Redesigning D&T

Eddie Norman

Front Cover for Redesigning D&T ... Talking ... Thinking

LDP’s new title Redesigning D&T was launched on Tuesday 6 July and these are the 3 key areas I noted concerning its background:

  • the decline of D&T;
  • who the designers of a curriculum should be;
  • and knowledge in D&T.


The book is one result of the many interesting discussions that I have had with Alison Hardy about D&T and inevitably its continued decline has been a central and overriding concern. Many people have put great efforts into its development and I’m sure, like us, that everyone who has committed to its support over the years wants to see it flourishing again.

One perspective that the book offers is that of viewing the creation of a curriculum as primarily a ‘design task’, as much as a pedagogical, philosophical or theoretical matter. In that context a decline seems less surprising, as designed products are often depicted as having periods of growth, market maturity and decline. With both technology changing and key design areas constantly shifting focus, it’s likely that D&T would have a shorter product lifecycle than other subjects in the curriculum. As an example, Loughborough Design School where I taught for 28 years now has a new undergraduate programme focused on experience design. Quite right too, but it wasn’t even being discussed when I retired in 2012. So the decline of D&T looks to me like a product reaching the end of its lifecycle.


 I have always been much impressed by the book … Business Model Generation…which was written by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur (Wiley, 2010) and co-created by 470 practitioners from 45 countries. At one of our lunch meetings Alison and I were discussing whether D&T could be redesigned in much the same way?  That was the basis for the draft, freely downloadable from LDP’s website, which some people at the launch might have looked at. We hoped that it might spark interest and we would see a book grow from there, but that was not to be.

So we now have the new book which is intended to get the development of a ‘practitioner redesign’ of the D&T curriculum underway. Such an approach has the benefit of helping to build consensus and hence avoid some of the dissemination issues that arrive with top down approaches. It is also supportive of the welcome move towards locally detailed curricula.


Saying that D&T does not have a knowledge base of its own and essentially uses knowledge from other areas of the curriculum undermines it. Why teach it at all, if that is all it does? In my view, design knowledge has never been adequately represented within D&T curricula. People would generally agree that you cannot, for example, ask a skilled electronic circuit designer to design textiles, or the other way around, but few clearly state what it is that a textile designer knows that an electronic circuit designer doesn’t (The same argument applies to any other 2 other design areas – I think Ken Friedman identified over 400). Design knowledge is about modelling methods – cognitive, virtual, physical, mathematical and graphical, and it’s about design languages and tacit knowledge. The human capability for modelling is the key matter discussed in the late Ken Baynes’ book Design: Models of Change and I was fortunate to have many discussions with Ken about it, as well as with Phil Roberts and others.  Ken’s main concern was that – with the sustainability of the planet at stake – humans are not as good at modelling the future as they need to be. ‘Design and/or Technology 2.0’ needs to contribute to putting this right.

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