“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

Design is for humans and so we learn the humanities

[Continuing my series on design education]

I feel blessed to have come to design in a serpentine path. I came to be a designer after being an anthropologist. Not only did I get the obvious dose of social sciences like anthropology, sociology and psychology, but I got a strong does of linguistics, history, folklore, and political science as well. Other peers of mine also studied economics, philosophy and rhetoric.

When I moved to design, I noticed there were a lot of folks like myself who came to design through a similar social science or humanities path. I noticed these folks had something different. They were able to add value through the act of framing. Framing is what I consider to be the most important skill of a business person and if you are involved in design you are involved in business.

An education in liberal arts I feel (and will probably be scrutinized for it) forces a student through more ways of framing the world (if not the universe). One could say (and I will probably be punished for that too) that science is a singularity of a frame and is the basis for all of the natural sciences, mathematics, and applied sciences (engineering). Design also has a limited view of frames, but is balanced out by the infinite frames that the multi-cultural arts provide.

But what is a frame?

It can be simply the way one begins something. It is usually most obvious in the communication arts, when a person uses an opening reference to a discussion and is hard to refute on its own. The following statements then are based on the logic of that opening statement which in combination create a whole new meaning.

This same idea of frames can be seen in the way we learn to communication visually as well. Engendering visual communication is one of the common ways of doing this.

It is important though for designers to be steeped in as many types of frames and manners of framing as time allows.

But it is not just about frames. The humanities offers other types of lessons, especially in terms of narratives. Comparative literature and history both are imbued with tremendously rich narratives. Storytelling is the designer’s data. It persuades toe-to-toe with data in the best scenarios. It is often why creative directors in advertising come from writing and not always from the visual communications side.

So the next rule

#16 A complete education includes the humanities and social sciences.

Here are all the articles thus far in the series:

As always I’d love to get people’s thoughts on design education.

Be Sociable, Share!


The archives run deep. Feel free to search older content using topic keywords.