In response to my (perhaps overly-rhetorical) "Should JD and MD degrees be reworked in hopes that lawyers and physicians will become criminology and physiology researchers?" Chris answered: "a qualified yes - if we don't hold open the option that our best students may encounter new opportunities in their studies, and allow for more than one outcome to a degree, we are failing them and failing our professions." It's hard to disagree with allowing not just our best but all of our students new opportunities. My question was, however, not whether they should have new opportunities but what portion of a degree should be devoted to activities other than those that are the ostensible focus of the degree.

I have to take issue with his further statement that "the proper answer is that this is an international forum and it is concerned first with doctoral study and research."

The original question was about a requirement for an MFA program in graphic design but was stated quite generally. It asked about the length of a masters dissertation and I pointed out that, while that was not exactly like asking "How long is a piece of string?" specific context should be considered.

I wouldn't argue against "an enquiring or critical approach" (and I would hope that you all know me better from this list than to assume I would.) It should be noted that taking a specific issue of design of design education and broadening it without regard to context or actual use is not the sort of thinking that supports good design (which, in turn, makes me question what sort of design research it supports.) If the answer were "This isn't the right place for this discussion" then fine. To instead answer that this is the place where we talk about research and PhD degrees therefore every question should be answered with research and PhD degrees is more than a bit troublesome.

I agree that we need a "more integrated approach that encouraged students to engage with the kind of critical thinking we expect from researchers." I would say that this is true not just of graphic design MFA programs but pretty much every corner of education. That doesn't have to lead to the conclusion that the best route to critical thinking is to take a substantial portion of every degree program and devote it to a specific sort of major research project.

So is a large piece of research writing being suggested as a big portion of a design practice degree because it is the best way to promote advancement in practice, because we don't really approve of practice as worthy of an educational focus, or because we have classified research as fitting the old Martha Stewart phrase "a Good Thing," therefore to be shoehorned into whatever we control?

Gunnar Swanson Design Office
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