“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Creating knowledge: Is there only 1 home?

Recently I posted a bit about design education. I realized this evening that the 13 points that I made in that post were very one sided. They are sided heavily on the vocational requirements of design education. I even go so far as to say in #13 that design is practice and students and teachers a like need to keep up with industry as part of their education and career development.

This framing though is not precise or complete. While a huge part of design education is to create designers, the academy that education is embedded in has another calling which is to create knowledge. It is not the only place to create knowledge, but educational institutions that are part of the academy have gone to great lengths to create protections for educators so that they can serve the dual purpose of imparting and creating knowledge.

Like I said there are other areas that create knowledge, even in industry. The R&D divisions of many corporations serve this purpose. However, they do this w/o the protection of tenure for academic teacher-researchers or the insulation from the quarterly report.

But my focus on the vocational education has 2 sources. 1. Because a good 99% of my career has been in industry and I am not raised within the academy, though I’ve had a bit of experience with it; and 2) Because I do not work in the academy as an educator, I work in a teaching college, or as SCAD (my employer) likes to call it a “student-based” university. Our tagline is even “The University of Creative Careers.” This really demonstrates our focus on preparation.

However this does not always translate fully and clearly. We require that most of our MFAs need to present “new knowledge” as part of their thesis work. This definitely suggests that the school supports at least the students doing research.

But my greater point I’d like to discuss is that knowledge actually needs to be part of all areas of education and practice. When organizations like RKS, Adaptive Path, Coooper, InContext, ForUse, IDEO, HFI, NN/G, etc. codify their inner workings and share it with the world they are creating knowledge and taking part in all of our educations and added to the total knowledge pool of design.

But what makes this all so interesting is that industry doesn’t want to foot the bill of education taking the time to “create knowledge” unless that knowledge is easily applied to their POV … and this is a great shame.

So I will add #14 to my list of what design education needs to be.

14. Space for exploration, discovery, practice, and unjudged failure.
These are as much learning tools as knowledge creation tools. We need to see what works, how it works, and well why it can’t work. The room to fail, not without repercussions, but without drastic repercussions. And with a little serendipity, maybe these failures will add up to new knowledge.

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