The concern over the status of Design as subject at FET level was taken up compellingly by Western Cape design educator Sune Stassen. Stassen gave an insightful presentation on the new National Curriculum Statement (NCS) for FET design which underscores the importance of getting design acknowledged as an academic subject.
Hagen described the research project that she has completed for the Western Cape Provincial Government aiming at developing the Western Cape by design. The research project aimed to advocate design, analyse the supply and demand for designers and the strengths and weaknesses of design education and look at design education for the future. The research provided a number of valuable insights on the situation in the Western Cape specifically and there is merit in completing such research for the remainder of the country.
Steven Ratsatsi, the manager of the Department of Science and Technology’s Manufacturing and Innovation Fund provided an insightful presentation on the development of a national industrial design strategy. The presentation was based on a baseline study that was conducted to determine the current state of affairs in industrial design and develop a business model for design in South Africa. This baseline study yielded sufficient information on the current status of industrial design to craft a vision for the industry revolving around an institutional framework, funding mechanisms, support structures, required facilities and human resource development programmes. However, the strategy and timeframe for realising this vision is not yet clear.
Professor Carlos Hinrichson
Professor Carlos Hinrichson, the Director of the School of Design at the Instituto Profesional DuocUC of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile gave a presentation on design education and its impact as an economic factor. Hinrichson proceeded by discussing the centres, organisations and other institutions that support the development of design in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
This was followed by a comparison between these Latin American countries, South Africa, Korea, China and Finland using a study by the World Economic Forum which employed 18 indicators, such as technological sophistication, company spending on research and development, intellectual property protection and so forth. Not surprisingly, Finland consistently scored highest and the point was made that Korea and Finland are models of competitiveness for “small” countries. Hinrichson concluded his presentation by referring to the School of Design’s involvement in local and international collaborative projects.
Michael Thomson, a London based design consultant continued the discussion on collaborations between design educators and business. Thompson’s thinking is informed by current theories on branding and emphasises strategic thinking in design. He illustrated a strategy for design education by discussing two projects he participated in at the Glasgow School of Art. These case studies show an effective way for students, educators and industry to collaborate on live projects with industry.
Currently in South Africa Woolworths offers one of the most successful examples of the involvement of business in design education. Seton Vermaak the Marketing Manager of Woolworths spoke about the “Making the difference through design” programme. This programme was initiated as part of Woolworth’s marketing and Corporate Social Investment strategy. In partnership with the education department this programme is developing a FET design curriculum resource guide for schools in the Western Cape.
The 2005 DEFSA conference contributed to the current discourse on the importance of design innovation for economic development, the nature of design as human, cognitive activity and collaborations between design education and business.