Pages: 54 - 55
The Education of Industrial Designers ICSID/UNESCO (available from the secretary general, Institutd' Esthetique Industrielle, 70 Coudenberg, Brussels 1, Belgium), £3 (including postage) Industrial design (engineering), furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles, plastics, are some of the special subject courses now rapidly gaining national recognition in selected schools and colleges of art. The change in the structure of art education has been rapidly achieved following the issue of the Report of the National Advisory Council on Art Education, but many schools and colleges, more particularly those concerned with the advanced university level courses, are still faced with problems.
The recently published report of a seminar on the education of industrial designers by ICSID organised under the auspices of UNESCO should, therefore, be of great material interest. The seminar was chaired by Professor Misha Black of the Royal College of Art, and the 12 international delegates considered in some detail over a period of three days many of the relevant issues for improving the training of the industrial designer.
Industrial design (engineering) featured as the central theme, a subject of relatively new origin in the schools and colleges of art in this country. Possibly this study is the crux of the design education of the future, the point of relationship between aesthetic principles and industrial technology. Certainly it has immeasurable scope, and must be a primary factor in world trade and industrial economy.
The subject matter examined ranged from duration of course, curricula and pretraining education to the more technical and organisational issues of the industrial designer's place in the technological environment. The conclusion reached was for a five year course, with the first year as part of the total education and not artificially separated as a 'fundamental' or Basic' year (this is at variance with DipAD practice). The seminar also comes out very strongly for postgraduate studies, and considers that they should be concerned with research projects rather than organised academic study. The present proposals for DipAD imply that academic and specialist studies will form the main content of the two year postgraduate period. If this is the intention, the student will lose the true value of creative research and the very necessary experience of project development and team work which should be closely integrated with industrial practice. There is already in the industrial field too much evidence of the results of over-specialisation, and a lack of co-ordination when design, technological and marketing policies are involved.
Deficiences found in general education are obviously universal, and so often the problem is one of inflexibility in the curriculum, which so frequently - and too early - underlines closely the future specialisation. For example, the present general pattern of secondary education rarely provides the intending student with an education in both science and art; and the deficiences must, therefore, be made up during the first year of the advanced course at the college.
It is heartening to read that design projects are recommended in preference to the separately planned exercises mainly relative to fragmented academic forms of instruction. This change in the traditional curriculum is not always easy to achieve, especially while colleges concerned with advanced studies remain so completely under the control of the local authorities. The college of art, with its many special problems, can not for administrative expediency be tied to the rules of general education and some branches of technological education.
The seminar very rightly left open the question of the relationship of design education with other major studies. The widening gap between industrial design and the present nature of fine art studies is daily becoming more evident. Industrial design, as the seminar suggested, should be more attracted to an association with engineering, architecture, town planning, social sciences and business management. This is logical as regards both the content of the courses and their environmental relationships.
The rapid progress of education, the rise of new technologies and industrial procedures, must involve the colleges in new relationships and the ultimate breaking away from the rigid and defined groups within the present further educational orbit. The significance of world trade and international relationships, extended and inter-related through a broader conception of new educational policies, must inevitably result in all advanced education being given autonomy to develop. Harold Shelton
The Business of Product Design James Pilditch and Douglas Scott, Business Publications, £2 Perhaps the most important development during the decade this reviewer has been associated with ColD has been the recognition of the necessity to think long and deeply about design management. This conscious process of drawing designers away from, so to say, limbo into the very heart of the industrial complex - to think out, discuss and argue the designer's role in the context of total management- has been, and is being, a considerable preoccupation for many of us. Progress has been made, but all too slowly. An examination of the problem in a series of articles in DESIGN; congresses on the subject in 1956 and 1961; discussions between management consultants and designers; a projected course at the Royal College of Art-these are all salutary steps forward, but it would be both complacent and illusory to pretend that the problem is, as yet, either solved or, indeed, identified.
A book Iike The Business of Product Design makes a valuable contribution to this field. It is not the purpose of this review to discuss the sensible and helpful things that two experienced designers have to say about the details and techniques of the actual design job. It is, rather, in a short notice of an excellent book, to underline its specific contribution to the design management debate. On this point the authors, by the very breadth of their approach to the design task, prove most conclusively that they, at least, have come down from the outer space of the vague 'prettifying' world of aesthetics into the harsh, demanding market place where keeping the fine balance between appearance and fitness for purpose is an industrial necessity. A recurring theme of the book is the need to design for commercial achievement and profit, and the Management', as opposed to the more 'technical', chapters of the book put this challenge into practical perspective. No one reading it could accuse the authors (whose successful careers have in any case admirably vindicated their attitude) of not realising that the designer, to be worthy of his hire, must be totally involved with the rest of his client's or employer's senior management team.
That the authors make a very strong case for the employment of outside design consultants, either to work with a staff design team or to deal totally with a product problem, is understandable. And so long as their observations are spiced with statements like
"One can design for existing equipment and methods to such an extent that the manufacturer gets into a rut, and is finally overtaken by ambitious competitors. This often happens when the designer is closely controlled by production and costing engineers whose vision is limited to the job in hand. Such designers tend to think of the production reactions first, and not the product . . .", not only is their case for a sturdy independence of outlook well made but a vital aspect of design management is stressed.
Two criticisms only. The chapter on Creating a Marketing Plan is surely wrongIy placed in the book. It should be at the very start. That is, after all, the authors' principle thesis - the need to design for the market and to escape from what might be called the stranglehold of the 'production orientated' business. It is an excellent design management chapter, and should surely set the pace. The other criticism - not of the authors but of the publishers - is the price: £2 is a daunting amount for under 160 pages of type and six not particularly distinguished pages of photographs. A book as down to earth as this one should not be only available in office or educational libraries. Every student and upand-coming manager should have it and learn its lessons. It is heartening to learn that other such thoughtful books, relating to design management questions as much as to design techniques, are on the way. There cannot be too many of them, but let us hope they will be less expensive. Roger Falk
Editor's note: A chapter from The Business of Product Design, "Organisation and Product Planning", will be published in the February issue of DESIGN.
Structure in Art and Science The Nature and Art of Motion Education of Vision (Three volumes in the Vision and Value series) editor Gyorgy Kepes, Studio Vista, £3 3s each Art education, after decades of decent and inoffensive obscurity behind Victorian facades, has been persuaded to join the general ranks of education in the full critical light of day. This is an interesting and significant development since the obscurity, although partly voluntary, was largely the result of the specifically scientific orientation of useful education. Art education, even in the areas where some commercial industrial reference might have been expected, remained a fine aesthetic game which the country, sensitive about insensitivity, had to play to avoid the dread charge of Philistinism. By no stretch of the imagination could art education have been described as an important part of the national cultural development. Its exposure and its subsequent comparison with other areas of study has revealed this if it has revealed nothing else.
The decision to do something about the situation has been a long time in gestation. Since the Bauhaus, there have been token or serious attempts in a number of countries to relate the aesthetic visual with the cultural general. In this country it has only become even a serious question over the last few years. This, one may add, despite the efforts of a number of individual artists and educationists to bring the matter to general attention. The practical educational results so far are the Coldstream committee and the DipAD, both - in their different ways unsatisfactory.
Nevertheless, the situation has within it seeds of value. There appears to be a growing recognition that a scientifically polarised society has inherent cultural dangers and, further, that art, whatever it may mean, could conceivably play a deeper social role than ever before. Somehow, so far unspecifically, the old, privileged cultural position of art has been dismissed as irrelevant, and a common aesthetic position is being sought to replace it.
This has induced an increasing concentration of philosophic, scientific, educational and artistic minds on the creative process itself particularly as applied to the visual arts. The idea of the communication of art solely through a common culture has given way to the examination of means of communication which are independent of localised culture.
All these minds have contributed their diagnostic or analytical statements, and a new comprehension of a previously obscure process is emerging.
This is, of course, not to be deplored but welcomed. It may for a time upset those for whom the creative process is a pleasant mystery to be accepted, like copulation, with gratitude, but in the end the knowledge must be incorporated into the cultural mores.
The three books noticed here stem from the situation. They come from one of the world's great powerhouses of knowledge, a great centre of science, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The general editor of the series, Gyorgy Kepes, is professor of visual design at the institute. The purpose of the series - of which these are the first three of six titles - is the "reintegration of our contemporary scientific, social and artistic environment". Each volume is a symposium of essays, of varying length and specific relevance to its title. The contributors are mostly well known in their areas - indeed, with certain exceptions they appear almost to have chosen themselves for their appropriateness as higher cultural representatives. Within each volume the material has a range of application to the general subject of the book which makes any coherent or progressive analysis impossible. But the range of information and stimulation is as impressive as it is varied.
I have tried to conceive a way of compassing this range and variety in a review, and must confess to failure. The series is not a comprehensive programme. Its essence is aspectual analysis in depth. The importance of these books is, in consequence, considerable.
Of course they will be used for visual plunder. Misinterpreted or unread, the range of subjects is likely to inspire students to adopt some of the language and teachers to recommend the images.
The real value, however, lies in the serious contribution that they make to the understanding of what has so far been largely a wishful groping. Abstract art as communication, natural structure as inspiration, the nature of visual response in a variety of circumstances, philosophical and psychological speculations, the analysis of individual creative processes as understood by their creators, all these will establish, if it is necessary, that science may properly be concerned with all aspects of life and that art will soon be left with only an intuitive leg to stand on. Trewin Copplestone