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PHD-DESIGN  November 2012

PHD-DESIGN November 2012

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Subject:

Epistemological bailiwicks replacing traditional disciplines

From:

Francois Nsenga <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 18 Nov 2012 20:20:46 -0500

Content-Type:

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Dear Mike

Thanks for bringing up this very important issue, and I am quite surprised
we didn't get much suggestions, or at least more thoughts from the list
members!

For my part, I'll offer my suggestion for further reflection in your
endeavour, based on current training in 'Design' here in Québec.

Since 50 years ago, a major Education reshuffle was instituted here,
following recommendations from a Government commissioned "Rapport Parent".
It was then decided that after 11 years of compulsory Primary and Secondary
general or vocational schooling, one would either join the labour market
right away, or starts the first level of what is here called Higher
Education. At this level are trained technicians in different trades,
'Design' included. 'Design' meaning exclusively draftsmanship, prototype
building, and (intuition based) visual illustration and rendering. Students
go through a 2 year program called CEGEP (College d'enseignement général et
professionnel), upon graduation supplying to public and private employers
with skills related to both manual and basic intellectual skills specific
to each trade. Advanced field specific knowledge is eventually acquired
through respective Higher level Technical Schools, during 2 to 3 years more
training. To my knowledge, there is as yet no higher technical program
available for graduates wishing to specialize in 'Design' techniques.

The second level in Higher Education is that of University Bachelor, either
'general' (Natural Sciences, Social sciences, Humanities)  or professional
(Medicine, Law, Engineering, Nursing, Fine Arts, etc., and 'Design' :
mostly graphic, industrial, and fashion, based on classical studio type
teaching). The general baccalaureate is a three years program, whereas
professional baccalaureates, were originally programmed to be of a 4 year
duration. Recently, some professional programs have been reduced to 3 years
only, to make it similar with general education programs. Both in general
and professional programs, University Bachelors are trained to be
autonomous workers, specialized in respective disciplines, performing as a
skilled employee in private or public organizations. And where and when
required, Bachelors may eventually have under their professional guidance
and leadership teams of both technicians and skilled blue-collar workers.

The third level is the one through which, during 2 years, are trained
Masters in respective disciplines. Masters are "reflexive" employees,
expected to methodically run or manage departments into which work
Bachelors, technicians, and manual labourers. They are expected to be fully
knowledgeable in respective expertise, that is in ways and means of proper
performance, forecasting outcomes, and training technicians and manual
labourers.

The fourth and last level of Higher Education is that of PhD, training
researchers and University teachers in respective fields for 3 to 5 years.
Graduates at this level are expected to be deeply "reflexive", essentially
providing, through research and teaching, disciplinary professional
guidance to Masters and Bachelors of the same or different other
disciplines, while at the same time sharing knowledge with fellow
researchers in same and/or in different disciplines.

I guess it is the same in other countries, the large majority of
practitioners in 'Design' (above) fields here in Québec are graduates
either from the technical (CEGEP) or University baccalaureate levels. For
various reasons, I believe the major one being the lack of a corresponding
demand a the labour market place, very few students venture up to the
Masters' of Design level; and even fewer still dare going up to PhD. These
few do rather enrol in Masters and PhD programs in other University
disciplines, eventually bringing back into their professional practice, in
Design and elsewhere, the knowledge gained from those meanderings.

The other striking aspect, deriving from the above stated situation, is
that quite often both technicians and bachelors in 'Design' fields compete
for the same jobs; again, since the market has never made clear performance
expectations to both CEGEP technicians and University graduates in
'Design'. This results in having most 'Design' jobs not being attended to
at all, or being poorly accomplished, either by self-made bricoleurs, or by
CEGEP technicians, and some times by University Bachelor graduates, all
performing at (higher or lower) levels in which they were not trained.
Particularly for University graduates, these are not hired to perform as
'Designers' in technical sense, neither in what I would call University
"reflexive" sense.

Conclusion, as a general observation not yet substantiated with facts (I
didn't get any hints from the list when, a while ago in one of my previous
posts, I enquired if there were some rationale to modern University
training for Designers), it seems most University level Design teaching
programs were instituted without much reflection on what was their specific
purpose, or offer, to the labour market-place.

So then, in response to your query, perhaps like in case of any other
product or service, your reflection (or "reflexivity"??) should be aimed at
specifying the market demand first, instead of starting with thoughts or
'ideas' on what to offer (to me, this a major weakness in most of
approaches and/or practices in Design). Once clearly delineated the actual
needs in Design at the labour market place, then you will 'design' a
properly tailored teaching "structure". First, which are those Design tasks
that are desired but not presently performed at all? Which are those tasks
actually poorly executed by bricoleurs, by technicians, or by University
graduates, and that would be accomplished much better if the match were
right between the specified demand and the skills offered? Who are those
demanding Design skills? Of course there are students; but also, I guess,
there are industrial and commercial institutions, governmental and
semi-public institutions, national and international civil society
organizations, and private individuals (i.e. 5 Design market major
constituencies). In other words, which are the (separate and/or compounded)
Design skills that are actually - and in future - needed at the labour
market place?

Only following this prior "reflexive" facts finding above, you would then
look into a sound, substantiated, and appropriate "future focused design
education structure". And believe me, if thoroughly and honestly 'mined'
(as it seems you are willing to not privileging only traditional, classical
views and approaches in Design studio education), those kinds of facts
above will necessarily call for a transdisciplinary structure building
approach.

Needless to say, in closing, that I am really curious to see what kind of
Design teaching structure you'll come up with, following your consultation
and cogitation.

Best wishes

Francois
Montreal


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