NewslettersSeptember 3rd, 2019

PG #41: Design education’s big gap

Chris Marmo
Chris Marmo, Chief Executive Officer

A number of us here at Paper Giant used to be educators – lecturers or tutors at universities, mostly – and so it’s no surprise that teaching design (or capability building, as it is regularly labelled) has become a core part of our work.

This year, we’ve delivered both public and private training around co-design, design research and service design. We’ve helped multiple government departments establish design education programs, and created resources, guides, toolkits and other support materials that clients use to deliver better projects. On top of that, almost all of our recent project work has had structured elements of mentorship and coaching within it, through which we work alongside client teams to deliver human-centred outcomes.

Most of this education work is about helping people use design. We’re often introducing design to people for the first time, so that they can work with problems in new ways. We also try to help design teams do better, by delivering training around specialties like qualitative research, research ethics, or storytelling and organisational engagement.

What we’ve learned from this work is that design is being widely embraced, and it’s being asked to solve increasingly complex problems. We’ve also learned that practitioners don’t necessarily feel like they have the skills and structures to do what they see as necessary. Imposter syndrome is common, and it appears that, once you’ve learned enough to get your first job, education is largely experience based and self-guided.

A two-day course can only teach so much, and three-year degrees are impractical for many professionals. Which leaves the third option: reflection on experience. We try to bring that to each of our projects, but we understand how difficult it can be to protect the time and space to do it properly.

Like all habits, learning takes work to sustain. From our perspective, what is the biggest lesson? What makes the biggest difference? The commitment to keep trying.


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