Design innovation and the future of education

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"Design is everywhere. It's what drew you to the last piece of furniture you bought and it's what made online banking possible. It's made London taxi cabs easier to get in and out of and it made Stella McCartney's name." (Design Council 2002)

When asked, most people who are professionally involved in design say it is a verb: something you do; a problem-solving process. To McCormack (2006 Pg. 2), it is "the act of one imposing one's will on materials to perform a function."

To America's International Technology Education Association, it is "An iterative decision-making process that produces plans by which resources are converted into products or systems that meet human needs and wants or solve problems." To Guy Julier (2005 pg.7), author of the Thames & Hudson Dictionary of 20th Century Design and Designers, it is "the creative invention of objects destined for serial reproduction."

To professionals, design stops the moment the object is manufactured - and existing definitions are all based on the point of view of those involved in the business of design. But the rise of the sophisticated consumer has seen the emergence of an alternative meaning. When most people talk about design these days, they are referring to stuff, not method. Sentences such as "I'm interested in design" and "that's a beautiful piece of design" are now widely understood to be referring to the outcome of the process rather than the process itself. To consumers, design is something they experience in the finished object. Design is unique among the creative disciplines in that the word refers solely to what practitioners do, rather than what they produce. Literature, art, music and architecture are all the result of the creative process - and hence things that can be experienced by end users. Quite distinct verbs (writing, making, creating and so on) are used to describe the act of creation. This perhaps reflects design's roots as a practical, rather than a creative, discipline. Design, like engineering and planning, was an ingredient and the end result was products, infrastructure, buildings, street patterns, software and so on. Designers used logic to solve problems. But with design now firmly established as a creative undertaking, it deserves a collective term of its own to define the outcome. In common usage, the word "design" has taken on that role. Phrases such as "good design", "Dutch design", "contemporary design" or just plain "design" are, when used by consumers or the non-specialist press, referring to objects rather processes. Design is used colloquially to describe a category of object, things that are consumed; stuff that has been subjected to the design process and has come out the other side. When we talk about design, we are consciously or subconsciously referring to certain "stuff" and rejecting the rest. There is an implicit element of discernment: there is good stuff and bad stuff, and it is a given that we are talking about the former. Hence "design hotels" are a certain type of hotel that appeal to a certain type of discerning consumer; "design shops" sell a range of objects selected according to a certain set of criteria; "design shows" like 100% Design showcase edited selections of products. Design implies the existence of certain intrinsic qualities or characteristics that distinguish the "design" object from everything else, (McCormack, 2006) This adjectival use of the word design seems to be gaining ground at the expense of the term "designer," which became common currency in the Eighties - the "designer decade" (McCormack, 2006) This adjective signified the fact that an artefact had been designed by a famous or celebrated individual and therefore was a guarantee of provenance - and hence quality - to the consumer. Lately, however, it has been tainted by ironic usage - "designer toilet paper" - and debased by over-use as an advertising slogan at the lower end of the market, where it now means nothing more than "designed by someone". Authorship has always been a key factor in establishing what is and what isn't design and the rise of the "star" designer gave consumers (and critics) an easy way of making the distinction. This, for example, explains why Japanese consumer electronics are not considered "design" objects for, despite their breathtaking innovation and revolutionary impact, they were the product of faceless corporations and not named individuals. (McCormack, 2006) A "designer" Philippe Starck lemon squeezer established a connection between the consumer and the creator, and hence the design process. The more inclusive notion of design bypasses individual authorship and focuses on the inherent qualities of the finished artefact. A valid definition of design needs to allow for an element of discrimination that is not based on provenance or other pre-determined factors.

While "design" objects nearly always have an underlying functional purpose - design is not the same as art, although it is increasingly encroaching on art's aesthetic and provocative territory.

In fact, in the eyes of consumers, design often has nothing to do with function at all (when buying a car or a stereo, the way it works tends to be valued according to a set of criteria called "performance"). Design is something distinct from function.

"Although people are constantly making pronouncements about what is good and bad design, what they are really talking about is taste," says writer and curator Lesley Jackson (2006 pg. 23). "Design itself has no inherent moral code. Super-decorative design has just as much validity as ultra-functional design. Both are manifestations of creativity, and both have their place in the modern world. Yes, I want my carpets cleaned properly, but I also want to be thrilled by an exquisite lamp."

Since modernism was codified early in the 20th century the design establishment - designers, critics and writers, historians and museums - has enjoyed a monopoly on the identification of "good" design.

In many ways, design has been feminised. Most of the celebrated designers and critics of the last century were men and there is a hard-edged masculinity to much 20th-century design. Today's more pluralistic design landscape has seen a renewed appreciation of decoration, colour and form for their own sakes. (Jackson, 2006) On top of this, the nature of designers' problem-solving role has changed profoundly in recent years. Most of the work in this field is done by programmers, software engineers and material scientists whose functional breakthroughs are all but formless. Modernism's "machine aesthetic" is a meaningless slogan if the machinery is invisible: the main job of many industrial designers today is to help consumers form emotive bonds with dull circuitry.

Design is now considered to be a condition that certain objects are deemed to possess. And this condition is most definitely to do with how an object looks, as well as numerous intangible qualities the object confers on the consumer - status, fashion-ability, a sense of belonging and so on. People are as likely to buy "design" objects as an act of self-expression as to meet a functional requirement. This is not a new phenomenon: people have always expressed themselves through their possessions. The difference is that design has gone from being a minority interest to a mass-market phenomenon. And as the public's interest in design has grown, so the number of people who feel qualified to act as brokers has expanded. A raft of new magazines, TV shows, websites, shops and exhibitions has sprung up to help consumers make decisions.

"Design is the taste of the elite," says McCormack (2006 pg. 4) People who are the 'elite' - probably have fairly similar taste, preferring things that are contemporary (that attempt to solve contemporary problems or address contemporary life); that are innovative rather than derivative; that tend to be mass-produced or batch-produced rather than crafted; that are usually the work of a named individual or team and/or produced by a reputed manufacturer. They also tend to be rather expensive.

But a flick through one of the numerous interiors magazines, or a browse in any of the numerous "design" shops or fairs that have sprung up recently, shows that there are now multiple interpretations of what "good" design is.

Design schools are reflecting the shift of emphasis towards the consumer experience. "There's a simplistic view of design which is that it's a procedure with clearly defined stages," says Milton Chen, (2010 pg. 12) "But the drivers and influences have changed radically in the last ten years. Previously it was about form, function and manufacture but now it's about a whole range of softer issues: emotion, culture, politics and so on. It's all about connecting with consumers in new ways."

This puts the consumer in direct emotional contact with the object without the need for a taste-setting middleman. It's like music: you hear a particular song on the radio and it does something to you. Likewise, design is the difference between an artefact (or an environment, a space, a website or anything "created") that has meaning to you and one that doesn't. And it is entirely subjective.

To the modernists, design was a noble undertaking with a clear, left-leaning social agenda: to harness mass production to provide consumers with affordable, functional objects that would enable them to live better lives. The aesthetic of functionalist modernism reflected a faith in the idea of technological progress. In retrospect, it is clear that modernism was an elitist aesthetic imposed from above. And however much modernists' derided "style" as form without justification - as bourgeois and decadent - they were among the most dogmatic stylists in design history. But style is still frowned upon. The following paragraph appears in "what is design?" on the Design Council's website (2002) "There are many misconceptions about design. Sunday supplements and glossy magazines often use 'design' as a buzzword denoting style and fashion. While the toaster or corkscrew being featured may be well designed, the result is to feed the belief of would-be design clients that design is restricted to the surface of things and how they look, and that it's best employed at the end of the product development process."

Design Innovation

Designers face many problems when it comes to innovation. Problems such as, global warming, economic issues, ethical issues, materials and costs. Designers need to come up with a creative way to produce/design concepts/products for consumers and brand companies who are increasing their demand. Global competition is increasing as a result of trade liberalisation, technological change and reductions in transport and communication costs. UK based businesses will find it increasingly difficult to compete on low costs alone in labour intensive industries exposed to international competition. The challenge for businesses is to compete on the basis of unique value. (Shelton 2005)

Innovation may be defined as exploiting new ideas leading to the creation of a new product, process or service. It is not just the invention of a new idea that is important, but it is actually "bringing it to market", putting into practice and exploiting it in a manner that leads to new products, services or systems that add value or improve quality. It possibly involves technological transformation and management restructuring. Innovation also means exploiting new technology and employing out-of-the-box thinking to generate new value and to bring about significant changes in society.

Experts such as Shelton (2005) have identified many types of innovation such as 'Product Innovation' that entails the introduction of a new product or a service that is new or considerably improved, 'Process Innovation' comprising the implementation of a new or a significantly enhanced production or delivery method, 'Supply Chain Innovation' in which innovations transform the sourcing of input products from the market and the delivery of output products to customers and 'Marketing Innovation' which results in the evolution of new methods of marketing with enhancements in product design or packaging, its promotion or pricing, among others.

Why Innovation is important?

Studies have confirmed that all businesses want to be more innovative. One survey identified that almost "90 per cent of businesses believe that innovation is a priority for them."(Shelton 2005 pg. 34) The conclusion is that the importance of innovation is increasing, and increasing significantly. In the current day economic scenario, innovativeness has become a major factor in influencing strategic planning. It has been acknowledged that innovation leads to wealth creation. Even though efficiency is essential for business success, in the long run, it cannot sustain business growth.

Most often planned and measured combination of ideas, objects and people leads to innovation resulting in new business ideas and technological revolutions. In order to be termed valuable innovations, new products and services need to be strong enough to progress through rigorous commercialisation processes and into the marketplace. Management expert Peter Drucker (2008 pg. 8) said, "that if an established organization, which in this age necessitating innovation, is not able to innovate, it faces decline and extinction." Many organisations are adopting measures to strengthen their ability to innovate. Such companies are creating a dependable operating system for innovation, an important indicator of corporate sustainability. Research has indicated that competition combined with strong demand is a major driver of innovation. Intensity of competition is the determinant of innovation and productivity. Innovation, besides products and services, also includes new processes, new business systems and new methods of management, which have a significant impact on productivity and growth. Today, we need innovators more than any time before. Every organisation and business is feeling the impact of globalisation, migration, technological and knowledge revolutions, and climate change issues. Innovation will bring added value and widen the employment base. Innovation is imperative if the quality of life in these trying circumstances is to improve. Innovation will make the world a better place for the younger generate

Innovation: Education

It is recognised that there is a need to innovate to enable greater creativity, flexibility, learner input and so forth, and to deliver a more personalised educational system and foster new skills amongst learners. "There is a need for transformative innovation in order to develop new relationships and ways of working, to update approaches, and to harness the collective social capital and skills of school communities to deliver better learning and teaching." (Milton, 2010 pg. 5) This means challenging accepted practice and prevailing logic, which can place practitioners outside their comfort zone, as many changes that innovations may bring can often be disruptive and challenging in the short term. However, evidence suggests that innovation is not only necessary but can be exciting and rewarding and result in a whole range of benefits. "Numerous resistances or barriers to innovation have been highlighted, but many of these are perceptual, and with effective strategies, support and the right culture in place, many others can be overcome." (Milton, 2010 pg. 6) There is significant room for manoeuvre within existing frameworks and policies to find space for innovation. By re-professionalising the workforce and empowering teachers to act as innovators, a range of skills and abilities are modelled to learners. Driving innovation also requires more imaginative use of resources, including the skills and abilities of learners, wider networks and innovators in other fields.

The Classroom of the Future

The classroom for future students in a normal school system or a post-secondary institution could look drastically different in the next millennium.

As computers become more accessible to students the traditional classroom, which is where the teacher or the instructor stands at the front of the class and writes on the chalkboard and white board will become obsolete. A classroom described in "Education and Psychoanalysis", Tamara Bibby is describing a classroom that allows the students to finds the answers and gain "hands-on" experience. The teacher is still a valuable asset in this classroom, but the role he/she plays will be very different. Instead of just reading the answers from a book and giving them to the students, the teachers' new role will be to guide the students into the right direction and allow the students to find the solutions by themselves. These new classrooms could also be important educational tools for the teacher. The reason for this is that as the students are doing their studies they might find a solution that is new or a solution that is not known to the teacher.(Bibby, 2010) If this was to occur the teacher would be able to improve their future teaching practices. The significance of this is that the teacher will also be learning from the students as well as guiding them.

These classrooms will continue to allow students to gain the education that they deserve as well as allowing them to gain the knowledge and skills work within a team environment. This will help the students to develop important social interaction skills. These interaction skills are also important to develop because in the job market of today and the future, working in teams is becoming a normal practice. (Bibby, 2010)

The "hands-on" experience is also an important asset because it is giving students the skills to learn how to use the theory they are learning in a practical sense. This will play an important role when the students are seeking employment after graduation. The reason for this is that employers will seek graduating students who have experience in solving problems by using the theory they have been taught.

The distance factor will also be erased because computers make it possible for students to be taught without actually being in the classroom. (Bibby, 2010) This makes the learning experience more accessible to a greater amount of potential students. This will be achieved by allowing students who reside in smaller cities or towns access to courses that are only offered in larger cities. An example of this is the, "ITV room' that is offered at the Kamloops campus of University College of the Cariboo." (Bibby, 2010 Pg. 12) This classroom allows students from outlying areas access to classes that are being taught at the Kamloops campus.

The problems that will exist with the classroom of the future will usually begin with the raising of the necessary resources to invest in the equipment that would be needed. The cost of the new equipment that would be necessary to have these new computers and increased access for students will be a great strain on local school districts or post-secondary institutions. The cost of the new hardware could cause some school districts to cut funding to other programs or supplies for other courses. This may cause controversy, because students that are in Primary or Secondary school should be able to experience a lot of different subjects such as music, art, etc. Universities also have to deal with the high cost of computers and software. The problems that universities have to face also include raising the needed funds without raising tuition. These institutions cannot look towards the governments for increased funding because in today's government policies, fiscal restraint is a high priority. (Bibby, 2010)

A solution for these problems could be to allow corporations to donate the funding that is needed to for the new equipment. Another positive to the donation solution would be that the company that is making the donation could be responsible for the costs that will occur due to equipment failure or replacing obsolete. This will save the institutions the added costs of having to replace hardware every two or three years. For this donation the corporation would be allowed to have exclusive advertising rights around the equipment. The detractors of this solution think that educational institutions should be free of advertising but the reality is that hallways of a majority of today's schools are advertisements for various sport logos. (Bibby, 2010) Some institutions have already accepted this practice for funding to build new gymnasiums.

Another argument that is against putting computers into a classroom is that the gap between societies "halves" and "have-nots" will become greater, Andrea R Gooden argues this in her article "Computers in the Classroom". In this article Gooden argues that the money that would be spent on new computer equipment could be better spent on improving the discrepancies between schools in the inner-city and schools in the suburbs. If you are able to prove to students that attend inner-city schools that computer knowledge will increase the chances of them receiving a better paying job, they might be willing to learn basic computer skills. This will cause the gap between different levels of societies to become smaller. If students are able to interact with other students that live in other levels of societies or cultures, prejudices will be reduced. The reason for this is that students from different cultures will be able to see that the differences between them are very small.

Gooden concludes that the classroom of the future will become a place of learning for all of the occupants. The students will learn from the instructors as well as the instructors learning from the students. This will become a reality due to the advancement of computer access to all regions of the world. The classroom of the future will also be a lot different than the traditional classroom that previous generations have grown up with. The reason for this is that the students will be learning the theory but they will also be learning how to use this theory to solve real-life problems.


Throughout the research and extensive reading, if there is any conclusion, it would be that designers and business need to be under a united front to combat the global issues we are facing today. Big brand companies need to introduce innovative company targets and opportunities, whilst designers need to invent creative and sustainable concepts and ideas for the consumer. However, the consumer needs to be educated to help come to good conclusions and to buy products that are of a necessity rather than a 'want' this has to start in schools. Teachers have to find a way to educate the next generation of children to become self aware when consuming, whether this will be in a classroom of the future or at home.

New ideas in education and business need to look towards innovation. Innovation requires space and liberty. It cannot be done under stringent structured specified and calculated environment. Innovation can be supported by management consisting of loose monitoring and strong co-ordination. Moreover, management should have less invasive control mechanism to have effective control over duplication (reinventing the wheel) and irrelevant vague ideas consuming company's resources. Management should identify bottlenecks and alternative idea formulations can be initiated separately. This is required through all systems, including education.

It is important to distinguish between creativity and innovation because the processes are different, the risks are different, the starting points are different, and the climates needed for achievement are different, and there are consequences of these differences. Why it is that business is very much more comfortable with innovation than with creativity? It's because innovation is a lot safer, it is incremental, it is building on an already established product or process, and it is far easier to achieve success than starting from scratch. Conceiving and making the first post-it-notes was the result of a creative process. Making them of different sizes, shapes, and colours was an innovation based on that original creative idea. Because business finds innovation easier to realise, designers need to innovate.

This reflects back to education and school life. Innovation isn't just about design, for example, the changes in organisation of working and social life and in local and global relations, that have been brought about by the use of information and communications technologies increasingly place demands on schools to change not only how they teach but what they teach, with an ever greater emphasis being placed upon the development of creative, collaborative and thinking skills, amongst others. The classroom will look completely different compared to a classroom now. This also includes what lessons and how the lessons are to be taught.