Common Models of Design Education

This section describes a model for teaching and learning social entrepreneurship. If you're an educator, the model will help you change an existing curriculum. If you're a practitioner, it will help you structure your own course of study without enrolling in a formal program.

Like any other broad career path, Social Entrepreneurship can be taught and learned. Adopting such a curriculum in educational institutions requires changes that may be threatening to those who are invested in existing models for teaching design: Bauhaus, Integrated Product Development, and Design Thinking.

The Bauhaus Model

Nearly every design school in the United States and Europe begins with foundational studies, including two- and three-dimensional design, typography, color, composition and more. These typically studio-based courses follow the Bauhaus model, focused on craft, formgiving, and problems of aesthetics, functionality, and usability. Students learn by doing, and the "doing" is often long, arduous, and methodical.

For example, students may learn color theory by assembling and comparing collages of different colors or by painting large canvases with a single hue or by mixing their own paints to duplicate a series of color swatches. In a subsequent class, students may learn three-dimensional design principles by creating sculptures.

As a result of this education, students learn how to create artifacts—printed posters, physical products, brand elements, pamphlets, postcards and signage. This work involves a number of core competencies, including color theory, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, typography, composition, printing and prepress, packaging, digital prepress, logo and mark creation, and more. Perhaps the most important contribution of the Bauhaus model has been an appreciation of craft and an understanding of how to teach and encourage it to create a level of substance and value.

For example, at Rhode Island School of Design—one of the best-known design schools in the country—freshman take classes called Drawing Studio, Design Studio, and Spatial Dynamics Studio.RISD. Foundation Studies. n.d. (accessed November 14, 2011). Savannah College of Art and Design—one of the country's largest art and design schools—offers freshman classes called Drawing I: Form and Space; Design II: 3-D Form in Space; and Design III: Time.SCAD. Foundation Studies. n.d. (accessed November 14, 2011).

The Integrated Product Development Model

This model, which emerged in the late 1990s, was developed, in some respects, as a rejection of the Bauhaus model and a response to business needs; hiring managers found graduates' skills insufficient to participate in product development. Integrated Product Development (IPD) brings together marketing students, students of design, and students studying engineering to focus on a comprehensive plan (including marketing rollout and product features and changes). The small, integrated quality of the team allows for agility in decision-making, and the combined skills help to ensure that the resulting product meets market and user needs, and that it can be produced in scale. As a result of this education, students are prepared to work with or as brand managers in large companies, bringing products to market quickly and effectively. For example, at Carnegie Mellon University, future Masters of Product Development graduates take a capstone course that is actually called Integrated Product Development, which emphasizes "identifying, understanding, conceptualizing and realizing new product opportunities. Through the course, interdisciplinary student teams partner with industry sponsors to bring these new opportunities to life. Some even result in patent applications." Carnegie Mellon University. Integrated Product Development (IPD) course. n.d. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Perhaps two of the most valuable lessons that emerge from integrated product development are the idea of collaboration within interdisciplinary teams and the role of facilitation. Designers, marketers, and engineers solve problems in strikingly similar ways. But the subtle differences are critical. These differences emerge only after a long period of working together, as teams begin to realize words like specification and design and value have different meanings depending on perspective. Facilitation extracts meaning from all participants, even when the participants may not agree on process, method, or outcome.

The Design Thinking Model

As a progressive model with roots in design education, design thinking has found its way into business school as a way of driving innovative decision-making in organizational change. MBA candidates learn to look at situations in new ways by empathy building and divergent thinking. This education helps students engage in a broader level of institutional discourse; in addition to marketing or advertising a product, they also can focus on strategic planning related to the entire trajectory of the business or organization.

One of the most valuable qualities of the design-thinking model of education is inference-based action with a focus on moving quickly to prototyping. The model encourages students to move through a tangible form—often a diagram or a three-dimensional model—to create something, try it, discuss it, and learn from it. That tangible form can provide leverage in politically charged corporate debates about organizational change. For example, at Stanford's "d.school", students take a course called Design Thinking Bootcamp, where they study "design processes, innovation methodologies, need finding, human factors, visualization, rapid prototyping, team dynamics, storytelling, and project leadership."Stanford. Design Thinking Bootcamp: Experiences in Innovation and Design. n.d. (accessed November 14, 2011).

The Problem—and Opportunity—with All Three Models

All three models firmly embed design in the context of artifacts intended for humans. Yet although they have offered tremendous value to students and educators, the models continue to advance the message that design is inextricably linked to consumption and that the only place a designer can build a career is in the world of business. But, as this book illustrates, design can be equally embedded in public policy, in education, and in the social sector. In fact, design may better fit these other areas given its suitability for solving problems related to the human condition. Design "aimed" in any direction will bring valuable results. If we aim it at footwear, we'll realize innovations in shoes. If we aim it instead at problems of poverty or inequality, we'll realize innovative solutions to those problems. Yet most design students are taught to aim it only at the Fortune 500, so they graduate with a desire to practice in the context of money and mass production. They may ultimately tackle wicked problems, but there is huge potential for curricula that explicitly emphasizes such work. This is the opportunity for design educators: to teach a design model that leverages the benefits of Bauhaus, Integrated Product Development, and Design Thinking models—while helping students realize they can position design in any context.

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A Curriculum Template
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Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving
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