The constantly evolving economy and technological developments in the 21st century means that the design profession as a whole is transforming at a rate unbeknownst to previous generations. Emerging technologies and economies not only affect how designs are produced, but how design reaches and affects human beings and transform lives in profound ways. Education therefore needs to prepare graduates for resilience and unpredictability.
While practice remains the central issue in design education, I believe it is important that students reflect critically on their own practice and develop an awareness of contemporary discourse in the field and beyond, and the contextual issues that affect design practices.
Good designers try to understand the context and users rather than focussing on his or her own taste or aesthetic preferences. Good design performs as intended, and that includes whether a piece of design can be understood or used, whether it elicits the anticipated emotional response, and whether it fulfils human and business needs. The contemporary model of design thinking – user-centred innovation – calls for collaboration across disciplines. Expertise from areas such as psychology, ergonomics, information technology, as well as traditional design disciplines must make concerted efforts to contribute to the innovation process. Designers must be involved in the research process right from the start, as opposed to the earlier model where designers only came in at the end as stylists.
My pedagogy emphasises ‘teaching for significance’ as opposed to providing a simple formula for success. A student-centered, interactive classroom that promotes self-motivated learning is what I strive to achieve. Rather than playing the role of an authority figure, I invite students to challenge the status quo, initiate debates, and to actively take charge of their own decisions, actions and education. As such, I take on the role of a facilitator of learning, and strive to teach by enthusiasm and by example. Guided self-discovery is valued over the plain transmission of knowledge and plurality is favoured over the enforcement of immutable laws. Learning is all about making connections, and I believe that it is the job of an educator to provide opportunities for connections to happen. With a view to constantly improve my teaching, I take every opportunity to explore new approaches and employ a wide variety of methods in the classroom.
Information design, typography, user experience and interface design are my main areas of teaching and research interest. In a post-Covid world where intangible capitals and economies are growing strong, communication design will gain a lot of importance in the future, coinciding with such developments as ubiquitous computing, IoT, artificial intelligence, use of data in decision making, NFT and metaverse. Engaging communication experiences will generate much business and economic value. I place strong emphasis on the analysis, structure and visualization of complex information in my teaching. Combined with strong user research skills, conceptualisation skills, systems thinking, craft skills and technological literacy, students will be equipped with competencies that enable them to solve complex communication problems and build convincing and valuable communication experiences.
Good designers tend to be life-long learners. A natural curiosity can motivate anyone in learning anything. Design education can be much more than simply a means for honing professional skills; more importantly it should be a place where an inquisitive, critical mind is nurtured. Asking critical and difficult questions, challenging the status quo, advancing knowledge in the profession – these are all very important within design education. Along with the industry, educational institutions drive change in the design profession.