CRITICAL STUDIES ARE DEAD, LONG LIVE CRITICAL STUDIES
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Peter Childs, Stephen Green, Ashley Hall, Aran Dasan
Author: Lindley, Julian; Adams, Richard
Institution: University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Section: New Design and Engineering Education Paradigms
The value of a broad awareness of the world through critical studies is well documented and a cornerstone of undergraduate education. Within Product Design this is particularly pertinent as
anything which is produced in the real world is automatically analysed and evaluated from current, future and historical perspectives. It is an iterative and continually evolving process. Without an awareness of these contexts designers are in danger of making assumptions and therefore risk the potential of getting it wrong or allowing the user to misinterpret the intended design value. A developed sense of critical awareness and contextual placement to support design decisions is one aspect of the complex domain that is design. A question arises over the teaching of critical studies; has it been subjected by current pressures to excessive standardisation and conformity? Delivery within a lecture context and assessment in the essay format seem to be the most prevalent form of student response within an undergraduate curriculum. At the University of Hertfordshire (UH) we have attempted to create a diverse middle ground. The authors apply a variety of approaches from the traditional lecture based learning environment, to embedding within practical studio tasks and out of studio visits and experiences. The project outlined below, one of several innovative approaches, comprises the introduction of knowledge, evaluation and analysis of artefacts and the synthesis of these supported student projects. Working with St Albans Museum the project, displaying the culture of the museum’s collection in a non-museum context, demands the application of critical skills and creative responses. Importantly the deliverables for the project are tangible, supported by a reflective document, which is a creative challenge. Key to this is allowing the students to define their own contexts and the parameters of the project. The project has opened up new perspectives on research, assessment and collaboration in design education and a new paradigm for critical studies in the curriculum.