Hello all, my name is Andrew J Hunsucker and I’m a PhD student at Indiana University, focusing on Human Computer Interaction in the Informatics department. You might remember me from my post on Virtual Reality a couple of months ago on this blog.
I’ll be blogging here on various topics, namely: virtual and augmented reality but also about design pedagogy. My main research interests for my PhD are how designers learn how to be designers. But I’m not just interested in what information they gather, I’m also interested in how they change as people over the course of this journey. I’ve been through a design Master’s program myself, and what I saw in myself and classmates was a complicated metamorphosis process by which they transformed into a designer.
How did this process happen? Can we chart this process? Does every designer go through the same process? Or does each designer experience something unique? How can we adjust our teaching methodologies to make this process easier or more consistent? Are there different types of design students and can we or should we teach them differently? What skills did they develop over the course of this process?
And the big one: Can you tell what makes a good design student? Can you predict which students will make the best designers?
Now that’s a hard question because even amongst professional designers, it isn’t trivial to tell which ones are the best and which are just competent. There’s no metric to determine how good a designer is. That is because: we all (designers included) have different ideas of what success is.
And looking at the designs they produce as a gauge isn’t as helpful as it might seem. Design is subjective in many ways. Designers often focus on a small user group or type. Often, designs for a small user group end up being useful for a larger population, but sometimes not. There are always criticisms to be made about any design, and the process of design never really ends. A designer can always continue. A popular response to the question “When am I done with a design?” is: “When you run out of time.” Or “When you run out of money.” To make matters worse, but also more interesting, some bad designs do make a lot of money, and some good designs are doomed to eternal obscurity.
I certainly don’t want to suggest that anyone should spend time trying to quantify design skill, because I don’t think it’s necessary, or even possible, but as design educators, it’s our responsibility to produce the best designers possible. If we knew what skills students need to develop in order to be successful designers, we could focus on these skills, and potentially even target students who are struggling to develop them, making the entire class stronger.
My current focus is on first year designers, and I have completed a study on a tool called a design deck that might help me learn a bit more about what skills a designer needs to develop to become competent.
In my next blog post, I’ll talk a bit more about design decks, and some of the things I discovered when using them with first year design students.
Keep an eye out for me in print in upcoming issues of XRDS, and check out my personal website and blog at www.andyhunsucker.com.