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Sing it, Don Norman.

December 13, 2010

A blurb from Don Norman’s recent column at titled “Why Design Education Must Change”

In the early days of industrial design, the work was primarily focused upon physical products. Today, however, designers work on organizational structure and social problems, on interaction, service, and experience design. Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully undereducated for the task…

Design schools do not train students about these complex issues, about the interlocking complexities of human and social behavior, about the behavioral sciences, technology, and business. There is little or no training in science, the scientific method, and experimental design.

All too true. I think you HAVE to be multi-disciplinary to be a successful designer today. Knowing how to design physical products isn’t enough — you must know how your idea/product/invention affects an entire system.

Industrial Design = art + engineering + psychology + sociology + human factors + public policy + (insert field here)

We aren’t just talking about making sculptural chairs in the 1960’s anymore! Today industrial designers are tackling big problems like sustainability, poverty, housing, water sanitation, the list goes on. Over the course of two years I have seen the curriculum at Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Design improve tremendously. Thanks to administrators like Sabir Khan, the Associate Dean of the College of Architecture, there is a senior studio that is mixed with architecture, industrial designer, and mechanical engineering students. There has been some talk of adding management students into the mix too. I took that studio my senior year at GT and it really changed my perspective of what defines “design”.

Are you a designer, creative thinker, or maker-of-things? How did you feel about your design education? Do you agree/disagree with Don Norman’s points?

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2010 05:41

    Well said and completely agree. Looking at design as a whole as a system is crucial in today’s world. Learned this first hand at work!

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