There are many opinions of what ‘design education’ and the ‘role of the designer’ should be at this pivotal point in history. Certain fundamental questions are raised such as — What should a designer know? How do designers express themselves best? What are the leading fields of design that are in demand and can guarantee job security for the future? Unfortunately, it is my opinion that all these questions are rather short-sighted and do not address the major crux of the issue at hand.
At the onset, it is essential to understand that design education currently suffers from segregation and compartmentalisation. The natural trend over the past 30 years or so has been to break up the profession of design into small parts and pieces that could be understood in a concentrated manner. Areas of expertise and professions such as interior designer, interior-architectural designer, graphic designer, fashion designer, web designer, textile designer and product designer have surfaced. Although this process of identifying areas of specialisation seems natural, it is far from the reality of what a designer historically was — and should be.
To return to basics, a designer was fundamentally a person who possessed the ability to draw well. Etymologically, the verb ‘design.’ according to the Oxford Dictionary, originated from the prefix de and the Latin verb signare, which means to make, shape, mark, mark out, or designate. Therefore, it can be observed that society over the past 600 years added a great deal to the misinterpretation of the word and the role of design.
Evidently, design by its very nature changes, metamorphoses and escapes the limitations of our own perceptions and expectations. The role of the designer in society today must not be simplified or pigeonholed to a specific trade. Designers must go beyond limits, categories or any other form of societal standardisation.
Design by its very nature changes, metamorphoses and escapes the limitations of our own perceptions and expectations.
Designers must regain their holistic wellness as creative beings and their empowerment to drive change. Designers of today and the future are catalysts that inspire and develop solutions to challenges that the world may not even know exist.
Design education and the profession must readjust to survive and thrive once again by transgressing all boundaries.
Philosophy, politics, creative arts, science, and technology will be the focus of a new and robust generation of designers. Whether they are designing a physical or virtual product or idea, the core must evolve to encompass far more than where we are today.
The profession of design is a fight and a hustle. You can never put your guard down, be at ease, or let things just slide by.
A fighter must remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings and dealings. That said, maintain your ethics and keep your value system at a high standard. Don’t compromise to mediocracy — you may even need to walk away from projects or jobs, but keep in mind that perfection is a state of mind and a level of conviction in the products and environments we make.
The writer is Dean, College of Design, American University in the Emirates