South African education systems straddle the developed/developing world schism, an old-school-style Eurocentric view has long tussled with an Africanist dialectic. Educators struggle with access and upliftment issues whilst implementing outcomes-based learning programmes and simultaneously maintaining academic standards. At Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), conscious of the need to build future capacity, innovation in teaching and learning is paramount and the issues identified above are constantly under debate. Experimentation is an ongoing aspect of teaching methodology.
This innovation is especially necessary in teaching the design disciplines. The secondary school system makes little or no provision for the visual arts and even less for design. Students enter university with essentially no contextual reference point for design. So begins the complex process of creating literate, informed, socially conscious designers.
This paper will contextualise the situation facing design education in South Africa by citing examples where attempts are underway to bridge the gaps between the disciplines of Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Textile Design and Photography; by arguing the case for Trans-disciplinary Design as a possible solution to building design capacity in South Africa; and lastly to emphasise the importance, in a developing economy of the artisanal, the notion of crafting, and the sense of pride and achievement that results from mastery of hand skills as the keystone to the creative process – the place where design and art meet.
It attempts to present and clarify the context faced by many design educators in South Africa and highlights some of the innovative practice educators have to apply to encourage learning, grow African content and broaden design sensibility.