ProjectSpace: Linking Design Education with Business

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Malins, Julian; Murray, Annette
Series: E&PDE
Section: Design Education and Business 1
Page(s): 11-15


Design graduates are increasingly called upon to work in cross disciplinary ways, having to understand alternative business models in order to respond to the challenges of designing services as well as products. Addressing these challenges requires a new set of capabilities; capabilities that allow working across business sectors, academic disciplines and public agencies and which recognise the systemic nature of the challenges and opportunities we face in today’s society. One way to prepare students to help them address these challenges is to provide them with experience of working in multidisciplinary teams on live projects that involve external organisations. Students learn how to work in collaborative teams, how to address the specific need of the client and assimilate feedback from a wide range of experts. Identifying suitable projects, supervising student groups, and managing the relationship between all the stakeholders requires a sophisticated infrastructure.

The Centre for Design & Innovation (c4di) has developed a web portal called ProjectSpace, a project brokering system for managing live projects with SMEs and multidisciplinary groups of students. This is a unique facility which provides a mechanism for the University to engage with external partners, to manage groups of students and provides a shop window for what the University can offer (www. The system is currently being piloted with design students from Gray’s School of Art undertaking a collaborative project provided by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), which entails the development of a concept to support SDS’ clients to help them identify their core skills and competencies and help raise their personal esteem. For this pilot project students have been selected from two design courses, Digital Media and Visual Communications.

Identifying projects in collaboration with external partners requires time and skill. Project briefs have to be developed that align with existing learning outcomes within courses. ProjectSpace provides a mechanism for displaying project briefs and key deadlines and assigning both academic staff and students to projects. It is also capable of providing a confidential content management system allowing participants, both within the University and the industry partner, to view ongoing work. A wide range of issues has been highlighted by this project, including contractual arrangements, project supervision, fit with the curriculum and the management of expectations between stakeholders. This paper reports the outcomes of the SDS pilot project by provides a case study giving insights into how multidisciplinary projects can be facilitated with the help of an online web portal.

All universities have to find ways of engaging with external partners to ensure courses remain current and to be able to attract additional sources of income. Additionally there is an added value in providing students with projects, which give them exposure to potential recruiters and allows them to build a portfolio of relevant work and skills that enhances their employability.

Keywords: Multidisciplinary, web-portal, service-design, project briefs


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