The School of ______
A Studio For Society
Lucy Kimbell, University of the Arts London, 2016
What are design schools for? They used to be places that an individual would go to learn a practice, form a peer group and develop an identity as some kind of designer. Individual (or collaborative) outputs showed visions of how things might be and sometimes - rarely - went on to shape how things are. The boundaries between design schools (depending on field) were not that porous - open to some kinds of industry or technology partner, and open to wider publics at degree show time, but otherwise producing opaque practices that not that many people could make sense of. But design schools are changing. They are becoming hubs where people and organisations go to develop capacities in the doing of designing and where the activity of designing is more closely tied to collective imaginaries about our future ways of living and being. Organisational briefs for student projects become opportunities for co-researching and co-designing. Modules for credit, short courses, and exec ed offers bundle up design education for non-designers. Design sprints and service jams involve broader publics in responding creatively to contemporary public, policy and business challenges.

In short, design schools have shifted from narrow to broad accountabilities and from enabling individual learning outcomes to supporting collective capacities in generating of future imaginaries. Design schools - some of them at least - are studios for society.