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06 PEDAGOGY OF DESIGN, 1991 | Editorial


It is exactly thirty years since the Elisava School of Design in Barcelona began its work as pioneer of design teaching in Spain.

It has trodden a broad path of constantly renewed teaching, to which
Temes de Disseny aspires to correspond with the present monograph on the Teaching of Design and so pay homage to the continued efforts of Elisava to integrate design teaching into the cultural and social needs of its time.
This long teaching assignment has enabled Elisava to accumulate a vast pedagogic apparatus which, in our view, constitutes a decisive point of reference from which to initiate a consideration of the future of Design Teaching.

The basic objective of this, the first,
Temes de Disseny monograph is to initiate this scientific reflection on the pedagogic experiments in design which are currently being carried out and to try to respond to the deep feeling of change and rationalization required by the pedagogic model of today.
To this end we have approached renowned professors and teachers of design from schools and universities in diverse countries, accepting the risk imposed by limitations of space and time.

The reception given to this move has been transformed into a series of specialized articles on Design Teaching, which we are pleased to publish in this first monograph. We hope that this rewarding selection of the most recent and authoritative pedagogic proposals will engender an ideal base for the creation of our own pedagogic discourse, without renouncing the promise of reality and liberty which design demands.
We all remember, perhaps with certain nostalgia, that period of lofty discussion and pedagogic theorizing which characterized the sixties and which, in time, led to another period that was more concerned with the daily practice of the production of objects than with the production of a system of thinking capable of acting as a framework for the discipline of design.

In present-day society, basically defined by the permanent expansion of the production of goods, design has become a matter of great interest for manufacturers, who see in it an infallible means of increasing their sales.

Paradoxically, the fact that design has become a key element in the development of industry and the economy, just as it has become a familiar symbol of modernity and prosperity, has so impeded critical and ethical reflections on design that it has been reduced
in the words of Tony Russellto a practical tool of the consumer society.

The eminently economic use of design as an aesthetic means of creating products that will attract the buyers attention, relegates to a secondary role those other aims, possibly more intrinsic to design, such as the satisfaction of the interests of the consumer, a critical use of the contextual environment or the harmonious arrangement of the environment in its economic, psychological or aesthetic aspects.

The fact is that design, even within an irreversible reality, still lacks a pedagogic framework to give validity to its practice. Scientific and technical development have not followed the same rhythm as the evolution of thinking. The emphasis and the idolatry enjoyed by the former in no way correspond to the uncertain situation of attitudes and social investigation.

According to Victor Margolin, design education at this moment is excessively concerned with teaching how to make objects, when in fact its priority should be to accompany practice with a reflective dimension that might generate new ways of conceptualizing design.

Thus, while sociology, anthropology or the social sciences, working from a basis of the theories and methodology of other scientific and humanistic disciplines, have gone on introducing new methods of investigation and at this moment are at the centre of a critical debate which is a model for other fields, design
according to Margolinis still lacking in interest for investigators.

Design is in need of an exhaustive labour of reflection, idea forming and project planning and this must be furnished from our own teaching and investigatory spaces. There is an urgent need for pedagogy based on theoretical reflection to co-ordinate experience, intellectual reasoning and the interpretation of the environment; design pedagogy which will give us access to an education in theory and to practical knowledge that is always
being renewed through the critical attitude and investigatory demands of the student.

Today design has become a true significative manifestation. This phenomenon, which is relatively recent, is difficult to appreciate from the viewpoint of an academic tradition which only gives consideration to that function aimed at satisfying the concrete demands and immediate needs of the user.

This restricted concept of functionalism has to a great extent thwarted the creative and communicative development of the design object. The suppression of the cultural and psychological needs of society formed part of the project model, provoking paradoxical attitudes in which the form, according to Bilrdek, ceases to respond directly to the function and acquires a function which arises from the very form of the function.

If several decades ago pedagogic discourse opened up spaces which were significative in the context of the ideology which framed modern thinking, design today, in our consumer society, has undergone important changes in its scale of values to the point of becoming committed to the most
sophisticated strategies of mass communication.

In a society of «voyeurs» such as ours, the image of the product becomes more real than the product itself and design of necessity acquires a new sense. Design is an efficient means of communication to the extent that it integrates with the cultural and socialized units of the community and determines communicational relationships between individuals.

Designing is no longer projecting objects but rather transforming an object into the visual sign of certain very precise communicative intentions.

The purpose of design is the mental interpretation it provokes. The object must express a concrete significance that is always related to the aspirations (and also frustrations) of the great masses. In this sense the design process is nothing more than a process of manipulation and transformation of signs in order to adapt these to what the user believes or wants the product to signify.

With the design alone, we can no longer demonstrate anything or even convince. Design strategies are totally directed at developing the persuasive attributes of products. The seduction of the future user seems to be a question of priority in the design process.

In the course of its passage from industrial civilization to iconic civilization, design has been convened into an authentic handler of meaning and significance, which has meant a rapid process of desmat

The complexity of this new educative task is obvious. An understanding of the act of designing requires, now more than ever before, an analysis in depth of communicative strategies, personal interactions and the conventional mechanisms of society, always within the system of interests and needs of its members.

Within this framework, Bernhard
Bürdek reflects on the incidence and possibilities of electronic technologies in the present design process. Now more than ever, he tells us, the future designer must know the cultural context of the user, what he thinks about and expects from the products and, above all, his symbolic language which he must work on.

This concept of design leads us
to a pedagogic criterion dominated by a generalist designer. Hazel Clark considers that the very evolution of teaching itself shows us the need to stop regarding the study of design as a specialization, but rather to see it as the foundation of a solid training on which to establish flexible and adaptable structures.

The training of the designer, as the future planner of cultural products and as a decisive participant in the arrangement of the social medium, cannot be limited to the transmission of certain precise pieces of knowledge. The student, in his future profession, says Tony Russell, will have to explore, challenge and discover horizons that are wider than those of today. New design education must in the end conceive of design as a way of thinking and acting in relation to the world.

The very teaching of design is, according to Sarah Dinham, an unequivocal process of design in so far as its aim is to conceptualize and produce changes judged to be positive. This concept leads Dinham to reject design as a closed process of specialization and to insist on the need for structures which allow for proposals about the future on the basis of the realities of today. That is to say: «Start out from what there is in order to get to what may be.»

For this route to be effective, J. H.
Dohr and M. B. Portillo recommend the replacement of present-day pedagogy, based on the teacher/student confrontation, with a type of androgogy, in which the teacher motivates the student so that the latter assumes full responsibility for me solution of the problem.

According to Heiner Jacob, «good form» has ceased to be a dogma. The good form must be centred on me student and his context and the educative objectives will therefore be defined in operative terms and by activities which are possible for the student. Skill, methodology, knowledge and sensitivity will make up the basic areas on which the design project will rest.

This gives rise to the need, as H. Jacob states, for a holistic apprenticeship which will suppose an integrated, overall focusing on what is projected. In the same vein, Eileen Adams sees the need to recuperate the concept of environmental design within a system of teaching which allows the student to reflect on the existing conditions of daily life and in which techniques, design itself and communication all resort to genuine methods for solving new problems.

Another of the advantages offered by environmental design
in the opinion of Stephen Kendallresides in the fact that this type of design avoids any fragmented vision of reality and, more specifically, of the physical medium.

Within this overall, communicative conception of design, pedagogy faces the challenge of finding a state of equilibrium between pure logical thinking and creative, sensitive lyricism. Contemporary design, situated at the crossing-point of these two lines of action, feels insecure, shows of incoherence and uncertainty which impede the articulation of any theoretical, pedagogic system of thinking.

Andries Van Onck, in a critical survey of the teaching of design, considers that the excessive priority given to artistic trends and the sparse interest shown in the analysis of ideas separates the school from reality and provokes distancing between production and programmes of design.
H. Jacob and Klaus Lehmann tell us that we need a system of teaching capable of formulating overall proposals that overcome the fragmentary vision of each of these two lines of action; a system that will unite sensitivity and knowledge itself and which will resolve the conflict that exists between logical analysis and creative thought.

It is in this sense that Andries Van Onck introduces the concept of MDM (Mental Design Model), which designates the existence, in the mind of the designer, of an imaginary material on which he intervenes mentally and which he freely manipulates. This possibility of manipulation allows Van Onck to put forward the hypothesis that the products of design can be considered to be the final studies of a biological process.

Claude Schnaidl gives an historical analysis of the Bauhaus in order to insist on the need to integrate design into life, into society and into work, and rejects the possibility of design that is conditioned by purely institutional rationality.

K. Lehmann also departs from the Bauhaus tradition to analyse the new reality and Turpin studies the economic, political and cultural circumstances which in the mid-eighteenth century gave rise to design teaching, culminating in the consolidation and recognition which it enjoys today.

On the other hand, mass production has been redefining design so as to transform it into an innovating and creative activity that looks for expressive, effective and revitalizing solutions. In this sense, Peter Gorb and
Jordi Pericot propose a pedagogic line which aims to surmount the well-trodden ways of teaching methods based exclusively on a systematic, graded type of logic which reduces the problem of design to a simple lineal sequence.

Peter Gorb insists on the need for design teaching which does not necessarily follow the path of knowledge, as in the scientific scholastic tradition, but which rather rates the synthetic above the analytic method and which strives to discover the «how» before the «why».

It should be capable of developing attitudes of co-operative work and of social service; it should foster a critical novel attitude towards existing problems. A system of teaching, says
Jordi Pericot, that will arouse enthusiasm and a sense of creativity in the student, that will reinforce his will and that will stimulate intelligent activity, free from conditioners of order and time; a system of teaching that sets out to harmonize logic and imagination, the problem and the solution; a system in which what we do and think will be attuned to what we feel and know.

K. Lehmann lays special emphasis on the need to test design processes which will surpass austere traditionality and incorporate sensuality and evidence. To this end Lehmann offers us a pedagogic programme geared to the new social needs and always linked to present-day thinking.
A pedagogic system that conceives of design as the act of going towards what is new, what is unknown to us; that is to say, a system that understands design as a form of exploration within the uncertain. Committed to present-day thinking, critical of design dogmatism, new design teaching must be capable of creating its own laws, which, emanating from real and possible necessities, will have as a basis their own fulfilment and self-realization.

To offer an outline of this new pedagogic trend has been the aim of the Monograph on Design Teaching which you have in your hands. It is a selection of work, experiments, initiatives and proposals which we hope will become a working tool for all of us, educators and students of design alike. We would also wish that this publication might encourage contact and direct interchange among us all, conscious always, however, of our conviction and certainty that this path is open to discussion and constant revision.

Jordi Pericot



An integrative approach to graphic design education


New means of communication and new technologies in design


The search for design


Associative design framework for education


Teaching design: designing teaching


Pedagogic limits of modern design


Environmental design education in schools


Desing studies and the education of designers


The tension necessary in the teaching of design. The diversified option of the school Elisava


A school connected to life is not utopic


Design history and British design education. An appraisal


Projects, not cases


The history of design education in Ireland


The place of designing in production chains: A basis for design education


Education in design in the european context


Design down under capricorn. Design: a cultural and economic imperative