Tonight I attended this panel discussion at the RCA in the Senior Common Room. Professor Teal Triggs opened the discussion, framing it with Professor Richard Guyatt’s 1948 proposition that art school students should employ ‘the head, hand and heart’ a maxim that originated from Ruskin.
Phil Baines RCA alumnus 1987 told us that out of the three forms of education – by a person of higher authority, by a person of lesser authority, and by a person of equal authority – the later ‘being the best’. He also told us that students bring agenda’s to MA courses and there are of course, institutional agendas. He asked ‘what is design?’.
Sophie Thomas RCA alumnus 1997 and founder of Thomas Matthews framed her ideas around waste and sustainability, asking ‘why do we stop when we graduate?’.
Professor Bruce Brown RCA alumnus 1979 told us many insightful things, namely that graphic design at the RCA is (or should be) the flagship, that there is a real poverty of imagination, and utility is more important than creativity. A brief history of visual communication followed.
Cathy Gale RCA alumnus 1993 spoke of dissent, the offshore art school and quoted Donald Schön (1992) ‘design is a reflective conversation with a design situation’. Gale says ‘design education is a situation in need of critical reflection. Students are the participants and end users of this situation – let’s imagine them as crew’.
Brown suggested that universities should be outside the mainstream and should foster dissent, that ‘design is a virtue, it reconciles paradoxes’ and paraphrasing impact case studies ‘graphic design has not sorted out research in the discipline’.
Gale told us that design education has become conformist.
This was part nostalgic reflection for some RCA alumni audience members, and part enquiry into the state of the discipline, however it was Brown and Gale that provided the most searching questions and reflections.