Universal dilettantes and blinkered specialists: historic models and future potential of interdisciplinary design education

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: Oswald, David
Series: E&PDE
Institution: HTW Berlin University of Applied Science, Germany
Section: Multidisciplinarity
Page(s): 599-604
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


Interdisciplinarity in design education has been a controversial discussion topic for decades. The discourse on the risks and chances of interdisciplinarity has often been headed by strong terms such as ‘blinkered specialists’ or ‘universal dilettantes’. Today, after the digital revolution, the product and media world changes more rapidly than academic structures and design education. A possible response to emerging areas of expertise and novel job profiles could be the flexibilisation of curricular structures to clear the path for disciplinary mixtures. For the purpose of this discussion, two precursors and one contemporary model of interdisciplinary and integrated design in Germany are to be analysed and described. Based on the hypothesis that pioneering design institutions have always employed holistic, universal, or interdisciplinary approaches, an appeal for more open and flexible interdisciplinary curricula is made. The practicality of novel disciplinary combinations will be demonstrated by a combinatory experiment based on combinations of seven design and design-related disciplines. The results are then examined to verify if these interdisciplinary mixes can lead to promising new professional profiles.

Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, integrated design, Bauhaus, HfG Ulm, KISD, curricular development


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