Web Design

Design-Focused University: Is It Really Needed?


The baby boomers are gone, and we need a new breed to continue what they started.
Today, design is an obligatory and additional academic subject in majority of American universities. Design is being taught only as a minor skill that is added in every student’s curriculum. It‘s taken so lightly that it slowly affects and undermines the current design industry. Although there are design-focused courses offered at some universities in this country, the numbers are not enough.

A lot of writers, designers and critics have expressed their thoughts about the importance of having a university that will solely focus on Design. In fact, this call to put more importance on a creative class has been around for years. A lot of books about it has been published and reissued; newspapers and magazine have tackled it as well. However, the problem is still there.

Design-Focused University

We have to admit, the baby boomers of design are ageing and most of them are already gone. Although we still have new breeds to give us new and innovative approach to design, their number are not enough. Only few are making a name for the industry because most designers today end up employed in a commercial firm where they hardly contribute to the general need of the industry. They are too busy satisfying their clients and bosses. What the industry needs is a new breed of innovators that will create change in the industry, not a new breed of employed designers.

What is really wrong with being a commercially employed designer? None. Yet, in the last few years, the heavy demand for commercial designs created a stronghold that bound talented, employed designers and kept them away from moving outside the boundaries of their companies, while independent designers spent their design careers sharing their knowledge by educating young designers and creating change in the industry itself with their innovative ideas.

Erudite vs. Autodidact

Surprisingly, while the number of educated and well-trained designers slowly diminishes, the figure of self-taught designers grows. Thanks to the Internet, a lot of designers became acquainted with design. However, what these autodidact designers learned from ubiquitous YouTube videos and blogs were not adequate. Designers, according to experts, should be introduced to design in a very structured and systemic way, which they can only learn in a focused university. Internet videos and blogs cannot provide the fundamentals, theories, and training design-focused universities provide. Even design firms noticed the big difference between university-graduate designers and self-taught ones; the latter always lack the knowledge of design fundamentals and experience.

But what the industry needs is not physical universities. In the past years, there have been humongous efforts from commercial institutions and design schools to elevate the quality of design knowledge young designers were currently getting. Established art schools and institutions from around the globe collaborated with reputable design companies that paved way to the several cheap design courses that were directly offered to young aspiring designers. Fortunately, it has become a trend, and similar initiatives are now being put into practice around the globe.

Yet this hardly solved the problem. The results were not that bad, but there were few numbers of graduates from these initiatives. Some students quit after learning some ‘basic’ knowledge and went back to being autodidacts while finding their luck in small design firms.
Another problem is the ubiquity of design blogs on the Web. A big number of misleading sites exist here, and these are believed to be the leading factor why aspiring designers take formal design knowledge and training for granted. The ironic part is, these misleading sites that influence readers to wander off from formal studies are written by learned designers who spent long years in Design schools.
According to studies, most of self-taught designers who choose to learn the craft without any support from an institution usually end up slaving in small design firms that pay little importance to the depths of Design. This happens because they find it hard to adapt and cope with the real design world, where independent designers interact and collaborate with other independent designer for a non-company based project. On the other hand, designers from universities normally find themselves working for bigger projects while creating a name in the industry.

The argument in pushing aspiring designers in a university is not about having a formal degree; it is about giving the proper training, guidance, and experience needed when they join the real world of design. A design-focused university is not just about frivolity and requiring superfluous papers that are not necessary in the industry. In a focused environment, students will learn to speak the business language of design with fluency, its social relevance and its power to create change, and the reality that design is not only a skill and social need to get a secure job.

Yet even up to this point, the argument remains an argument, and the entire design industry remains in need of a new breed baby boomers.

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