Abstract

Over the last several years, designers, researchers and educators have been increasingly concerned with what effect design has had, and could have, on the current condition of unsustainability. If design has had a significant part in materializing unsustainability, then we must try to change its disciplinary parameters and relationships. How can we teach design history in order to engage students in this critical work? This paper will document an ongoing experiment in the teaching of design history to undergraduate students in visual communication in two colleges of art and design. The course asks students to interpret images from the broad history of design through the lens of a common form of a “reverse design brief,” modified to engage the student in the task of pondering designs’ future effects. It is hoped that this pedagogical tool will not only allow the student to internalize this strategic tool of design practice, but as well allow them to understand the present-day consequential effects of designing. I will attempt to judge the success of the modified brief, from the standpoint of the qualitative insights of students into the ongoing designing effects of historical design objects. This pedagogy raises questions regarding the uses of design history, the relationship between historical study and practice, the understanding of contemporary and historical frameworks and the engagement of an historical and ecological imagination. Can the design history classroom become a locus for a critically engaged, experimentalist pedagogy that can be experienced by the future designer as an essential tool in developing a sustainable practice?

Keywords:

Case Study/Studies, Design Brief, Design History, Pedagogy, Practice, Sustainability, Unsustainability

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

Design History education and the Use of the Design Brief as an Interpretative Framework for Sustainable Practice

Over the last several years, designers, researchers and educators have been increasingly concerned with what effect design has had, and could have, on the current condition of unsustainability. If design has had a significant part in materializing unsustainability, then we must try to change its disciplinary parameters and relationships. How can we teach design history in order to engage students in this critical work? This paper will document an ongoing experiment in the teaching of design history to undergraduate students in visual communication in two colleges of art and design. The course asks students to interpret images from the broad history of design through the lens of a common form of a “reverse design brief,” modified to engage the student in the task of pondering designs’ future effects. It is hoped that this pedagogical tool will not only allow the student to internalize this strategic tool of design practice, but as well allow them to understand the present-day consequential effects of designing. I will attempt to judge the success of the modified brief, from the standpoint of the qualitative insights of students into the ongoing designing effects of historical design objects. This pedagogy raises questions regarding the uses of design history, the relationship between historical study and practice, the understanding of contemporary and historical frameworks and the engagement of an historical and ecological imagination. Can the design history classroom become a locus for a critically engaged, experimentalist pedagogy that can be experienced by the future designer as an essential tool in developing a sustainable practice?

 

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