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Design courses get an overhaul

Published on Friday, 08 Oct 2010
The move to four-year undergraduate degrees in 2012 will bring a number of significant changes for the Polytechnic University's school of design.

The move to four-year undergraduate degrees in 2012 will bring a number of significant changes for the Polytechnic University's school of design.

"We took the opportunity to completely overhaul and upgrade our curriculum," says school director Professor Lorraine Justice. "We brought in external experts to evaluate what we are doing and have looked at what's needed for us to remain among the best in  the world."

The first year of courses in the main specialist disciplines - visual, products, digital media, advertising, and interior environment - will still focus on giving students a good grounding in the basics. As before, this will highlight the fact that good design combines creativity with hard-nosed practicality.

Essentially, the end-user is the final arbiter and designers, unlike artists, must realise early on the need to meet clearly defined commercial objectives.

Professor Tak Lee, the school's associate director of external relations, says students must develop critical thinking and good judgment, while also understanding the impact of cultural influences on how people behave and what they buy.

"It is always necessary to take account of real-world needs," he says.

The future curriculum will also allow more time for subjects such as sustainability, ecology, ergonomics, aesthetics and manufacturing. As students progress, this will lead to inter-disciplinary projects, new joint programmes with the business and engineering faculties, and more assignments and internships with local companies. "People are excited about the changes," Justice says. "Students need that breadth of expertise behind them to assess on their own if their work is appropriate, innovative, and if it will sell."

This fundamental test, she adds, applies to whatever you are designing - from mobile phones to jewellery, websites to logos or airport chairs.

With four-year courses, students in their third year will have the chance to spend about three months in countries that include Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States.

"Students need to understand how other people live and why they do things in a particular way," Justice says. One continuing challenge for the school is the hiring of new faculty members. At least three full-time teaching positions will be available in the coming months, along with part-time openings for people with business experience to lecture and run specialist workshops.

"We would like to bring in people from industry and are prepared to look worldwide," Justice says.

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