rethinking design education

To create design education for the 21st Century that will equip designers with the skills and perspectives to design more inclusive, sustainable, equitable, and responsible future products, systems, organizations, and societies.

Challenges for Design

The vast majority of college design programs still focus on the surface appearance of artifacts, despite declining employment in this type of practice. These conditions triggered this initiative to rethink design education for the 21st century. One priority of the initiative is to provide an in-depth, evidence-driven academic foundation for design decisions. A second priority is to help designers to become advocates for social and environmental responsibility.

Designers today are often asked to address new kinds of problems at scales quite different from those of the past.

Design education faces significant challenges. Increasingly, design problems focus less on discrete artifacts for communication and manufacture and more on a diverse range of designed processes, services, systems, and communities. Some designers address complex sociotechnical systems that range from issues within local communities to multinational issues, such as the United Nations list of 17 sustainable development goals. As the power of design receives greater attention from industry, government, and society, many new opportunities emerge. Designers need a different kind of education to be able to address these issues.

Read our latest blogs

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Hello and welcome!
We are happy to announce that the Steering Committee has been working hard to deliver some new and exciting things for the Future of Design Education, which we are looking forward to share with you all.
February 26, 2021
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Our hardworking and talented volunteers from IBM Design have put the finishing touches on our brand new Future of Design Education website.
March 30th, 2021
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This newsletter provides an update on the many activities underway, including an update on the working groups and a new (and revised) request for submission to our essays program.
December 10th, 2021
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Stages of the initiative

icon - 650+ people have volunteered to help with this initiative


681 people have volunteered to help with the initiative and will either contribute directly on curricular workgroups or will provide input and feedback to them

icon for overview highlighting that an overview document has been created for the initiative


The strategy and directional guidance for the initiative has been created (see: Work)

icon for teams that have been formed to start working on this initiative


Curricular workgroups are being formed (seven at the moment and the remaining fourteen in the near future)

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New curricula developed by the workgroups will be published on this site when they are available (in approximately six to twelve months)

Call for essays

Learn more

The Future of Design Education essay series publishes on its website short essays on topics of concern to educators, students, design firms, and other hiring organizations. The focus is upon on how to educate designers.

We invite everyone to participate in this series. We want to hear from those whose voices are not usually heard as well as from established experts. We also seek essays from design students and young academics, as well as design professionals.