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Design Education: Pragmatic or Academic? .

U.A.Athavankar 1-1 I hope to prove that the problem of practical or theoretical


inclinations is not.a binary choice, but a matter of positioning
oneself on a continuum of practical and theoretical approaches
in a given problem envircnment.

Perhaps this view point also suggests that a model of design


education could be worked out to meet this goal. The goal of
design education is to create matured designers, who have the
ambition and intense motivation to improve the man-made
world and who are equipped with tools, methods and approach
to achieve it In an interdisciplinary environment in which the
modern designer works, the term 'matured' refer to the ability
to adopt his approach to meet the demands of the problem
environment as well as to the motivation to influence his team
members to adopt his thinking and approach. Design in its
search for effective solutions must continuously explore newer
approaches to problems as well as problem solving process.

Design approach based on answering currently visible needs


through available resources and methods can only promise
short term benefits. It will have little impact on the knowledge
base on which the design profession is built, nor will it help
update design thinking and approach. The profession is most
likely to be drifted by the influences of the other professions,
that are only too willing to impose their approach. If the ap-
proach is pursued extensively, the nature of design profession
and education will be too confusing. One can look at the design
education as a dynamic and open system that is continously
evolving. In such a system it is important that designer ex-
plores and attempts new directions continously. It is then
required that the design education supports and even promotes
such an approach. 'Such a dynamic system can only be gener-
ated by a thinking process that transcends the routine and
practical design approach. What will be the sourse of such a
dynamism?

Nobody can deny that in other fields the influence of research


culture and theoretical work continously changed the educa-
tional process. These fields have immensely benefited by the

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new inputs that came from the involvement of the faculty in
diverse research areas. Design field itself can benefit a lot from
research in areas like creativity and problem solving, visual
perception, social psychology, culture anthropology, philoso-
phy and even linguistics. Can these new and diverse inputs be
digested, so that they can be used as generative tools in design
and to understand designing in newer perspective? Involve-
ment in theoretical work is ineitable to explore new approach
and keep the system continuously in the dynamic state. Cam
design education fully commit itself to such a goal? In other
words, can we afford to dispense with the pragmatism? What
alternatives do we have? Educational process cannot view the
issue as a binary problem but must teach students to seek
balance between the practical and theoretical approach. The
success of the design education depends on developing the
ability in the students to make a matured judgement of how and
to what degree to mix the theoretical approach with pragmatic
outlook. He must learn to live in the present and future simulta-
neously. It is obvious that the problem environment and his
own abilities to influence this environment will dictate his
approach in real life situation. Educational process can build
the motivation to influence the problem environment and teach
not to work against it. In other words, the designer must posi-
tion himself on a continuum of pragmatism and new theoretical
approaches as a response to the demand of the problem. Design
education must work towards explorations of new theoretical
approaches and yet it cannot afford to alienate itself from the
realities that it is seeking to change. The solution is not in
making a binary choice but it lies in continously repositioning
itself between the pragmatism and the new promises offered by
the theoretical areas. The structure of design education must
ensure that it offers the opportunities to continuously explore
the relations between the two ends.

1-2 Sensitivity to design is a necessity in the world, which has


ever-increasing number of man-made objects flooding our
environment. Not all of them are developed with the degree of
concern they demand. Design at general level must prepare
potential consumers to make product choices.

Design Education at General Level .


It is unfortunate that the general education mainly concerns
itself with areas which are historically developed. It totally
neglects introduction to design and and technology. It should
take up the role of creating greater sensitivity towards design
and technology. Exposure to design and technology at general
educational level will also prepare the students for the new and
exciting careers in these areas. Design and design oriented
assignments have a more important role to play in general
education. Design borrows from all areas and can best be used
as a tool that integrates these diverse subjects through single
design assignment. In fact this integrative character of design
can make other subjects more relevant to students.

Creativity and problem solving-the underlying force in design-


has tremendous significance in general education, particularly
at school level. Design can allow and' encourage self-expres-
sion in the early schooling. During later years it can offer
opportunities to understand and experience problem solving
and creativity.

Design Education at Professional Level


Modem design approach needs support from many other fields.
Large number of professionals and expertise and involved in
developing and introducing new products in the market. It is
important that at a professional level the attempt is made to
reduce the communication gap between people involved in the
design process. Product is seen as one of the manifestation of
marketing and business strategy of the company. Product
design approach is intricately related to marketing, product
planning and new product management. No doubt that the·
designers must understand these areas, but it is even more
important that professional managers understand modern
design approach in its full complexity. Design and technology
intensive approach to business is possible only if future design:
ers and managers understand each others roles. Obviously
design education at professional level must address itself to
reduce the communication gap.