Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power
George Aye
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Mr. Aye,

Thank you for this essay! I will be adding it to my course readings for the Senior Design Thesis course I teach at UNC Charlotte.

If I may add my two cents… a colleague, Megan Hall, and I have done a little thinking and presenting on an allied issue in design education, which is the need for more sophisticated instruction in cultural histories and contexts that students are likely to encounter. Too often, design education presents a model where a universalized and abstracted designer is filled up with domain knowledge by a client or audience and then rearranges or aestheticizes that knowledge to successful effect. However, we question, based on our experiences with community engagement around societal re-entry for the formerly incarcerated, whether a few weeks of client or community interviews can get a designer to a place of sophistication about relevant topics. Or, to give another example, which has occasionally come up in class, a student who has never been exposed to feminist thinking in an educational context cannot make strong work out of a few bullet points that she or he may have only recently been exposed to.

No single person can be a subject matter on every possible cultural context, and designers should also learn how to bring in experts where needed. However, we are investigating how different University-level programs in the US and Canada are explicitly integrating multicultural instruction (e.g. feminist theory, queer theory, disability studies, ethnic studies, critical race theory and others) into the design classroom.

Thank you again for sharing your insights and experiences!

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