Talking D&T Podcasts

Eddie Norman

There are many issues that need to be discussed and many debates that need to be had concerning design in general education, and Design and Technology in particular.  Dr Alison Hardy’s initiative in creating the Talking D&T  podcasts provides one excellent platform for these to happen. One of the most important is ‘knowledge’ and ‘design’.  This debate is both challenging and difficult to structure, but it is one that is coming back to the fore. The introduction of the National Curriculum in 1990 sought to define what was to be taught, and consequently teachers and academics  moved on to other issues. The reality that the Design and Technology National Curriculum has been regularly revised since its introduction indicates the fragility of the definitions that have been put forward.

I was invited to give The John Eggleston Memorial Lecture in 2006 and I remember describing the positions that were dominant at the time as ‘fossilized orthodoxies’ … then current ideas, set in stone. Those same ideas might still be dominant, but I hope not, because in a world of cultural, environmental and technological change, design is moving on and it would be hoped that design education would have moved on with it. So, in many ways, you would think that if you are looking backwards in time, you are facing the wrong direction, but maybe not … if you look back far enough to the 1970s and 80s.

Many years ago, I was asked by The Design and Technology Association to develop materials to support teachers engaging in research, and the Research Pack can still be purchased (in fact it is on sale, May 2020, Members £15.00 / Non-members £25.00). The pack contains 3 publications:

  • Design and Democracy: Speculations on the radical potential of design, design practice and design education (Ken Baynes)
  • Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees: seminar papers from a staff development short course (Bruce Archer)
  • A Framework for Design and Design Education: A reader containing key papers from the 1970s and 80s (Bruce Archer, Ken Baynes and Phil Roberts)

Professor Bruce Archer ran the staff development short course for members of the Department of Design and Technology at Loughborough University and are worth the asking price by themselves (in my view … I’m not getting any commission). Anyway, the third publication looks back towards some of the key papers written in the late 1970s and early 1980s within the Design Education Unit at the Royal College of Art. They concerned ideas and approaches towards design theory and design education. The most important paper was ‘The Three Rs’ written by Bruce Archer. In this paper:

‘… Archer proposed ‘Design’ as the missing segment of education to be placed alongside Science and the Humanities. ‘Modelling’ is identified as the medium for designing and a comprehensive taxonomy is set out for the design field.’  (p8)

Design has its own knowledge base and epistemology (i.e. ways of knowing). If you are beginning to think about design and knowledge, it is not towards Science and the Humanities that you should be looking for answers, but towards ‘Design’.

I don’t really understand why the Research Pack wasn’t sold out years ago. The language is a little dated, but the ideas are just as important and the analysis just as penetrating as the day they first appeared.

I am delighted to be working with Alison Hardy on a project to further explore knowledge and designing and at Loughborough Design Press we’re looking forward to publishing the resulting two books. The first will be about setting the agenda (drawing up a product design specification) and the second looking at some proposals that can support the future of design in general education. So there might be a little looking backwards in order to go forwards, but not too much, and we’ll be looking to find ways for as many people to contribute as possible.

Some of the material that we’ll be bringing together can be heard from the podcast links shown below, and the project will be building on LDP’s previous publication Design Epistemology and Curriculum Planning.

Exciting times.

TD&T12: How did we get here?

TD&T13: Talking design and/or technology 2.0 with David Spendlove

TD&T15: Do designers actually know anything?

TD&T18: How can design not be considered as central to engaging with the future?

TD&T22: What designers know and how they know it

TD&T28: Eddie and Alison talking about D&T and epistemology

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