Thoughts for an Internet of Things education

I went to see New Designers last week in London, a yearly pilgrimage. I went to product design school at the beginning of the century and I was really hoping that in a digital age, things would feel, well, modern. They didn’t really. If you’ve never been, ND is a fair for product design graduates in the Design Business Centre in Islington. A real meat market for design talent, they are represented by their schools, still hang posters, and show non-functional prototypes. Furthermore, they are mostly just excited to be in London and so bored with their thesis work they don’t hang out next to their projects. A strange environment to visit to say the least when I’ve been hanging out and working in industry for a while and was actually interested in hiring young talent for Good Night Lamp. I couldn’t help but wonder where these graduates will end up after they’ve taken their summer holiday and realise there’s not a lot of work out there.

If we could imagine a product design undergraduate program that was concerned about giving graduates a fighting chance out there in 2012 and involving them in the growing field of #iot , this is what it might look like:

An introduction to Social Media / WordPress / portfolio design in Year 1. ND was full of graduates with last minute business cards with Facebook links and phone numbers but no digital portfolios. This isn’t the 90s.

An introduction to electronics / Arduino / hacking in Year 2 so that functional prototypes become part of the language of presenting ideas.

An introduction to video prototyping in Year 1. Video is the medium of choice for complex interactions between products and people. Just look at BERG‘s work.

A constant interaction with industry through workshops / lectures / etc. in small groups. Making sure the time spent together always starts with students presenting their latest project (1mn each) or thinking so the guest lecturer can understand what they are interested in. Don’t make it compulsory but reward engagement. There’s nothing worse than being forced to meet people you’re not interested in as a student but it’s good to be reminded that there is a world beyond the school walls. Something someone told me is “the best time to look for a job is when you have one” and students need to get that.

Get students to put their thesis work on Kickstarter and grade them on how well they do. This is a brilliant test of whether an idea has legs and on graduation, they will get the money to make it happen. That’s how you’ll get more entrepreneurs out there.

Give them strong business support so they leave with a Linkedin profile, a good idea of the studios they want to work with, or organise meetings with future mentors who can help them after they leave.

Make it a group of 15. None of this 100 students a year thing. There isn’t enough work. If you want it, you have to fight for it. And your peers become the first people you work with, help, collaborate with. I graduated with 72 other people and only keep in touch with about 3, 2 of whom have retrained away from design because there was no work.

Get them to work on a project with computer science or engineering students. Cross-departmental projects hardly happen but they should. That’s how industry works.

Happy Friday everyone.

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designswarm

Founder of designswarm & the Good Night Lamp. Ex CEO of Tinker London, Head of Bulb Labs till May 2019.