Eye Forum no. 3, Design and education, took place on 22 Jan at the LCC Lecture Theatre. Over the next few weeks we will post responses to the event, so please join in, and tell us what you think. More details (summary, recordings) to be added later. (Eye Forum no. 4 will be in June.)
L-R: Sanky, Lesley Morris, Alan Livingston, Tim Molloy. Not visible in this picture: Jonathan Baldwin and Jamie Hobson.
Eye Forum no. 3 – short report
Eye’s third Forum featured a five-strong panel chaired by Falmouth principal, Professor Alan Livingston, who posed half a dozen questions submitted by readers from around the world. Panel members briefly introduced themselves and Alan ended his introduction with the statement: ‘a good design education should stay with you . . . design can enrich your life.’
The first question was from a ‘feral’ designer in the Philippines: ‘Is it right to say that we are in a movement called the Digital Renaissance? And what are the implications for the old school of the arts?’ Initial frowns quickly turned into articulate discussion about skills and tools. For Sanky (Simon Sankarayya from AllofUs), ‘Tools bring an expansion to the palette of things that just weren’t possible before.’ Lesley Morris (Design Council) said: ‘Don’t separate craft skills from thinking skills.’ Tim Molloy (Science Museum) claimed: ‘I have no software skills.’
A second question about literacy skills prompted Jonathan Baldwin to say: ‘Literacy is way too low; 25 per cent of students claim never to read a book.’ Tim said that, ‘it is difficult for some designers to explain what they are doing and why.’ An LCC student in the audience explained that he had ‘rekindled his love of reading’ since starting an MA course.
A question about the possible redundancy of the term ‘graphic design’ itself provoked diverging responses. Jamie Hobson (LCC) thought that the term was outmoded, but that we had to stick with it because it’s one that students understand. ‘I call myself a graphic designer,’ said Sanky, making observations about his own practice. ‘Just because we’re digital designers doesn’t mean we don’t understand the basic principles of graphic design.’
Lesley asked: ‘When can we have a new word?’, adding that ‘we need to change the names to better reflect the real value that designers bring to business.’
Question four, from the D&AD, asked whether ‘the industry requires graduates to be “jacks of all trades” or experts’, which prompted discussion about ‘lift-core architects’ (Tim), T-shaped people (Lesley) and ‘oven-ready students’ (Jonathan).
Malcolm Garrett, speaking from the audience, said a designer should be a ‘jack of all trades and master of one’, so that you can ‘work well in a team with other people who do things well.’
Both Alan and Jonathan noted that ‘industry’ doesn’t speak with one voice when it comes to knowing what it wants from students.
A question from Liz Resnick (of MassArt) about the effects of ‘sociopolitical assignments’ on what is being taught gave Jonathan the opportunity to read out Paul Rand’s notorious comments about students ‘cluttering’ their minds with political and social issues. ‘If the guy wasn’t dead, I’d take him outside and shoot him! It’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard anybody say . . . Graphic design is a practice that has consequences.’
Other burning issues included the ‘cheap labour’ of student placements, whether there were too many students, and the roles of creativity and skills (that word again) in learning. Noel Douglas, in the audience, brought up the issue of depression among students, and the pressures many students encountered combining full-time jobs with full-time education.
Alan concluded the evening by asking the panel to respond to one of two questions: to recommend one book a student should read, or to name a big cultural event that affected their lives. The responses were as follows: Jonathan: Doctor Who; Sanky: The Old Man and the Sea; Lesley: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; Tim: travelling to the big city; Jamie: Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn’s Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice; Alan: examining certainty and prejudice.
The forum lasted approximately 100 minutes, and after the event, a busy reception allowed everyone to meet, greet and chat over drinks. A recording was made of the forum, so we will edit this into short podcasts that will be available soon.