Industrial Design Education
The educational programme of the Department of Industrial Design (ID) at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) distinguishes itself by its foundational duo of focus, and educational approach, namely:
- Focus: intelligent systems, products and related services for social/societal transformation
- Educational approach: competency-centred learning
The department concentrates on the design of intelligent systems, products and related services, which addresses aspects such as adaptive behaviour, context-awareness and highly dynamic interaction. The traditional focus of industrial design on products is moving more and more towards systems. At ID we see systems as adaptive environments in which humans can interact with intelligent products to gain access to services provided. These intelligent products are connected to each other and the surrounding system to achieve a new type of user experience. Especially the shift towards the complexity of systems and the non-physical aspects of services requires different competencies from designers.
Being intelligent means that the adaptive behaviour is based on the situation, context of use and users’ needs and desires. In particular we focus on opportunities that are of benefit to individuals, societies and different cultures worldwide. This implies that intelligence incorporates an ethical dimension. However, our contemporary culture has lost a unifying ideology (Branzi, 1989). Therefore, we believe that designers have to not only develop the next generation of digital systems, products and related services with which people can pursue their lives, but also investigate what kind of life and society we (designers, users, industry, society, …) want these products to support (Hummels, Ross and Overbeeke, 2003). When is it beneficial to us and what makes it so? Moreover, the complexity of these new systems asks for a new type of designer being on the edge of design, engineering and (social) science (Bartneck and Rauterberg, 2007).
These envisioned innovations cannot merely be technology-driven, or based on needs of users in existing product ecologies. As new technology is potentially capable of transforming our world in ways that we cannot know of beforehand, we educate students who are able to apply new technologies in innovative, daring and preferably beautiful ways, driven by a design vision of how our (social) world could be in the (near) future, and based on explorative studies and solid research with users in the social-cultural context (Hummels & Frens, 2008). Moreover, it requires an intense relationship with industry to turn this design vision into reality.
Industry is interested in hiring academically trained Industrial Design engineers, who are able to lead and work in multi-disciplinary teams, bringing the different perspectives together, and to bridge the worlds of new technological and business strengths on the one hand, and the societal and user desires, needs and opportunities on the other. The approach of becoming such an integrator was also scrutinised when looking at the societal developments with respect to learning. The rapid changes of present-day society and the fast increasing amount of knowledge, asks for self-directed and life-long learning. Functioning effectively in this society and the new workplace requires the ability to deal creatively and flexibly with large amounts of constantly evolving information and the ability to learn continuously. In addition, our students need to become experts who are required to work in teams, to cooperate with experts in various fields, and to participate in complex networks of information, resources and instruction.
The perspective that ID has chosen to anticipate these societal changes, is competency-centred learning, an educational model in which learning and working come together. Students learn to learn (what, how and why) and we facilitate their learning. Competency-centred learning offers students the opportunity to give equal weight to knowledge, skills and attitudes, and stimulates them to learn by doing. Within our department, a competency is defined as an individual’s ability to select, acquire, and use the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are required for effective behaviour in a specific professional, social or learning context. Therefore it offers a holistic view of design, where the student develops the overall competence to design by integrating, in our case, ten competency areas related to users, (interaction) design, technology, business, society, modelling, processes, ideation, teamwork and self-directed learning.
Our model is about learning and performing through practical application, while simultaneously acquiring theoretical skills. For example, design uses formal scientific notations (based on mathematics) as well as knowledge that is harder to formalise (e.g. aesthetics and creativity). Moreover, knowledge can be obtained through the synthetic skills of the designer (e.g. building physical models) as well as through the analytical skills of the designer (e.g. analysing user behaviour). Reflection in and on action (Schön, 1983) as well as reflection for action are important mechanisms to become aware of what one has learned, and to stimulate and direct this growth.
Becoming a designer is not merely about being able to deliver qualitative excellent systems, products and services, it is also about the process and competency of accomplishing this excellent design, and the process of becoming a competent designer. Therefore, learning and assessment focus at ID on the overall competence of designing, including the vision on designing, as well as the growth as a designer during the study. Students create/update their showcase elucidating their development as a designer over the past semester. Based on this interactive showcase they are assessed
Jorge Alves Lino
Sabine van Gent (Project Leader)
Kim van Iersel
Marco van Beers
Mark van der Gronden
Marcel van Heist