We need better designers

The design education I’ve gotten in the last 4 years is not future proof. In fact, it might be the very thing that is taking part in the destruction of the future. Sure I’ve learned about current manufacturing methods, how to work with certain materials and their properties, design theory, culture, function, aesthetics, empathy, future technologies and how to harness them, and a bunch on how to make fast prototypes for testing.

What I know now is that all I’ve ever designed and made is literally garbage. Not only because they’re not good when I first started my design practice, but because they were made from cheap and unthoughtful materials. Adhesives with a hundred different chemicals, polyesters and acrylics, MDF, foams with fine dust, posters printed with chemical inks, foam core, and spray paints just to name a few.

When we’re done with our projects, most students chuck the things they’ve made into the trash. From the trash, it goes into landfill where these materials will be sitting for generations to come, slowly leeching out its every toxic, synthetic chemical back into our ground. Back into our water systems for us to drink—for our future families to eat when it becomes integrated into our agricultural soil.

But who is at fault? With the way the school system is structured, we’re taught to think in cheap and unthoughtful ways. Weekly deadlines and student budgets pressure us to think quick and dirty. What’s the fastest route that can give us the best results to please the professor? Which materials will work and be affordable for me as a student? When’s the soonest I can get it done?

More importantly, why isn’t this being brought up in classes regularly as part of our design practice and skill set? When we’re teaching and leading the next generation of designers, makers, and people that will shape the future of our cities, it should be noted that we won’t have much of a future if we keep having every student continuing their practice as designers of our dump.

Great design isn’t being taught in design schools, and we’ve got to do something about it. We don’t need more design. We just need better designers.

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