Friday is presentation day where one project group shows their work to whole school, there is usually a couple guest lecturers and the beer flows, eventually the college turns into a bar and Friday night at school become a party.
Above all that, the projects are filled with all year levels and people from all creative disciplines, much like a real studio. The whole school runs as a real studio, many of the briefs are real, almost all of the long term projects have commercial partners, with many small term ones encouraging you to find a client or sponsorship. The whole education model was incredible and showed me what design education could be like if a school is willing to take the risk.
I'm coming in from a different perspective. I've spent a fair amount of time studying ( 7 years studying Primary Education/ Psychology/ IT/ Design/ Secondary Education) and teaching (primary/ highschool). The reality is that you will never be prepared for life in the workforce straight out of university - that's all part of the beauty of learning on the job. Same as teaching. Most high school teachers know jack shit about their subject area (I spent 18 months studying IT to receive a Food Technology/ Metal/ Woodwork class load). I remember coming out of an intense (Computing - they taught us LOGO, PASCAL and C) Technology course only to be given a woodwork class and not even knowing how to handle a pedestal drill let alone a circular saw. Nice work Department of Education. Fortunately I didn't kill anyone.
I'm interested in design education at a fundamental level. Teaching kids about process and basic communication skills (drawing anyone?). At a professional level, aside from technical skills they are the skills that matter the most. Having someone who knows how to process a series of instructions and then come back and communicate their achievements is a big ask from most 17 year olds. Those skills need to be taught not just in optional subjects but across the board.
The Department of Education has made some effort. Technology is now mandatory in year 7 and 8 in NSW. Those mickey mouse subjects you loved (woodwork, metal, technical drawing, textiles, cooking, agriculture, graphic design. multimedia,computing, etc) are all lumped into a unit framework. So basically, as a year 7/8 student you receive 90 minutes of 'Technology' a week based on the time-frame and skillset that the teachers at the school you happen to be lucky enough to be enrolled in have.
I was lucky enough to work at a great school with innovative teachers who rotatated 6 units (different subject areas) across 2 years so that students had the opportunity to experience as many subject levels as possible. To be honest I think this school was in the minority as most of this work depends on hard working innovative teachers and the subjects that they have experience in (or are willing) to teach.
What was your experience?
Do you think high school adequately prepared you to make an appropriate career decision?
What else could school teachers be doing to prepare their design orientated students for a professional career?
I'm at UWS in my 4th year doing an Honours project with a basis in design education. Fundamentally i think any enriching design education experience (or any educational experience for that matter) needs to start with the student. You can blame the course work, the teachers, the resources or the insituation's culture- but at the end of the day, if your not engaging with what you've got to work with- if your not pushing expectations for yourself, then little else matters. Therefore I'd suggest the only quality that defines a good design student, is one that wants to learn and better themselves.
Lorena: I did Design Technology at school. Can't say I loved it, it didn't influence my decision to do design degree- which is funny now that i reflect on it. High school was the wrong kind of dynamic for me, too much hand feeding. I think having an strong awareness of design culture is inspiring for designers of all levels and would help your students understand what they can get away with, or where they can fit in on the full spectrum of design. If your students could start a design course with 5 favourite Australian design studios- they'd be two years head of most design students. In my opinion.
I studied Multimedia Design at Swinburne here in Melbourne and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed with the course. While there were a number of good lecturers there were also those that did little to inspire the students.
This was probably also due to a lack of enthusiasm from most of the students who treated it more as a burden than an opportunity to learn more and develop their skills. Haha, I seem really jaded.
I think I was just expecting a lot more. And by a lot more I mean a course that would challenge me and teach me new things etc. Instead it felt more like paying someone to read out a brief and look up examples on the net.
I'm not too fussed about the whole ENTER score thing, people can always go to tafe which is just as good (from what I can gather). The ENTER score just separates the people who get off their ass and do work from those who like the idea of design but tend to just sit and watch funny youtube clips every class until the end of semester when they spit something out the night before.
I learned a lot more from books and the internet than my 4 years at uni.
It's peculiar to think that design courses in this country are expanding but will each student be catered for a job? In the States, design graduates are already having the most difficult time to secure a full-time position let alone afford their brownhouse rents.
My personal experience that I have come to realise is actually really think whether or not design education should be undertaken with swiftness. Having had spoken to some of the industry designers that we know very well of, it's really about the portfolio of work, whether it is tailored to the needs of that business and if your skills match the ethos of the studio. It's just not that simple that the expectation of undertaking a design degree, going to classes at whichever university or college will be the gold ticket to a job. The harsh reality of what is not the big picture at these institutions is you go through these project phases, your work is then scrunitised by tutors and your marked against a numerical number.
You also really have to contend with if you stand any better when you might be presenting the same folio of work of the same briefs set out ubiquitously for every other person. With great honesty, I think it would be unwise to take up design studies automatically. Spend time making mistakes, failures and doing experiments, try-outs at home, speak to real people, network with them, showcase what your doing and build from there. Then you will realise that hey: just because I got a portfolio doesn't mean it's that simple. Design is also a business; graphic designers are not the best designers. You work with photographers, writers, set-designers; the real design world isn't so academic; your relied upon your best skills so iron them in an environment that you feel creatively unbridled.
I would also like to further add that some of these design institutions seemingly have no idea how the real world and the industry works on a day to day basis. I keep in touch with friends doing their 4 year coursework and hearing things such as making your own personal identity and making a university marketed magazine. Are those kinds of projects the breadwinners and your best keepsake? What Luke (from above) had described is exactly like that Swedish school HyperIsland where there are no academic type classes but set time projectwork. It feels much more pragmatic yet your build your skills in real-time.
if this is true and it's the same old personal id and uni newsletters thing need a kick up the proverbial
my college, hornsey art college in london set multi-leveled briefs
you had 3 or 4 to choose from, your medium was up to you, 3d, animation, print, photography, to name a few
one in the last year i vaguely remember was:
id for glasshouse cafe
advertising for brooke employment agency
convey greed in any medium
id investigation on bovis building company with critiques
illustrate how a life form from another world would see us using a completely different sense
create, brand and make a box of chocolates
if we didn't like any of them we were encouraged to think one up and present it
we were given a month to do it
we had the resources of the college to use and had to take the initiative to hunt out tutors (most of who were part time and worked either in the industry or were fine artists
college should be a time to experiment, too much pragmatic bollox for my taste, you got the rest of your working life to get fed up with it - see thread 'i hate my job'
i know some will come on and say colleges should train for the industry, my gripe is that is not and should never be the only priority
then again i didn't have to pay so this would make a difference, another of my gripes
Thanks so much for your contributions so far everyone. The key points resonating from all that has been said above seem to be:
*Students should have greater ability to tackle real-world briefs whilst at Uni/TAFE (love the examples of KISD and Hyper Island in particular - how innovative and inspiring)
*More experimentation should be allowed in the contexts of tertiary design courses - not all content should be so pragmatic
*Practical experience should be introduced at a greater level throughout an individuals design education
*Uni/TAFE is handy but is by no means the be-all and end-all
In regards to Australian institutions, it seems some are really chasing their tail. On the contrary, do you think any universities, TAFE colleges or privately run institutions are doing a particularly good job? If so, what is it that they are doing?