Welcome note

Welcome to our blog, covering the Design Council / HEFCE fact finding visit to Europe.
As part of the process to develop and implement recommendations from the
'Cox Review of Creativity in Business', and following a successful mission to the US in 2006, a group of academics and policy makers are visiting universities and design firms the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. We were looking at multidisciplinary centres and courses that combine management, technology and design in order to develop creative and innovative graduates and businesses. Insights and information from the visit will inform proposals that UK universities and regional bodies are developing in response to the Cox review.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Mike Goatman

KaosPilots. I loved the place its like art and design schools always were, the atmosphere is about creativity. Then the presentation that Christer made was very impressive, precise sentences and the work examples he gave included the design for a football team, this is an example of doing what everyone’s talking about, not just theorising. It gave a very good example for the ‘creative hothouse’ for one thing its got an inherently attractive element.

Designit is a professional multi-disciplinary design consultancy with high aspirations and a well honed presentation of modern concepts in the client environment. They plan to have 400 designers worldwide by 2016. ‘Bandwidth’ focus, ‘avoid group think’ ,’clients are a source of innovation, we only deliver part of the success’.

Zentropa Works. ‘Take on hard problems’, ‘create multidisciplinary teams’. ‘Film referenced ‘Dramatic Innovation’ Very interesting based on challenge, and mixing people and what they do, This is an interesting model for stimulation of professionals. ‘ A balance between freedom and constraints, children create more with lego than if they’re given a lump of clay’. The idea is to take people from where they are, their knowledge is important, and put them in a challenge position. The ‘Hero’s journey’ going through interest, drama, disaster, rebirth, and application back to context. Workcamp 07 did this with students from various disciplines over a four week period based on this based model.

Steve Harding

My take is on the culture of collaboration- the idea of interdisciplinary working sems embedded in the way of working. This is a key issue for us- to find ways of supporting teams in Hei’s to reward them and help them develop.
In terms of culture though, UK may have real and under realised advantages in the mixture of cultures we have in our communities which can give different takes on how new products can be developed

In terms of places for innovation and design collaboration, the use of old buildings for a modern purpose is a definite learning point, though how personal spaces are then introduced for reflection needs to be better understood.

Kaos pilots – I think Fran’s observation of an NGO mentality was spot on – look for people who you can work with in new cultures and see what happens.
Will develop people with design skills in systems and operations – strong emphasis on process and values. Good model for people in the arts who could find this a useful link into enterprise.
Use of external experts who are also a part of the wider team is another feature.
Liked the idea of supporting specialists within their core area first then seeking ways to cross fertilise. This translates to establishing enterprise skills in faculties/departments rather than trying to get a big bang solution.

Alice Frost

The main impact to me to date is in relation to the contrast between national experience and globalisation. An argument would be that Netherlands, as example, will not be competitive. The HE system isn’t focussed on efficiency and open access and open lengths of study mean that graduate/ug production would fall well behind US. Also the form of study seems relatively old-fashioned compared with US. Given that these are fairly homogenous societies, this doesn’t seem a good basis for comparative advantage in a global market. But companies like Philips, but also IDEO, Apple etc in US all focus on human factors ie corporate competitive advantage comes from getting into their heads of sophisticated consumers and satisfying inner needs, desires etc. so the emphasis is on micro-observation in the socio-cultural context. And maybe then there is a source of comparative advantage in the Netherlands HE system – human centred and group focussed, strong on human factors, strong on fundamentals.

Mike Goatman

The Eindhoven Design Academy is a very pleasant and stimulating place to be. Everyone there is positive, well presented, and it feels like I remember Design schools used to. They didn’t say anything new, but maybe design in this category is timeless! 50 tutors who come in on a one day a week basis, working designers – interesting.

The Eindhoven Technical University was impressive in that the department we visited was based in industrial design as a human activity (humanising technology?) in an engineering environment, and they are approaching some of the parameters of relating the two disciplines. The student who presented was very impressive. I think these institutions must be government subsidised. There isn’t the frenetic push of the UK environment which is pleasant, but maybe the push gives an edge.

Philips design was very interesting. Hans Robertus presented well about the changing environment and how Philips Design is ideas driven now, and presented their concepts that have to be convincing throughout the organisation. If we wanted a confirmation of the Cox Report concepts of changing commercial dimensions then this certainly gave it. Very exciting time, where ideas count, also big unknowns. A time to shape the future?

Niti Bhan

The Dutch have embraced being human centered as an integral part of their design philosophy, at least as far one could tell from the places we visited. They are walking the talk in the work that they are doing and that they showed us. There is a depth and breadth that they bring to their early stage research in order to understand the user – this empathy was coming through clearly in the presentations made in every location, though each is very different from each other. This resonance with the needs of the user, the emphasis on the experience, the concept of service and quality, particularly the deep dive immersion into medical knowledge – engineering students at TU Delft learn anatomy by dissection for example – seems to be the secret behind the success of Dutch design and innovation.

Robin Baker

So far the visits have confirmed, that while there are individual institutions are beginning to look at multidisciplinary ways of working that combine management technology and design their does not appear to be a firm strategy for such engagement. The model appears to be the traditional focus of design education which results in the priorities of visual expression and material experimentation confirmed in the production of objects as the major outcome.

Kamil Michlewski

I’ve noted a comment from the Design Academy director reflecting on to the role of the industry partners in their design education system:

“We work with commercial and not-for-profit organisations on the assumption that we are not delivering any specific products or results. The companies join a network of ‘friends’ and work with us and the students on challenging issues. They associate with use because they feel they can learn a lot from the process. Very often managers come in as tutors and ask difficult questions. This gives the students a very good grounding in the real world problems and encourages them to think more critically about their ideas. The managers, on the other hand, are exposed to a great variety of original thinking that directly relates to their businesses.”

My observation here is that if universities want to create viable partnerships with the industry they must recognise that they are as attractive to the commercial world as the commercial world is to them.