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Our New Feature Series: “Shaping Design Through Education”

October 14, 2015

Design and education are both, in a sense, about the shaping of things. The lines and contours of our built environment, the elegant curves of our diagrams, the molding of minds. Perhaps what they share most closely in this regard is a sense of a shared future – what we do now shapes the course of what’s to come, and the world in which we and those who come after us will live. That, in essence, is the premise of designing for impact: the notion that through a conscious and thoughtful process – and with just the right amount of hubris and humility – we can impact the world in profound and positive ways and help create a more just and sustainable future.

But what of impact design’s own future? How do we shape that? What are the forces already at play and the ones that will emerge and transform both the theory and practice of a field still very much taking its first tentative steps?

These are the questions that inspired our new feature series on the education of impact designers – “Shaping Design Through Education.” We wanted to know how design education is changing and transforming social impact from a warm, fuzzy extra to an integral and essential building block of curriculum and practice; how global trends and collaboration are moving us away from a conception of design dominated by western thought and institutions, and how the conscious application of impact design principles is emerging both within the halls of the academy and on the new frontiers of online and experiential education.

Our journey takes us from the present to the future, across continents and disciplines, and deep into new models for a transforming economy and a changing climate. It covers everything from sustainability to bio-mimicry, from the efforts of makers to the struggles of social entrepreneurs. What does a distinctly “African” impact design curriculum look like? How is global cooperation redefining the need for cultural literacy in students? Will the classroom and the final project give way to the streets and the embedded creative? Are diplomacy and sociology becoming as important to a designer as form and function?

Our aim, like any good educator, is not necessarily to come up with all the answers, but to raise the most pressing questions. We hope you’ll read the coming features and interviews with interest, enlighten us with news of other projects and initiatives, and leaven the debate with your own insights and opinions. We all have much to learn, especially from one another. The shaping of things is never a passive process.

Read the first installment in our education series – The Future of Impact Design Education

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Impact Education Around The World: The African Design Center

October 28, 2015
Five years ago, Christian Benimana looked all around him and saw disaster. Born and raised in Rwanda, Benimana had just returned to his native country after finishing his architecture studies abroad. What he found was... Read More

The Promise of Transition Design: An Interview with Terry Irwin

November 11, 2015
Terry Irwin is Head of School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University and has been teaching at the university level since 1986. A practicing designer for over 40 years, her studies in living systems convinced... Read More

The Future of Impact Design Education

October 14, 2015
Few of us today have a degree in “impact design,” “social design,” or “public interest design;” though a few of us who are now students may be studying exactly those subjects, some even in degree... Read More

What The Maker Movement Needs To Learn

November 18, 2015
  Vincent Purcell is a Baltimore-based maker who teaches about making culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He currently serves as an Open Society Institute-Baltimore Community Fellow, where his work centers on the... Read More

Democracy in Action: Impact Design Education at Malmö

December 2, 2015
As part of our Shaping Design Through Education feature series we’ve been exploring the many different ways impact design education is being practiced around the world. anNa Seravalli is a senior lecturer in product design... Read More

Open Secret: An Interview with John Bielenberg

December 16, 2015
Open Secret: An Interview with John Bielenberg John Bielenberg is a designer, entrepreneur, and imaginative advocate for creating a better world through the application of “Thinking Wrong”. In 2003, he created Project M, an immersive... Read More

The Trailblazers – How Students Are Learning To Make Impact Design Better

December 23, 2015
Social impact is something that many fields work towards, and in some respects, designers are actually late to the game. Disciplines like public health, social work, and international development have long been pursuing the same... Read More

Empathy Is Our Compass – The Power of Design Futures

December 30, 2015
For years, students across the country have been frustrated by the lack of real educational opportunities in community-engaged design. While a handful of programs are gradually emerging to fill that demand, the problem of access... Read More