Growing Design Leadership: New Requirements for Design Education in the 21st Century



Design Education Strategy


  • design leadership, innovation


Conventional design education does not prepare a designer fully for the 21st Century context of globalizing societies, dynamic marketplaces, and complex political structures. A young designer now needs an awareness and understanding of a context’s inner relationships to be able to contribute design strategies that are appropriate for the more complex situations we face. This insight must also be supported by skills of observation, research, analysis, mapping, and knowledge management in order for a designer to contribute significantly to multi-disciplinary teams that are increasingly becoming necessary to address the “wicked” (indeterminate) problems needing a leadership through design for policy institutions, business enterprises, and social organizations.

This research paper outlines a set of requirements for design education programs needed to prepare designers to engage effectively with the increasing complexity of developing design strategies that are appropriate for the context they serve. These proposed requirements are based in the four areas of design thinking methodologies, cost/benefit analysis, strategic planning, and multi-disciplinary collaboration. This paper will also investigate the potential for a nexus of these four areas to become the foundation of understanding and ability for designers to develop pattern languages for design initiatives within any given field.

The scope and content of this research paper is based on literature research, case studies, and the author’s development and teaching of an undergraduate design seminar/workshop called, Problem Seeking.

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DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (