In the interviews, the dialogue covered the required skills and competencies needed for the changing practices of the designer. This is relevant because it informs design education, defining which skills need to be taught to future designers.
In all of the interviews, curiosity was mentioned as one of the most important skills. It could be considered to be a continuing process – not only curious about new topics but also about the process of working, context, new roles, etc.
Openness is regarded as an important attitude. Marieke de Keijzer described it as a necessity to learn: “I do have the willingness to learn and have an open attitude on new topics.” (de Keijzer, 2017) Kirsten Kentler talked about openness and insecurity as a way of connecting to people. This is relevant within the design process in order to be able to ask critical questions. Openness engages designers with wide variety of people. Open attitudes allow listening to one another. This benefits inclusive, transdisciplinary cooperation as experts and non-experts start to listen to each other. Cynthia Hathaway described the ‘openness of linking the unusual suspects’ needed in order to bring people together. She emphasized the importance of being vulnerable in this process. In her view, openness and vulnerability belong to each other. Christina Ampatzidou described the urgency of openness. “Cities bring together people that do a lot of great things. There is urgency because cities become more exclusive, losing diversity that made them great. There is a need to bring back inclusivity. Amateurs help to think in a different way. A luxury that is lost within professionalism: lots of openness…” (Ampatzidou, 2017)
In the changing practice of the designer, you have to take on new roles and operate in new contexts. There is an importance to understanding your position. Cynthia Hathaway described it as “knowing where you are in a certain context, understanding your role, you can be instrumental,” and what you can contribute: ‘the importance of a small change’. (Hathaway, 2017) Guido Marsille said that understanding his position developed during his career. “The way my career developed is also due to age. It took me years to create the wisdom and learn. It’s an organic process.” (Marsille, 2017)
As a designer operating in these labs, engaging with complex ecological issues requires being critical. Marieke de Keijzer argued for the urgency of critically questioning things and that this belongs to the role of design as mentioned in Chapter 3.2.
Dealing with ecological issues and experimenting in city labs with alternative visions requires disruption of the current systems. This is a skill that can be trained. Designers have the ability to disrupt a system from within as they are used to working within a system rather then outside of or against a system. Cynthia Hathaway called this ability from design “to be able to disrupt from within” in contrast with the position of artists that can disrupt a system from the outside. She mentioned that designers can learn from artist as they are often more radical.
INDEPENDENT + RISK
Designers have their independent businesses. This creates the possibility to respond quickly to new situations and take more risks. “I can do that because I’m an independent practitioner. This means if I see an interesting business opportunity or if I see an urgency to work on a specific topic, I can react very quickly. I do not need to take care of a big and slow organization.” (Marsille, 2017)
ZOOM IN AND OUT
Lastly, the ability to ‘zoom in and out’ was mentioned as important; being a generalist as well as having specific knowledge. This ability is important in order to be able to diverge between scales, methods, and beliefs. Christina Ampatzidou described this as the ability to think “in 1+1=2, but also 3 or 4 at the same time.” (Ampatzidou, 2017) The whole of individual parts can become more in the total composition by its interconnectedness.
These skills and attitudes seem relevant within the traditional design context, as well, to have an open or curious attitude, for example. But the total composition of all these skills is needed for these changing practices. In other words, 1+1=4. The combination of the set of skills (open, curious, critical, disrupting, independent, understanding your position, taking risk, zooming in and out) is more then the sum of the individual parts; it creates a canvas to be an expert designer as well as a Pro-Am in another field within transdisciplinary settings.