Design Education for Laypeople

Nigel Cross
1979, Vol. 11, No. 2,


Traditionally, design education has been aimed at preparing students for a specialist role in one of the design professions. But if design education is to be made available more widely, perhaps to everyone, then it must have very different aims. It will need to be a general education in design for laypeople, not a specialist education for design professionals.

In discussing design education for laypeople, therefore, I assume that we must mean something other than merely a wider provision of specialist education. I assume that we might want to question the relevance of specialist education, that we might want to consider alternatives to specialist education, that we might want to enable people who are specifically non-specialists to become involved in critical decision-making in the design process, and that we might even want to provide some form of counter-courses that will enable these non-specialists to challenge designers (and their clients) as to the validity of their decisions.

Beyond this specialist vs. non-specialist dichotomy, we may also wan t to ask if there cannot be a new pattern of educational provision that does not perpetuate this 'us' and 'them' fragmentation of society; perhaps rather as the 'barefoot doctors' and other social experiments in China have been aimed at breaking down class and specialism barriers.

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