While design education may be centralized within institutions like Pratt, there have been myriad responses to institutional shortcomings regarding rising discourses of ethics and responsibility. Both IRL and URL groups have formed in response to the urgent need for politicized design pedagogy.
The 20th century played host to a wave of counter-institutional learning; perhaps the most famous of these experimental ventures was Black Mountain college, an alternative university with a co-operative ethos and ambitions to dissolve student-teacher hierarchies. (1) New models of teaching were tested in Roy Ascott’s “Groundcourse,” (2) and student insurrection roared at London’s Hornsey College of Art (3). Though these three examples represent no single attitude, they underscore an understated-but-constant dialogue between the student body and their institution. Radical pedagogy resists stasis, and all parties involved must commit themselves to the project of learning.
Not all design education programs have resisted the changing global landscape. Tucked away in the Netherlands, Werkplaats Typografie (4) and the Sandberg Instituut (5) are often lauded as counter-commercial programs focused on instilling within their students critical approaches to design practice.
Smaller local initiatives have cropped up across the world. In Los Angeles, the Southland Institute “is dedicated to exploring, identifying, and implementing meaningful, affordable, sustainable alternatives in design and art education in the United States.” (6) In New York, spaces like SSHH (7) and XXXI offer opportunities to enroll in single or multiple session courses trained around specific creative skill sets. London’s Evening Class (8) approaches topics like unionization and post-capitalist desire through self-organized working groups, and Chicago-published Extra-curricular (9) speculates on new models for design learning. As larger institutions hopefully begin to reevaluate their design curricula, peer-organized learning continues to open space for missing conversations.
In approaching this initial “Where Are We?” work, I found that much of the framework that proved helpful for considering new design pedagogy came from beyond the immediate scope of the design field. I have compiled these resources (along with more design-centric content) on a microsite, directly linking full texts when possible. (10)
Though this body of work was initiated as my undergraduate capstone, I truly hope to continue pushing “Where Are We?” as a collaborative publishing platform. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out! I would love to share this space for our collective musings on graphic design practice. (11)