Mapping the Design Space of Design Education in iSchools

M. Cameron Jones, Ingbert R. Floyd, Michael Twidale, Piotr D. Adamczyk

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


iSchools have a well-established reputation for rigorous analysis, applying a range of multidisciplinary methods. However, increasingly many of us are teaching design elements as well as doing design in our research. We believe that as iSchools, we have a unique perspective, or accent, on design activities, which comes from our history of studying not just the design of information systems and how people use them, but from taking a step back and studying the information behavior of individuals and groups, thus taking a more holistic view of design. It is time for iSchools to assert their accent more explicitly in the study of design by integrating design perspectives across multiple disciplines. The development of new multidisciplinary design schools, such as the Stanford Design School, and RPI's Product Design & Innovation program, highlight the value of an iSchool-like, multidisciplinary approach to understanding design. However, iSchools’ accent is more than just a multidisciplinary approach; it can bring a critical perspective on multidisciplinary design that can also question the function of design as an information practice. iSchools can account for ethical, social, and more systematic concerns, along with an accent on the more overlapping cognitive and information aesthetic aspects of design practice. However, while this new accent on design is present in iSchools, it is currently underarticulated. With the recent growth of computer applications that can be tailored and combined without requiring sophisticated programming skills, and with the greater accessibility to tools for technology production, design is becoming an increasingly essential skill in the modern organization. Students need to learn design skills and "design-thinking" in order to secure desirable jobs post-graduation [2]. What are we, as iSchools, doing to prepare students for this emerging market? How are we teaching design, design practice, and design thinking? In art and architecture programs, students take design studios where they learn design methods and engage in long-term design projects. However, in iSchools and Computer Science programs students are typically given little explicit design instruction, and are often forced to discover on their own how to think about and do design as they engage in projects for class and work. We are proposing this Wildcard to enable a conversation about design from an iSchool perspective. We aim to focus on the special case of design instruction. The proposal authors have experience teaching design at different levels (undergraduate, masters, and doctoral) to multidisciplinary audiences, with students not just from more systems-construction-oriented disciplines such as CS, Library and Information Science (LIS), Urban Planning, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Geographic Information Systems; but also from disciplines as disparate as English, History, Media Studies, International Studies, Journalism, Cognitive Science, and various disciplines within Education (Curriculum and Instruction, Secondary and Continuing Education, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Education) [1, 3]. For many of our students, however, thinking in design terms is an alien concept. Thus, we see this Wildcard as having the secondary goal of helping us all to understand the design space of teaching design to students with diverse backgrounds. The aim of this Wildcard is to consider a particular design space that of teaching design in an iSchool. We aim to chart our collective experiences and intentions in teaching to help understand the challenges of conflicting goals, various opportunities and multiply-scaled constraints that characterize this particular design space.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2008


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