Thanks for this piece, Kim — I’m looking forward to hearing your talk in a few weeks!
As someone who’s made a recent move from industry to academia (design school inside of a research university) I’m currently wrestling with this “vocational training” vs “educated designer” dichtomy. I’ve come to the conclusion (that I’m fairly certain I share with some IxDA DesEdu people) that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but already exists as a paradigm of both. Namely, that industry needs and wants designers who are not only educated in the history, theory, and creative practices of their profession, but also learned about business language, tools, and expectations as part of their education—not unlike MBA programs. We have IxD programs that do this well at both grad and undergrad levels. As you said, these program work because some large percentage of their faculty come from industry.
Perhaps the split exists for those who have only been on one side or the other.
On the academic side, I’ve come to appreciate a very interesting, intriguing problem: tenure. It’s not that academia is slow (it is, but not always), it’s the reality that faculty who have tenure and move away from the day-to-day experience of industry for many years miss the frame of reference from which to teach a current design practice that has been so heavily influenced by rapid economic and technologic change. Tenure is a wonderful and useful thing in the academy; it’s important to the advancement of design scholarship. I hope to earn tenure myself someday. But, I wonder if design faculty who are not in recent practice themselves may put students at a disadvantage because it misaligns the students’ expectations of what UX/IxD/Design Strategy looks and feels like.
So, my rhetorical question to myself is this: how do I help students to become not only thoughtful designers, but also “industry-ready” as I, myself join a culture of research and move away from a culture of design in industry?
Or—as much as I’m not personally satisfied by this one—is the answer that IxD programs should ideally employ professors of practice and not tenured faculty?
Curious to hear what others think… here and in Helsinki!