Low Carbon Design Institute: ideas for a net zero compliant design education

It’s Christmas Eve, I’m reading the introduction to Ezio Manzini’s ‘Design, When Everybody Designs‘ and I just got angry again. Anger, for a 39 year old woman, is an incredibly useful tool. It’s the step that comes before action. Back in October, I wrote a little twitter rant  about the idea of a Low Carbon Design Institute and Ezio Manzini’s introduction is begging me to explain myself.

His introduction includes Herbert Simon’s definition of design from 1982, the year AT&T was divided up by the US government, the first computer virus was developed and the first CD player was sold in Japan. His definition states that design aims to:

‘devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones’.

Well. Preferred by whom? Courses of actions created by whom? Put in place by whom?

Traditional industrial and interaction design education (I’m happy to be proved wrong) likes to think of itself as messianic. As always a force for good, for better, for more. It thinks of itself as representing human values and needs in ways that other professions like lawyers, philosophers, poets, artists do not.

But design doesn’t exist in a vacuum, the entire profession and its academic ecology relies on clients. On a market of people whose employees, factories, families, depend on good, better, more products to be produced.

So the client pays the designer, the designer pays their bills by making good, better products that sell more than the last one did. And the designer moves on to the next client.

(You can see where I’m heading with this right?)

What happens now in (soonish) 2020? We are asking people to use less plastic, buy better products, sometimes stop buying products entirely but we don’t present them with ideologies, we present them with metal straws. We’re asking people to use less disposable coffee cups by selling them plastic ones made in Australia. We’re asking people to have an effect on their hyper-local farming communities by importing quinoa from Peru and oat milk from Sweden.

We’re asking companies to reduce their carbon footprint by 2050.  This is so hard, some of those companies are even asking governments to invest in de-carbonising transport because this is the only way they can imagine making less products.

We’re also asking people to be more self-reliant, or local with their energy needs and choices but we have national grids that have to help them charge an increasing number of tiny personal surveillance devices, smart TVs, smart locks, that are almost always on.

How is anyone supposed to teach design in this environment without questioning the socio-economic impact of designing for a continuously new, good, better world?

How are we supposed to support necessary changes in the West, growth in other parts of the world and help others still live and thrive with the effects of flooding and fires on their communities and economies?

Ignoring any part of this complexity as part of a modern design eduction is simply irresponsible and not taking up the challenge of responding to the circumstances. Something the Bauhaus, post WWI, did exceptionally well.

Trouble is, we’ve tried some things before in design education. Victor Papanek had a fantastic curriculum for environmentally-sensitive design in a world of self-sufficiency. Then we had Cradle to Cradle which sounded like architecture was going to get its shit together. But not much happened in the end and the internet came to distract everyone. Papanek and McDonough were eventually reduced to design students being told about recyclability of plastics and material choices like bamboo (also complicated ). And then the heady days of web2.0 distracted everyone into being taught how to make their portfolios, e-commerce sites and eventually use instagram to sell their bamboo furniture. If you went into digital design, you’re concerned about privacy, GDPR, ux, user needs, innovation, more, better, good. Same old, same old.

So what should we be teaching to respond to the circumstances?

  • We should be teaching about the importance of local production and local economies the way the economist E.F. Schumacher might have imagined it.
  • We should be teaching about repairs and re-use the way The Restart Project does.
  • We should teach about algorithmic and graphic communication design to encourage incremental behavioural changes the way it was presented at the Wellcome Collection a few years ago.
  • We should teach the difference between recyclable and recycled by showing students exactly what recycling actually entails. Material and environmental sciences should be accessible and available.
  • We should teach financial self-sufficiency to students so they don’t end up in debt and following predictable career paths because of that debt.
  • We should throw cold water on the technocratic hypes around them. We should introduce them to dissenting voices rather than sales pitches.
  • We should teach creative minds where power lies outside of design & manufacturing: economics, policy-making, debate, discussion, ethics, journalism, writing, psychology, sociology, anthropology.
  • We should be making them ‘eat their own dog food’ as much as possible, living with the things they design instead of demoing or prototyping things to a deadline. The unintended consequences are only apparent then.
  • Finally, we should be teaching them about profound empathy by letting them work with the non-profit organisations in their communities.

All of this and probably a lot more are things I think are worth experimenting with within the confines of education and training. Is it design in the way people understand it today? No. It is design in the way people might understand it soon though. A mess of economics, creativity and environmentalism.

I’m interested in prototyping these ideas as a summer program in 2020 in the UK so if you’d like to get involved by giving a talk, introducing concepts, offering space, offering sponsorship, get in touch at alex (at) designswarm (dot) com or comment below.



So you’re about to graduate

(This is a follow-up to my blogpost as I’ve been invited to give one of the keynotes at the Umea Institute of Design’s Degree Show  in Sweden next month.)

So you’re about to graduate from an interaction design degree. Welcome to the rest of your life in the industry of design. Here are some harsh realities you’ll have to face:

  1. Noone has used ‘interaction design’ in about 10 years. Don’t look for interaction design as a job description on job search sites. Noone uses it. Just like information architecture has become ‘UX/UI’ and user-centered design has become ‘UX/UI/CX/service design’. Noone has ever used HCI or physical computing either. The terminology of your academic life doesn’t apply to the rest of your life.

This is a fairly normal byproduct of academia being its own industry. People make a living from using those terms to apply to doctoral positions, post-docs, heads of departments, etc.

So you’re going to be applying for ‘product design’ positions where the word product usually means digital product. The halcyon days of a variety of sizes of companies recruiting multi-disciplinary graduates to work on hardware/software products are mostly over. Why? Because the product/engineering design sector is now servicing the smallest startup to develop a connected product so they don’t have the internal knowledge to train you up across electronics engineering, supply chain management, marketing etc. They don’t have much funding so they need you to already bring deep knowledge to the table which, sadly, your education won’t have provided you (if you’re graduating from an interaction design course).

If you’re pretty good at CAD or coding you might find something sooner than your peers who aren’t. Why? Because ‘hard skills’ are valued more by startups and small companies than the ‘soft skills’ that agencies might value. But it does mean you’ll start your career with mindless technical work. That’s ok, it’s better to start somewhere and build from that, than not to start at all and retrain (many of my B.A. peers did).

The good news if you’re not particularly technical is that the world of design agencies is perfect for you. It has changed and shrunk so you’ll be mostly applying to dull 20-30 year old companies like IDEO, Smart, Frog, Fjord (EY) Seren (EY), Method, Native and the ‘big 4‘ which are the large accounting consulting firms who now offer design services.  These businesses have internship programs and will have structures in place to let you grow within a team, drowning in a flurry of post-its and powerpoint presentations. This may also be a disappointment, but hey, it’ll pay the bills for a few months.

2. You’ll have to work for nothing sometimes The fact is that the most interesting interaction design work is now firmly in the arts. You’ll find endless opportunities to work with artists building fantastic AR/VR/wearable/whatever  with absolutely no budget. This can be a good side hustle to an agency position. You’ll have the power to learn across multiple sectors but no money so you’ll be inspired to do this for the right project or because there’s a technology stack you want to learn about.

3. You may have to keep studying Yes there are plenty of large consumer smart product companies out there but they’ve mostly been absorbed by even larger groups (Google, Philips, Microsoft). Those companies have super interesting research going on but your BA or Master’s might not be enough. Any PhD will open all sorts of strange doors, especially in interaction design work. You also might want to try applying to MIT for eg. which will open further doors when you graduate no matter what you want to do. You’ll find a PhD gets people in Google Creative Lab, Microsoft Research and others very interested. You don’t have to go into a PhD straight away of course, but some topics (ethics in #iot for eg.) are not industries yet. Some topics in interaction design are firmly, still, academic in nature or worse, policy/government-based. A PhD can get you to keep exploring, perhaps do a practice-based PhD if you hate writing, and engage with corporates in very different ways than with your M.A. begging bowl.

4. You’ll definitely have to write, sell yourself on social and generally become entrepreneurial. I know social media doesn’t exactly inspire many young people, but how do you compete with someone who has 10 years of career under their belt? You show your work (dedicated URL so I can find you with search engines), you share your ideas about your work (start blogging on your own site and cross-post to Medium and Linkedin), you share what you value, what you think is interesting, what your opinions are (try twitter with plenty of muted words).

You should try giving talks as soon as possible (I gave my first conference talk 6 months after graduating) perhaps at your local chapter of PechaKucha or TEDx. Try organising a meetup around the design issues you value. Do every bloody thing you can to avoid being another CV someone won’t read (especially if the robots are reading it first).

Start your own business, take small clients who are friends of your family, start wherever you can if you feel like the options above are unpalatable. But keep in mind this is the hardest path. It’s the one with the most psychological ups and downs and rewarding in lots of ways, but incredibly seasonal. But it’ll be different from what most of your peers end up doing. I’ve made a career almost entirely this way.

5. Keep your interests diverse This all sounds quite stressful I realise. Work in design is like work in most industries. It’s full of sexism, ageism, politics, ego, and the odd toxic workplace. What helps is family, friends, sports and hobbies. They will act, collectively, as a safety net against the tides of your work life and make your a more rounded, sane professional. Also, always have enough money in the bank to afford to quit your current job/client and survive for 3 months. That’ll give you lots of inner power.

Good luck and if you have questions, ping me on twitter!

The case for small design schools

I haven’t put a lot of effort in blogging here recently so I thought I’d kick off with a January post and get back in the groove.

I was invited by Francisco to come back to ITESM in Mexico City after leading a 3 day teacher training workshop last December. This time around I’m here to help students at the end of a wearable project and interacting with 18-24 year old industrial, engineering and mechatronic students in 2018 got me thinking about design schools I’ve visited in the last 10 years.

One of the reasons I don’t do much teaching is partially that I find the environment offered to students frustrating. When given the right conditions any student is able to do something worthy of attention. I seldom see the right conditions so I thought I’d put down what I think are challenges to coming up with good ideas and what I think a design school of the future should be.

Most design schools are too big.

When I studied my BA we were 74 students. I think less than 20 ended up in design careers, many retrained. Why did they take so many students? Probably because they had invested in an amazing library, worked with a famous architect to get a brand new building, had lots of staff. So it’s all about volume. More students need to be pushed through the doors regardless of work opportunities on the marketplace because really a design school is a business with bills to pay.

Most design schools treat their students like office workers

I was lucky to be part of the last generation of design students to have my own dedicated studio space at the Université de Montréal. Every single design school I have visited since doesn’t have this. The pencil-pushers in admin in design schools read all about open spaces and co working and started making money hiring out the building for external event. A design school becomes a real estate investment and the students become ‘customers’ of that space. Any superficial look at Bauhaus and other leading design schools shows dedicated work space that students can own, can customise, can settle in and live in. The quality of the work with change when you’re a hot desking office worker. Most design studios have dedicated spaces to work in, that they own, why on earth wouldn’t a design school enable that reality? Or perhaps they are training students to work at places like Google, but Google doesn’t hire a lot of design students.

Most design schools don’t know how to work with industry

Every year I might get invited to 1 or two degree shows. How on earth I got on their list is anyone’s guess but I’m really not interested in seeing the final work of a student, I’m interested in who they are and their process which a final show will never expose. External people don’t get exposed to student work often enough because design schools don’t know how to structure their engagements with industry. Ravensbourne College is the only one I know where the Head of Partnerships Claire Selby is public both in industry and inside her own building. This is quite rare.

I’d love to see design schools approach small studios, freelancers, alumni to invite them to dinners with students or away days, anything to create a bond, a relationship, an ongoing conversation.

Getting a professional to give a lecture is almost the worst way to engage with a class of students, as they are just being lectured to, will often disconnect and don’t really understand how important it is to engage with the lecturer because they’re used to having their lecturers near them all the time. To a design student, a lecture is just another bunch of links to Google at some point.

Nobody knows how to draw.

I’m a little shocked every time I go to visit a design program and I can’t see drawings on the walls but I see post-its. How did we get to a point where students aren’t able to think visually. Most people understand the world through images, diagrams, visuals and the ability for a student to get up and explain a complex set of issues with a few well chosen drawings is extremely powerful. Ask Bill Verplank who basically with one sketch created a whole industry. Powerpoint and Illustrator have taken that entirely away from the average design student. They now need to spend all night selecting images and drawing in an abstract environment to make their point. But pitching in a brainstorm session or a meeting with a client requires more reactivity, it requires the deep desire to draw what you mean. We’ve taken that away and given it only to architects. What a shame.

So what should be done?

Smaller design schools.

Taking the model of IDII where I studied but also Kaos Pilot and the Shumacher College I think there’s a great argument for small design programs. Less than 20 students. 20 people can create great bonds, and providing infrastructure for 20 people isn’t much: a studio room, a lecture room, a gallery with public access, somewhere to eat and workshop spaces. Somewhere to eat and workshop spaces don’t have to exist in the school as everyone and their uncle now owns a laser cutter, a 3D printer and Arduinos. So it’s down to a room, a lecture room. Could you run a design program this way? I think so.

It doesn’t have to be in the middle of nowhere, it can be in the heart of the city, but the scale of students matters to the quality of work. When you’re 20 people in a room you can’t drift off as easily, and competition builds up for people to do good work. It also means you can’t work on large team-based projects which are the death of collaborative work in industry. Teams of 2-3 are enough to get something really good done (as every startup ever has taught us).

Why a gallery? To create opportunities for the local community to get involved with the students, for the students to get used to speaking to people in the ‘outside world’. Design education shouldn’t be a bubble. As examples, Central St Martins has a shop and London College of Communications has a sort of gallery space in Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

Ideally the students are multi-disciplinary too so their interests and appetite are varied but they all want to develop solutions for the world. Those solutions could be a publication, a space, a product, a service, a business, this is all design. Why should we continue to teach design as if industrial silos still applied?

The class should be taken out on cultural visits and industrial engagements all the time like the The Slow Food Institute. As professionals you’ll be very mobile especially if you have your own business so why not get students used to that life.

I have so many more thoughts and I hope by publishing this someone out there will tell me: ah but you should see such and such a program. I hope there is something better than what I see which is a model which isn’t suited to industry or even modern living.

Design students deserve better and deserve to be pushed to try harder too. We have to give them the conditions to be challenged in ways that will make industry life feel like a piece of cake rather than a cliff’s edge.

The Inventor, the Designer and the Maker: 3 different ways of getting things done.

I’m giving a talk at the Centre of Fine Arts in Sydney today and last night worked on 3 ways of visualising the evolution of making in the past 10 years with the emmergence of Arduino and crowd funding particularly. I’m trying to work this into a small publication on the subject so really work in progress but thought I’d share it.

The Inventor Model

The Designer Model

The Maker Model

Pour boxer, il faut avoir faim: my thoughts on design for design students

Written for an exhibition put on by Middlesex University as part of London Design Festival.

I graduated from a McSc in Industrial Design 2004 and here’s what I wish they’d told me.

You won’t design this way ever again.
If you work for someone else, you will spend 100% of your time designing 10% of a product. In famous design studios, you will only get involved in a fraction of the whole process, either the artistic direction, or the CAD drawings, or the user interface or tiny snippets of each. You’ll spend half your days in meetings and wonder “wow, I used to be so productive before”.

But working for yourself doesn’t make it easier.
If you work for yourself you’ll spend 10% of your time designing 100% of the product and 90% of your time selling it, begging for money or filling in paperwork. You’re probably never going to pay off your student loans this way, but you might be happier. I am.

Keep Learning.
In the digital age, to be a product designer is something you have to justify to yourself and others. It’s not a popular field of practice anymore as we live in more and more digital worlds and we’re moving towards a society of access & rental models rather than ownership. I learnt how to code in my MA because I hung out with programmers and I can safely say it saved me. It gave me an edge and an understanding of a field I would always have to interact with. I work in the fuzzy world between products & the internet (called the internet of things) and I can safely say what I learnt between 2000-2004 is obsolete, but that’s ok because I continued to learn and develop my skills.

Fame is never fortune.
The greatest disappointment of your early years in design is to realise that when you make the pages of a magazine, blog, newspaper, or show your work in a museum your life doesn’t change. You are fodder for some poor journalist/curator who has a 4 o’clock deadline. That’s it. Never pays the bills, never increases sales. Never.

Just do.
The Internet has created a society where we’re constantly fixating on what other people are doing. Back in the days, you might meet your peers once a week or a month, not every second of the day, which left plenty of time for the doing bit of design. It can be easy to stay stuck in a mode where you’re just spending your time in research and not actually designing. Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, the distractions are enormous, but nothing trumps just doing, designing, working.

Meet non-designers.
Spending time with people who aren’t designers is really important. There’s nothing worse for your career of developing a closed sense of what you’re interested in and what you’re not. You don’t know what you might be interested in…that’s the point of life in design. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so you literally have to go to random events, meet scientists, talk to politicians, because you might find you have something to contribute in their field too.

We have enough chairs, but not enough wheelchairs.
Design should be about empathising with a foreign problem and trying to solve it, not doing the same thing over and over again. I go around the Milan Furniture Fair and I despair at the number of pointless additions to the built environment young designers are producing when our grandmothers are being sold ugly products that are hard to use. Dare to work on un-popular topics because you’ll find you become an expert and you’ll make a great career out of it. It takes courage and if design isn’t about courage, then we should all have become accountants.

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.

The problem with advertising

…is that, sometimes, the best projects have no budget & the people with a budget and the best intentions fall in the hands of agencies with no ability to think outside the box. 2 days, and 2 videos to illustrate this point.

The first a video attempting, I suppose, to get young women interested in science. It’s best to think about it as the opening credits to a Sex & the City Science Special. Grotesque. Commissioned by the EU, it’s received a healthy amount of criticism. A representative, when asked if it was a joke, said that “the EU doesn’t really do irony”. Maybe they should.

The other, I saw in the cinema and was for Code Club a project started by 2 brilliant women to teach kids how to code after school. The whole thing looked a bit DIY-Youtube-just-shot-this with-my-iPhone and not in a good way. It looked like it might have been organised at the last minute backstage at Davos. And to end with Prince Andrew getting hired is also, well cheesy.

These 2 groups are clearly trying to do good things, but the budget and tools they had at their disposal clearly don’t make up for the lack of leadership from the agencies they worked with. Work like you care people, the women and kids you know will thank you.

On graduating

So for the first time in years, I went to have a proper look at design graduate work (CSM & RCA) as this is the perfect opportunity to take a snapshot of design education before the scary rise in fees when most UK students might apply outside of the UK and schools start to panic.

What I saw was alright mostly, with some flashes of brilliant and brave work. My favorites were the ones that clearly owned their experience and turned it into opportunities for themselves. Students who took the attitude of “the best time to look for a job is when you have one” and created businesses or support opportunities within the framework of education.

Alexander Groves (Design Products) made some fantastic Hair Glasses but also and mostly created a project called Sea Chair where he proposes to turn a retired fishing trawler into a plastic chair factory, fishing the plastic from the polluted seas around the South West coast of the UK.

Mohammed Daud (Design Products) developed a solution to help urban farming less painful physically with a redesigned hoe design. He is also looking for funding to implement the idea at scale in Pakistan where he went to do user-research. This is ideal for Kickstarter.

I also looked at work which clearly made a huge step in making new techniques feel familiar with the language of design. Studio Koya‘s beautiful and delicate fashion and textile work doesn’t even seem futuristic because of our now common acceptance of Lady Gaga-generated dada fashion.

It’s hard in design at the moment, but these kids will make it.

Should we stop using the term "Interaction Design"?

I got this last month from Michel, a lovely student from Eindhoven:

“I am currently looking for an internship in HCI/ID, but I am suffering from a “typecasting”-effect. Many companies ask for “interaction designers” when they really mean “graphics designers” or “css monkeys”. The fact that I have a background in computer science just makes things worse by adding “programmer” to the list of stigmas. My interests lie in the more physical kinds of interaction, but it’s really hard to find the right positions for that. Do you have any advice as to how I might better find the right places? Any help would be greatly appreciated!”

This felt deeply familiar of course as when I graduated in 2006 and it was a problem even then (I ended up working as a visual designer / information architect for a year even if my portfolio of work was much more product-based).

I try to explain to people what an interaction designer is in the way that I understand it, and in the context of the business I built, it makes sense. But in isolation, it no longer means anything on the market. Physical computing is too embedded in academia and is starting to feel old. Bill Verplank had suggested Physical Interaction Design, but it sounds a little clunky. So should we be concerned by this? As per Michel’s email, i think so. Graduates become senior designers, strategists, creative directors, etc. rarely interaction designers.

Lack of terminology ultimately leads to lack of identity and the dilution of a field into the market, unnoticed. Something to think about for the start of the week :)

Managing a portfolio & online presence for design students

Last month, Carole invited me to come in, lecture and help her graduating MA Textile Futures students understand the value of building an online presence of their own. I ended up putting together a few presentations to explain the value of what the internet was about, how it could help them in their career, etc. I learnt a lot and observed a lot along the way. Some of it shocked me, some of it are service ideas that are just screaming to happen and I thought I’d share. Feel free to reap the benefits :)

It’s 2010. The golden age of technology right? Well, managing an online presence, understanding what it’s all for when you’re not a web designer or involved in web design or “social media”, turns out to be more obscure than in 2005. Let me explain.

In 2003, I took a Flash class in my product design course. Horrible, obscure stuff where the end result was a Flash website. Need I say more? In 2005, half way through my master’s in IDII, I learnt how to code my own website (thanks to the many hours I spent with Didier who had the patience to teach me HTML & CSS). The year after that Yaniv made it compulsory to use WordPress to communicate our progress in our thesis work. I still find PHP a horrible thing to understand, but the hours spent paid off eventually. I moved on to being Karola’s sysadmin and web designer (I get jewellery in return you see) which keeps me coding once in a while. So all in all, that’s 5 years worth of investment that unless you’re in a “media” course of some sort, you’ll never encounter. This is a problem.

1. The internet’s ultimate designer package.
Most students will access the internet to have access to particular social communities (FB, Twitter, etc), do google searches for images and check email. They have no real understanding about the value of having their own URL (nevermind that they don’t know what URL means) until you ask them to Google themselves. Then they get it. If there’s a business idea here, its a packaged “registration, hosting and wordpress/tumblr/whatever installation” package. Having that will compete and just eat up horrible sites like indexhibit.org (i don’t even want to link to them) to stop taking advantage of creative people who just want a “box” to put images and captions in. Designers want to worry about the right things, want some degree of personalisation and want to get on with the business of designing quickly.

2. Ignorance is not bliss.
Reliance on “IT support” is strong in the creative industries. This means the IT sector takes the piss and doesn’t educate designers. There is no knowledge exchange, there are only service providers who make designers totally dependant. Explaining to a designer what FTP is, getting them to write their first index.html page and upload it and see it there, means they can then understand what happens behind the curtain and can have a creative discussion about it. Again, not talking about anyone involved in the “new media” sector but everyone else, photographers, textile designers, product designers, etc. Some of the women I spoke to about this (was an all-women course) were amazed and happy to build a vocabulary that made that world of acronyms make more sense.

3. Portfolio communities are horrible.
One of the missconceptions of design graduates, is that shoving their work into online communities for other designers will help them build a voice online. Looking at my own experience, when I graduated from product design school, core77 and if you were a bit cool, Computer Love or if you were really cool K10K were the places to go. What changed soon after that, was that your best friend online became Google and the blogs that linked to the work ( think WMMNA, Cool Hunting, Swissmiss or Mocoloco). In 2010, well it’s partially about Twitter love, but still very much about Google, not about walled gardens but about rich networks of relationships.

4. Flickr’s golden opportunity.
I just spent the day with Karola rethinking her website, and in the end, we found that it was easier to ask her to update Flickr and for her website to just link to slideshows of work. She understands HTML because I bullied her into it ;) , but she’s obviously now much more active and at ease thinking about Flickr, managing an image around her work, and thinking about the power of imagery. So we redesigned her website to basically end up being a “wrapper” around Flickr sets. It’s not Flickr, so she feels its her own space. If you Google her, you’ll get her website first, which is what she wants, but all the assets end up living elsewhere, in a space she’s happy to manage and where customer support is easy to handle through commenting. If Flickr was interested in monetizing at all, this I think would be a nice way to do it.

5. Education
In the end, I was happy to come and talk to the students about this, because noone had really bothered to give me such an introduction when I was a student. I’m not sure to what extent this shouldn’t become a compulsory module for design course “Online identity management” as so much of our work as professionals relies on promoting our work as much as possible, and this isn’t only through publications in magazines anymore. With the recent cuts in education, I doubt this idea will have any traction, but hey, that’s my 10 cents.