Design is a word that encompasses myriad aspects. Starting from the fine arts and animation, it includes fashion design and goes on to communicative design and then user experience (UX) design. Whichever of these you consider, the way design is taught and learnt in the world of academia has evolved over the years. There are also changed expectations from the industry and are being included in the learning process. Some of the changing trends in recenttimes include:
1. Hands-on experiential learning – Design is a subject that has always needed practical exposure over and above the lessons in the classrooms. But the industry expectations and demands have grown exponentially. Today’s design students are known and expected to create a portfolio of their work even before course completion. This is primarily to make themindustry-ready and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Many companies, including startups, are now willing to provide paid internships of a few months to students of design.
2. Above and beyond – New tools are being adopted at a very fast pace in the world of design, and curricula in academia might not always be able to adapt immediately. Students need to grasphard and soft skills beyondtheir classroom learnings, to stand out. Depending on what design a student is learning, it is essential to pick up such hard skills.Hard skills such as software use proficiency or soft skills such as working in a group or learning to defend concepts and own design. These are usually not part of the curriculum and can be imbibed through practice and engagement.
3. Remote learning and delivery – The last two years of the pandemic have changed the way we work and learn. Although design disciplines have traditionally usedclassroom or studio instructions as theaccepted pedagogy, we need to also remember that online learning does not prevent either dialogue or feedback between the teacher and student. Students open to online courses also have the advantage of accessing class recordings for posterity and can share their assignments over email or upload them on shared drives. Choosing an online design course can remove the geographical constraints, and students can complete their course, do internships or explore jobs from across the world. A recent study explored the effectiveness of online design education, and the results suggested that there is growing acceptance of online delivery of design curricula.
4. Breadth with depth – The designer of tomorrow needs to have a greater understanding of several other elements of the world they live in. A UX designer, for instance, needs to have empathy so that she can understand how the user would react to the interface provided. Therefore, student learning communicative design should have a reasonable grasp of current geopolitics and societal issues. Every designer, irrespective of specialization, needs to have a finger on the pulse of the present generation because that is where their core consumers will be from. In a nutshell, the designer of the future needs to always be curious and hungry for broader knowledge about the world to complement her depth of knowledge in her chosen area of expertise.
5. Death of silos – There are several types of designers. Future designers will need to adapt to cross-platform work and collaborate with other technologists, interface designers, graphic designers and so on. The distinctions between designing products, systems, and interfaces will no longer be as rigid as earlier. A designer would need to be comfortable with a collaborative or participative design which is carried out over several iterations and cross-functional platforms. In some cases, the designer would need to work with the end user too, providing multiple-stage use cases and modifying them as per user feedback.
Design has an exciting future, and every industry expects a fresh mindset and better skills from designers. It is imperative that students and teachers of design step up and adapt to the expectations of their future employers and customers.