Jul 132013

Occupy Design LogoClichés notwithstanding, the world’s problems aren’t solved over a glass of Scotch, but at a drafting table. A few prominent educators are calling design the “third pillar” of education along with the sciences and humanities. And designers are finding new technologies and markets–from zero-gravity interaction to a Photoshop “app store” for fonts and other digital tools of the trade.

In “End the University As We Know It,” Mark Taylor argued for abolishing traditional departments in favor of programs focused on problems like privacy, water, energy, or security. These problems benefit from marshalling the perspectives of various disciplines from math to law to social work. But Taylor left out one key skillset in his equation for a 21st-century university: design.

Jon Freach asserts the primacy of design in his Atlantic article “Sciences, Humanities, and … Design? The Case for a Third Pillar of Education.”

In a 1979 research project at the Royal College of Art, Professor Bruce Archer referred to design as the missing “third area” of education; the first two areas were considered the sciences and the humanities. Later, in a small book, Designerly Ways of Knowing, educator Nigel Cross made a formal case for the addition of design to our general education….Cross argued that design, as an area of study, suffered from a legacy of being a technical vocation, where one is “trained” to be a designer, often through an apprenticeship of some sort. Its aims are extrinsic, meaning a student is equipped to perform in a specific social role such as an architect capable of competently designing a building.

[In general education] theoretical understanding takes priority over “the how.” But, to be a designer you need both forms of knowledge. With this in mind, Cross called for a “fundamental change of perspective” regarding design, if it were to be a part of general education….[it would help students] develop an understanding and ease with the fundamentals of image and form, give them the skills to spot a wicked problem and the desire to tackle it, provide them with confidence in expressing their ideas, and instill the conviction to see their inventions to fruition.

Meanwhile, designers are finding new ways to share their creations–even within mainstream applications like Photoshop.

Creative Market Gives Photoshop an App Store of Its Own | Wired Design | Wired.com

Designers aren’t known for being organized. Creative Market is helping change that with a tool makes it easy for creatives to search for, buy, and store fonts, patterns, textures, and other tools of the digital trade. Their new Photoshop extension and API gives the industry standard photo software package an app store of its own.

Instead of interrupting their creative flow to try to find the perfect typeface for a project through Google, designers can use this extension to find what they need directly in the app; buying the asset becomes as easy as downloading a song from iTunes. Designers can also port their collections of elements to a new computer, easily check on the license restrictions for an image, and benefit from weekly releases of new goodies.

Design doesn’t just mean fonts and color palettes–you can design a building, ecosystem, or political system. Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb lays out these design principles for “anti-fragile” systems:

“System design principles

(1) Stick to simple rules

(2) Decentralize

(3) Develop layered systems

(4) Build in redundancy and overcompensation

(5) Resist the urge to suppress randomness

(6) Ensure everyone has skin in the game

(7) Give higher status to practitioners rather than theoreticians

Of course, part of design is play without an obvious practical purpose. Like making things levitate, as shown in the video above. (Via Bruce Sterling)

ZeroN – Levitated Interaction Element from Jinha Lee on Vimeo.

What if materials could defy gravity, so that we could leave them suspended in mid-air and freely control them? ZeroN is a physical and digital interaction element that floats and moves in space by computer-controlled magnetic levitation. Both the computer and people can move the ZeroN in the 3D space.