Essays & Articles


The Future of Design Education

It all started in LinkedIn. Scott Klemmer and I wrote a paper called “State of Design: How Design Education Must Change” published in March 2014:

We argued that design education must change but we didn’t say how. Today, 6 years later, we are ready to embark upon that journey.

Recently I was asked to contribute to a special issue of the new design journal, She Ji, on Design Education. I invited Michael Meyer to join me. The result was a paper called “Changing Design Education for the 21st Century,” where we suggested that Design can use the procedures that allowed other fields (e.g., medicine, law, and management) to restructure their education with special attention to the framework for a family of curricula devised by Computer Science.

Karel Vredenburg at IBM Design offered to co-sponsor the multiple-year effort (which will require over one hundred people). The World Design Organization also asked if they could join. We enlisted a Steering Committee of senior academics and practitioners with a rich variety of backgrounds and interests from Asia, North America, and Europe.

We started in the BC years (Before COVID), which delayed our progress, but we are now ready to begin.

Please join us in rethinking design education.

The Challenge

The requirements of the 21st century are quite different than those of earlier years. New needs continually arise, along with new tools, technologies, and materials. Designers are starting to address some of the major societal issues facing the planet. Does design education prepare them to work with and lead the multidisciplinary teams required to work on these complex sociotechnical systems?

The Origins

We are embarking on a serious effort to rethink design education for the 21st century. We started with the multiple thoughtful articles in two special issues of the journal She Ji on design education (download from our website). This inspired us to assemble a team of senior designers from academia and business to serve as a steering committee to start a large effort to rethink design education.

The Working Group

Other disciplines that have restructured their curricula have required a Working Group of over a hundred people working for a year or more: this will certainly be true for the complex set of specialties called design.

To be successful, we must accommodate all beliefs and perspectives. Yes, we do need senior, well established designers, but we also need those who challenge the existing ways. Some will wish to expand and extend traditional design education. Some might wish to revolutionize it. We believe that we can do both — not by compromises that weaken all positions, but by providing alternative paths.

The world is changing rapidly, with new views on the role of design in the world as well as a growing realization that the existing model of design practice had its historical origins in the industrialized nations of the world as a service to industry. Today’s designers have moved far beyond these historical origins. One result is greater awareness of the deterioration of the economies, environment, and culture in what has been called the “colonization of the world.” Our initial committee was too small to address these important issues: The larger composition of the Working Group will allow a major rethinking of design education.

This effort will fail without the effort being open and public, which is why we are reaching out to you. We need your participation to propose yourself as well as others for the Working Group so that we will have a rich diversity in age, gender, race, areas of interest, socioeconomic status, and political views. Nominate people who are interested in the important, but long and difficult task of changing design education. We also encourage self-nominations — so yes, nominate yourself if you have the background, interest, and time to participate.

Help Us by Nominating Yourself or Others

To learn more about this project and the different levels of involvement, to volunteer yourself and to propose other candidates, visit our website:

The Steering Committee: