Changing Design Education for the 21st Century
The field of design is vast and ever-evolving, growing with and adapting to the various changes that characterise our socio-cultural and economic landscape. Design is a field of study that involves the pursuit of the theoretical and practical. It is undoubtedly key to the process of seamless communication and understanding both within academic research and also far beyond it. In this light, cultivating design education does not only integrate workforces across fields but also breeds innovation and creativity, establishing a vision for a new tomorrow.
Design universities and institutes in the 21st century should seek to equip students and members of the industry with a holistic perspective, a nuanced understanding and a specialised skill set to design in more sustainable, equitable and responsible ways. With the number of institutes of higher education focusing on design education steadily increasing, the field of design is becoming more inclusive and diverse. However, looking at the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022: Art and Design shows that Western universities occupy the top ranks. This brings our attention to India's challenges as we strive to cross these hurdles and reach greater heights.
As the field of design continues to expand in all directions and arenas, we can see designers being asked to conceptualise and visualise problems at scales both minuscule and massive, be it personal branding or the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Like every professional living in the 21st century, designers also advocate for socio-cultural and ecological decisions and actions. Comparing an educational trajectory in the field of design is drastically different from other academic disciplines. This is because it is not only a discipline that is significantly less appreciated but also one that is subjective and hands-on. Therefore, design students seek access to a creative environment that includes a continual and continuous engagement with technology and resources as well as specialised mentorship.
A radical transformation that the higher education scenario has seen in recent years in the country and globally has been a shift to virtual learning. The COVID-19 pandemic that overtook the globe compelled us to reconsider what education really is. Classrooms are no longer limited to physical locations. Online teaching has paved the way for a model of learning where both students and teachers broke out of predefined roles and took the initiative to experiment, explore and engage with one another. Institutes quickly incorporated digital portfolios, virtual assessment and review methods. It not only gave rise to greater collaboration amongst students and professors but also provided the space for the growth of an entrepreneurial mindset and a problem-solving and practical outlook on life in general. As the world gradually shifts back to offline learning, there is much to take away from the pandemic and online education. Although normalcy may have returned in the larger sense, blended learning and hybrid education is the new way ahead. Design is a practical and hands-on discipline requiring active and physical engagement with the world around us. As a result, a balance between online and offline modes of learning, an amalgamation of ideas, essential skills and a mix of digital tools and lived experiences offers the ideal path for a bright future in design.
We need a focus on creativity, problem-solving skills, emotional growth and holistic development. Design provides an avenue to change how we perceive not only education but the very world we inhabit. It offers an opportunity for a learning environment that encourages students to think outside the box, find answers through logical thinking and reasoning, and ask the right questions. It paves the way for an education that does not shy away from cajoling students to unlearn and relearn. The silos in education that we have become so accustomed to are disrupted by design education, which emphasises the value of experiential and blended learning. While we have come a long way, we must continue working towards a learning space that nurtures the next generation of learners, explorers and experimenters who are prepared to meet the challenges that the future will bring.