2.6 EXPECTATIONS OF DESIGN
How does this discussion reflect on the context of design /design education? Design as a profession has become a mentality that can be applied in various fields. Nowadays, design belongs to the field of design management, social design, service design, design thinking, etc. There is potential danger in the devaluation of the professional standard if it doesn’t create a redefinition. Designers lose their specific knowledge and skills (materials, techniques, manufacturing, colour, etc.) if they are also educated at the academy in design thinking, social design, service design, etc. Design academies should be very careful in educating ‘multidisciplinary’ designers rather then expert designers.
Lucas Verweij (design critic) is very sceptical about the role design has in addressing Wicked Problems. He claimed that the design profession should be very careful in stepping into new territories if expectations aren’t well considered. In ‘The First Deserter of Design’ (Verweij, 2014), he argued that design does have a role to play, however “design is claiming expectations it can’t deliver. It shouldn’t make the assumption that design will solve the plastic soup or create a smog-free situation in China. And at the same time, is delivering graduated design students that have projects that dream of a better future but have no clue about industrial production processes and costs, or material and technical processes.” (Verweij, 2014, p1.) Verweij warned against a ‘design-bubble’; design can’t solve all the big issues and shouldn’t imply that it can. Design has a role to play, but a humble one.
This doesn’t mean that design doesn’t have the potential to operate outside the traditional context however. But it does require redefining the implications. Fuad-Luke called for a need for designers to get a grip on what this co-creation within design and its fluid boundaries implies for the design profession. “If sustainability is the most challenging Wicked Problem of the current era, then participation in design.. seems essential. …designers need to get a firm grip on what it means for the design profession.” (Fuad-Luke, 2009, p.143)
Reframing expectations of the design profession towards wicked problems, as Verweij argued, includes a responsibility for design education to educate expert designers (rather then multidisciplinary). It also includes defining a critical framework for the changing role of the designer. It is up to design education to define what (in many forms) this critical framework is and how it can be taught to future designers. In the next chapter I will suggest a possible framework.