Is specialist designer an oxymoron? The value of specialisation in the design field

DS 76: Proceedings of E&PDE 2013, the 15th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland, 05-06.09.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Gulari, Melehat Nil; Fairburn, Sue
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Robert Gordon University, United Kingdom
Section: Design Education in Industry
Page(s): 246-251
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


“Jack-of-all-trades, master of none” is a figure of speech that suits generalists well. Having special knowledge is usually confused with being an expert. Does it mean that a non-specialist or a generalist is not an expert? Curriculums of many design schools provide a generic design education, which enables designers to work across fields. Maintaining disciplinary boundaries may deepen in-depth knowledge within the field; on the other hand, developing a design curriculum encouraging students to move across disciplines produces designers who are able to work well in collaborative teams or facilitate other domain experts. This study examines the influence of this dichotomy on how we perceive expertise and recognise its value by investigating its roots in design education. Twenty-four semi-structured interviews with individuals representing SMEs and external designers were reflected on to investigate difficulties of communicating design expertise resulting from the specialist generalist dilemma. The results of this paper will inform a designer’s job identity, protecting and sharing design territory and providing insights for design education

Keywords: Specialisation, specialist, generalist, design education, expertise


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