A good article, and one I also resonate with on many levels.
I got my Bachelors degree in Design, and worked as a graphic and interactive designer for many years. I found that while university gave me some good creative process skills, I was quite out of touch with the realities of the industries I was entering into.
I know for a fact that this is still the case with the particular degree I did, and in fact it is worse now. Many design skills are not being correctly taught in this undergraduate degree, and the students are emerging with a real lack of actual skill.
I am now an educator, and we are trying hard to revisit how education links to the industry we are preparing students for. I think we have made some good headway into this, but I also admit we have a ways to go. The key is to be open, listen to feedback from your students and from the industry, and not be afraid to admit when you have it wrong or when something needs to be changed.
With this in mind, we have developed a fully online Masters degree in Cross-Disciplinary Art and Design (cross-disciplinary - the ability to work creatively and collaboratively between different disciplines is also a vital part of contemporary creative practice I believe), and one of its core features in sharing of knowledge and skills between students - most of whom are already practicing in a variety of creative industries. If you're interested you can read more about it here: http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au
We also involve practitioners from different creative fields from around the world in the learning process - having guest lectures, discussion and feedback from people out there who can tell it like it really is - to give students the chance to make connections between what they are learning, and how this really does benefit them in professional practice. We learn a great deal from this type of involvement as well, and try to adapt our teaching strategies to reflect the themes brought into the learning environment from the professional realm.
I'd be very interested to know what some of my students thought about this in relation to the points you raise, and to also hear from others about their experiences.
A good article, and I hope it raises some good discussion!
Ace article. I can't hope to comment on design education having graduated over 15 years ago now (and being out of the country for about 9 years of that) but I do often ponder, from an industry perspective, why Australian Graphic Designers have such a hard time selling the benefits of good graphic design to clients. If there was a way for students and the industries they hope to serve to be educated in the benefits of good graphic design at the same time that would be massively beneficial.
Courses that assume students arrive with a certain amount of knowledge and then enable them to go out and work on real live projects as soon as possible can only help. I've noticed this happens in the UK quite often. A lot of students arrive fully equipped and use being part of an institution as back up to being able to put their pre-existing ideas into action rather being molly coddled (that's an odd term isn't it? anyhow...) and told the 'correct way' to go about things.
Simon / Michael - thanks for your comments and feedback. I enjoyed reading both your responses.
One of the core themes here seems to be the lack of exposure to real-life occupational environments, and the ability of designers to successfully integrate and strive in a business context. Graduates in particular I have found come in to a new job all gung-ho as to how proficient and talented they are technically, yet seem to lack even the most basic communication or interpersonal skills. In my opinion possessing the ability to relate positively with those whom you work with and for is just as important (if not more so) than being able to deliver a crackerjack creative solution. Hence, on the points you have made, I couldn't agree with you more.
So what do you think could be some tangible ways for us to address this issue? I like the idea of a design degree consisting of a compulsory practical placement year in a studio / business, but this might not be feasible for a variety of reasons - particularly financially and logistics wise (ie: not enough studios to fulfill demand from educational institutions). Do you have any other ideas?
There are no easy answers but one part of it is that employers need to temper their expectations of graduates. I don't know how it can be avoided but I think some of the job requirements advertised for juniors these days are simply ridiculous and unrealistic.
Also think the volume of experience both in the workplace and life is impossible to replicate.
Beyond the technical aspects of a job, which is hard to replicate in such a short periods, there are the realities of day to day work skills. Some of these you've mentioned - communication and interpersonal skills. I think regardless of age, the maturity factor is fundamental to well rounded graduates - talent alone shouldn't be the prerequisite to acceptance.
There might be something like this already but maybe a studio-like environment could be created in the final year+ where students are no longer treated as students so to speak and experience the full spectrum of projects from initial engagement, negotiation, briefing etc to final production.
::From the outside, it also seemed many tertiary institutions were simply behaving like number-crunching factories - accepting into their doors a set quota of students per year and relentlessly marketing to those groups of prospective students they considered most lucrative financially.
I don't doubt 'number crunching' happens and its bad for everyone