Thursday, April 07, 2005
Design and education
Design -simple, beautiful, effective
Design drives modern enterprises. Design turns an ordinary event into a memorable experience. Defining design, Tom Peters, the business guru, says, in his excellently designed book ‘Re-Imagine’, is not easy. Design, he writes, means you love something ….it is about passion…emotion…attachment. Design increasingly comes before information when all products are technically efficient Design, Peters reckons, is treated as a religion in innovative business companies.
Well designed things have what Tom Peters calls the ‘Wow factor!’
When things or experiences are well designed, things ‘come together’. Aesthetics and design are vital and our students should gain an appreciation of it from an early age.
Design attracts our attention in a split second – impressions are made quickly - each time we enter a building, a garden, sit in a new car - design is integral to how we interpret the experience.
So we all need to be ‘design sensitive’ and ‘design aware’ says Tom Peters.
Appreciation of design ought to be built into every aspect of education from the building to the creations of each student. It is important to work in a well designed environment and to learn to do things well. A study of design through the ages would make a ‘rich’ study for senior students. Design elements of such things as cars and household appliances could be studied and their evolution considered. In a country that depends increasingly on high quality products design ‘literacy’ is vital.
Imagine the challenge of designing a new learning environment for students. It would be interesting to consider the ideas that have shaped our current secondary schools.
Design is not about superficiality but about functionalism. Many environments people live and work in are ‘human unfriendly’ and this includes many schools. In many cases we have inherited ‘ugly systems’ which were premised on a ‘modern’ industrial society. Many schools, with their bells, timetables and divided tasks, feel more like factories.
We need to live in dynamic systems capable of continual self renewal. Systems design should be simple, integrated and effective. Good design should run from the vision through to all school documentation. Too many schools have dreary, obese and confusing documentation that have grown like ‘topsy’. They need to redesigned and realigned. The human body is a good example of an integrated system with all the various function and organs working together in an efficient way to sustain life.
Tom Peters says that, ‘anything truly important can be summarized and clarified to one- third of a page. And suggest one page business plans. He advises every organization to assess all documents on a 1 to 10 scale using four criteria:
Simplicity. Clarity. Grace. Beauty.
Good advice to sort out the bloated clear folders that clutter up schools!
As Peters says, ‘Systems. Make ‘em simple. Make ‘em clear. Make ‘em graceful. Make ‘em beautiful.’
He goes on to suggest that everybody should be asked to identify, ‘the stupidest things we do around here’? ‘Subtraction’, he continues, ‘is the exercise of genius’.
Leaders should ask this question of everyone in the school and listen carefully! This would be the basis of the best Strategy Plan of all!
Tom concludes that in business, ‘we need less techies and more poets in our systems’. The same applies to our schools.