Design and Education in the House of Lords

May 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

I came to this talk because I had connected Kay Stables, head of Design at Goldsmiths, with Joceyln Bailey of Policy Connect who organised the talk today.

I don’t have time to go into detail, but I’d hoped that, this being a political place to have a discussion, some solutions would clearly arise. Instead what happened was, as it always does in these talks, everyone contributed good and sometimes contrasting ideas, and there was barely any summation with a clear set of ideas to take forward. We didn’t all agree on anything.

There were numerous answers for what design is, along all the spectrum of it. Design is so broad that maybe it can’t be defined, with one definition for everyone.

Some people want design as the centre of education, and do projects through it, while some people don’t want design in the curriculum at all because then it has to be examined.

How do you measure design? Perhaps by the student’s own aims.

I have fulfilled my aims this year, but I didn’t voice them very well. What I meant to do was design something to help improve well-being. Maybe I did say that. I didn’t know how I would do it, so I didn’t have the words to describe it. It was risky. And I’m glad I took the risk.

I sat next to someone that turned out to be important: Michael Bouchard. I invited him to our degree show. He used to be head of the University of the Arts and the Design Council too, and now sits on parliment. Or whatever the expression is. What an awful lot to achieve. He said that none of the politicians understand what design is. That left me feeling very dispirited. If that’s the case, we’re not represented. I voiced my fears to him after the talk, and he said a few names who might understand. I’m appalling with names.
He, and some others, said that because I’m young I ought to feel optimistic. I’m going to do all I can to change the way design is understood from outside of government, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed to find out that there is less hope for change from inside government. I thought policy was a good way to change things. But if the people that make policy don’t understand and won’t listen, what can be done from that angle?

Piers Roberts from Designersblock afterwards said that perhaps we might do something from the outside, which would be taken up by those in power as soon as they see the value in it (and then not give credit where it’s due).

Sir John Sorrel seemed to be a lovely man and said many interesting things – he does have some answers. One disillusioning thing he said was that government only respond to economic benefit. This is what’s wrong with our country.

He said that he employs 10000 people and pays a great deal of tax – as a creative entrepenur, he is a good example to government of how creative industries create capital.

What he is doing is getting kids in secondary schools to do Saturday classes in universities, so that they are inspired to perhaps study design. That was one line of thought. Others had a problem with that in that they want to see design more central in school, rather than taken out of it completely.

When there is a huge difference in opinion on the main issue, what can be done? Maybe just try both.

What can I do as a designer?

I don’t know. For now I will continue to learn more about the issue – I’ll just make sure I’m aware. And it’s good to meet these interesting people.

What can I do as a young person?

Try to have hope and faith that things will improve. And that my generation has the power to improve it. I’m not succeeding in being hopeful right now because I’m stressed out with my own work, and also because the more I talk to these people, the more I find that there is a big complicated mess.


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