Design educations biggest mistake is UX

Design education is not doing enough to stay ahead. I’m lucky enough to be attending Loughborough University Design School, one of the top design courses in the UK. Obviously I acknowledge all of the other amazing courses in the UK too though. The knowledge gap and jump between students and industry has always been large but has also mostly been well facilitated (in my experience) between university and industry through internships. I have been lucky enough to have mentors and tutors to help me through the transition to my internship.

However, my experiences don’t speak for the larger population. In my short time in the industry, I have come to realise that design education is in danger of becoming even more daunting for students due to educations struggle to keep up with the rapid changes in the design industry.

Design educations biggest mistake is UX

The biggest cause for my concern is not a doomsday but how large companies are already undergoing massive cultural changes. Most of them have already made the big switch over to digital and are now working towards staying relevant through their products or services.

They are changing the way they do things to deliver better experiences faster than ever. This is not something that would be considered whilst at University and not something you would hear of until out in the industry. You just sort of assume they are doing something right or wrong.

I believe there is a lack of focus on that something. A lack of focus on the internals of the industry. Students are easily distracted by the best and brightest (guilty) and these types of changes can go unnoticed until it’s too late. This is also emphasised by popular tech sites, inspiration sites and design sites that show the fruits of labour but hardly focus on the approach to get to the solutions.

Cross function (agendas)

One of the biggest changes happens to be the dynamic of design teams in the business. Today, cross-functional teams from different departments, disciplines and backgrounds work collaboratively to deliver better solutions but for many still in education, there is a heavy focus on individual performance, even in group work.

Yes, you are all working together but everyone has their own agendas to get the best grade possible and cuts corners to do so (guilty again). It’s a shame it is this way. Rarely do students on one course get to work in cross-functional teams with students from other courses and this creates a resistance to do so down the line.

I was lucky enough to be involved in two hackathons at Loughborough with business students from Hong Kong, it was a really great and invaluable experience and I’m very grateful to Loughborough because of it.

Design is a way of thinking, not a process

The way in which you learn to design, I mean in order to get the grade you want, is that design is a process. That design is the process you use in order to deliver good solutions and nice looking stuff. I think many universities are getting it wrong when they teach design this way.

Design should be taught as a way of thinking, a tool that is able to solve problems beyond making products or services. All you have to do is look as far as some new up and coming user experience agencies and you can see they deliver solutions not only for UI, branding or products but for a vast range of problems you may be having in your team, department or company.

This brings me to how we are educated upon our introduction to UX. This in no way applies to the teaching of UX but to the structure of my overall and many other courses across the UK.

We are taught UX design separately to Industrial Design or other disciplines when UX design is directly linked to every other discipline. It all seems a little bit like the long way around for me. Upon first impression, I was mistaken for thinking UX was all about the design of a screen. All about the UI. But as I got more curious, as I started to learn more I was able to piece together the pieces myself.

I thought UX equated to how good the UI was. I cut corners to make more time to focus on the visuals and in a way this is one of those effects in education where you do what you can for the grade.

Unfortunately, as this is somewhat lost in translation within the structure of our design courses many students are left to feel that the approach you learn for UX design is one that is completely separate to that of Industrial design and this is the biggest failing of design education.

So who am I? I’m here to learn just like you. I’m currently an intern in the user experience team at Bosch Power Tools and an Industrial Design student at Loughborough University. Feel free to get in touch!

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