Through our ongoing Design + Education coverage this year, we had the privilege of talking to educators from around the world about some of the biggest issues facing design schools and continued education today. Teachers through and through, they usually couldn’t help but dole out some choice advice mid-interview. We came away smarter for it, so we’ve put together a cheat sheet of some pointers to keep in mind as you head into the new year.
Social media “communities” are homogenizing—stay critical and objective
Darryl Clifton, illustration program director at London’s Camberwell College of Arts, points out a cultural shift that’s well underway with the ubiquity of mobile technology. “People are so willing to share every aspect of their work—the literal physical process via something like Instagram—in reward for likes, followers, and potentially money,” he says. “There’s an absolute openness about that, and with a proportion of the students, a total embrace of the notion of the entrepreneurial self.”
He advises that we remain critical of what that might mean for community-building, particularly as people adjust their “own subjectivity in order to become more and more pliable and synchronized with the mindset and desires of a large-scale corporation.”
Sustainability isn’t a choice, it’s a responsibility
Mariana Amatullo, who teaches strategic design and management at Parsons The New School in New York, and is co-chair of the school’s Management Initiative, believes designers are capable of real and positive change when it comes to the environment. “At the level of professional practice, it’s about taking an active stance as stewards and modeling leadership that can be consequential,” she says. She sees this generation of students as uniquely ecologically literate, understanding that sustainability is not an either/or.
So, first off, it’s on you to be educated on issues of sustainability. Secondly, bring that knowledge into your professional practice. “[That] might involve knowing how to ascertain and evaluate a product’s final impact by calculating factors such as carbon emissions, water use, or waste production; or it might take the form of having the competency to respond to design problems in urban settings, which call for new approaches to environmental resilience and social sustainability,” she says.
All learning is self-learning
Juliette Cezzar is a professor of communication design at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, where she was also the director of the BFA communication design and BFA design & technology programs from 2011–2014. As research for the book The AIGA Guide to Careers in Graphic and Communication, she asked students about their experience with U.S. design education, and learned that most people feel the most valuable thing they learned was how to communicate. But they also said that their education continued outside of institutional walls.
“On a philosophical level, all learning is self-learning,” she says. “Certain designers I spoke to, who I thought were very ahead of the curve, would say things like ‘You know, I’m just not comfortable if I’m comfortable.’ They have to keep moving. It was fascinating to see that character quality, and how it can take someone far if they are really comfortable not knowing what is going on in a new context, and can withstand that discomfort long enough to be able to learn how to be in that new context.”
Make the time to “hold the door” open for young designers
Gail Anderson, educator at SVA in New York and 2018 recipient of the Cooper Hewitt’s Lifetime Achievement Award, reminds designers that they are not too busy to pay it forward. “Not everyone wants to teach—I get it—but there are other opportunities to mentor young designers, like through internships,” she says. “You owe it to your profession.” Besides, it’s good karma.