A Personal Retrospect: The Argument for Design Education

Ken Baynes
1977, Vol. 10, No. 1,


The suggestion for an article based on a personal view of the past ten years in design education came at an opportune moment. Having just completed work on the Design in General Education project at the Royal College of Art, and having just begun to research a new exhibition - on the evolution of engineering drawing - for the Welsh Arts Council, I was in the right frame of mind to look again at my motivations. Certainly with educational activities, a design practice and historical research all going on at the same time, the pattern did not immediately suggest coherence. It didn't even look well designed! How is it that I find no difficulty in maintaining a continuing commitment to, for example, art and design or fashion and technology, when to many people, particularly perhaps to specialist subject teachers, they obviously seem poles apart? I tried to give an answer to this rather sharp question in talks I gave to arts teachers at the ILEA's Cockpit Theatre in London and to design teachers at the NADE Conference at Eaton Hall in Retford. The present article is based on an expansion of those talks.

What I am setting out to do is to restate some of those arguments in favour of design education that have struck me as being truly fundamental. To put this into the form of a personal narrative means going back twenty rather than ten years but I hope the longer perspective will be useful. What I find particularly interesting is that the arguments which seemed powerful then still seem powerful now. It still appears to me that in order to understand and evaluate the content and methods of design education we have first to understand and evaluate the radical changes which have transformed communication and construction and the attitudes of people to them. Once this has been done, there are likely to be a great variety of valid ways of bringing such concerns into the forum of general education.

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