World

11/18/2009

Students don’t want freedom


I can remember vividly how we kicked up a fuss in my student days (Design Academy Eindhoven) when we had to design a stand for a trade fair. The department next door to ours protested when they had to design a plastic garden chair. We thought it was corny, an unimaginative assignment without any research element. We (the stand builders) were deeply sorry for the plastic garden furniture builders.
Obviously they were worse off. I am convinced that these assignments could easily be given at design or architectural schools today, and the students would be happy to start. What in actual fact has changed is that students no longer want freedom, they no longer need to escape reality, but rather they want to dive into it completely. They may take drugs on a Saturday night to escape reality but they really want to conform to it on the Monday morning. 

Narrative research: don’t sleep at home.
An example of an educational trend that in fact started within the professional field is narrative research. Designer’s and architects started telling stories more often - stories in their work and in their design process. In order to learn that approach and get a feeling for a design story, a teacher of the Design Academy forbid his Master students to sleep at home for one night, without them expecting this. Another one made them live in half their available space for a week and yet another banned them from making phone calls and e-mailing. What will that do to you and will it inspire any designs? The outcome of these empiric studies form the type of work that was often to be seen: heavily autobiographical, narrative and contextual.
The current crisis has dried up the demand for this kind of work and it will not be long before those assignments will disappear from the curriculum.

Education is no longer leading but following
Through accreditation protocols the next stage is pretty much determined. The professional practice needs to be reflected in education. Thereby following the professionals has become the standerd and all educational trends follow the trends in the profession concerned. Students are often tricked into believing that they are at the forefront of thinking, yet the agenda is in reality set by the profession or society itself. 


Images: Above Philip Starck under: Nathan Wierink