Design Farmer

A friend of mine majored in design at Tsinghua and is now working as a designer. Her opinion of her education has gone down. Designers from other schools are better trained than she is, she sees.

At Tsinghua, her teachers denigrated learning to use this or that software program. To design something using a computer program was to be a design farmer, they said. They preferred to talk about big ideas. “I hate big ideas,” said my friend.

Her comments reminded me of law professors who would rather teach philosophy than how to be a lawyer (and are surprised when students play solitaire during class) and education professors who don’t teach their students how to teach.

3 Replies to “Design Farmer”

  1. Wow. I’m studying design in Switzerland and the situation is very comparable to your friend’s experience.

    What’s central to design is to be able to build things. It’s a craft despite the fact that designers produce increasingly intangible things such as services and systems. It’s the craft skill I consider essential to design that’s neglected the most in favor of sluggish ideas. It turns out most other students in my batch are frustrated and confused as well. We’ll be leaving school and won’t have much to add to the portfolios we used to apply to the program to begin with. Students hardly improve their craft or deepen their knowledge.

    Why does the school exist? And what’s the difference between self-study at home and actually attending school? There are great resources on the Internet that I’m already using for lack of anything better.

    If you’re determined and diligent you can learn a lot either way. And that’s what I’m hoping for. If I’m going to be a success it’s because I worked my ass off, guided myself, and made a distinction between relevant and irrelevant information. It’s hard but I learn self-reliance, persistence, and how to coach myself. That’s not a bad deal, either.

  2. Seth,

    I have a friend who is doing an MBA — he is learning tons of “strategy” that has little bearing in the real world or in any future job prospects —— his school has no classes in sales, which is very, very real-world.

    See “strategy” is unspoilt, pure and full of Big Ideas — and sales is hard and uncool.

  3. So true. I wish schools did more training and less “education” – I have a BS (how appropriate!) in engineering and management, an MBA, and completed the coursework for an ME and most of the coursework for a PhD – and yet feel that all those years in school have left me without any useful skills.

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