Every year we say ‘there’s never been a more important time to study Design Innovation’. This year, that’s especially true.
Watching the response of students to unfolding events has been humbling; even though we have all faced innumerable personal difficulties and frustrations, our students have shown a remarkable stoicism and camaraderie, keeping up a sense of community and mutual support that ensured everybody got through relatively unscathed.
Design Innovation has always been a programme focused on human-centred design – looking at the way the world works and identifying ways it might be better, either through big systemic changes or small interventions that help individuals. The topics we began the year talking about ended up being the ones that everybody was talking about: the future of work and education, the impact of social isolation, the need for better urban transport, attitudes to end of life care, the role of the city environment on mental health and physical wellbeing… and that’s just the start of the list.
These are just some of the topics that became Masters projects – 12-week independent explorations of the world at a human and individual scale. Unlike previous years, there could be no workshops with stakeholders, few face-to-face interviews. People who normally would be happy to participate now had other things to focus on, and even when participants were willing the technology often was not. But along the way, students became masters of Zoom and Miro, comfortable conducting conversations and co-designing at a distance, and making use of whatever space was available to them.
To some extent, the outcomes of these projects are irrelevant (though they really are excellent, as you’ll see). Being a designer and an innovator is not just a matter of a skillset but of a mindset – something very difficult to assess or to teach. And even though the projects developed by this year’s students are equal to those of past cohorts in terms of quality of thinking, insights, and ingenuity, the thing that makes this generation of graduates truly outstanding is the resilience, the mutual support, the empathy, and the good humour they have displayed throughout. It has been a pleasure to teach them, and to learn from them. We couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve achieved and to show it to the world via this digital showcase.
So yes, there has never been a more important time to study design innovation, and there’s never been a more important time to employ innovative designers of the sort you’ll see here in these five programmes. Where we see problems, they see possibilities. And that’s just what we need right now.
Jonathan Baldwin, Programme Leader MDes Design Innovation
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