A meeting with MA students of TU Delft, 17 January - by Diogo Rinaldi
The 2nd year students of the Design Academy’s master programmes joined the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) Industrial Design master students for a debate on the role of designers in society. Professor of form theory, Paul Hekkert, and Marieke Sonneveld, assistant professor of industrial design, welcomed the group at the impressive building of the Industrial Design department. In their welcoming talk they raised the impression that when we try to define ‘what' an industrial designer is, we come back with a lot of polarized answers between the two different ‘flavours’ of design.
Mark Henning, from the Social Design department, opened the discussion with a brief explanation of how the master program is organized at DAE, highlighting the broad range of different disciplines of the master student’s backgrounds. “They tend to accumulate professional experience before arriving at DAE,” he said. He stressed that the research is done through design, not through theory. Paul Hekkert followed with a presentation on how the Industrial Designer at Delft is commonly perceived, with a mindset that revolves around a triangle between business, technology, and people, and a firm base on previously validated methodology.
The two student groups were then divided into small groups of four with students from both institutions to debate one of the two propositions that were presented to them:
1. Designers should guide people to do the right thing. (posed by Paul Hekkert.)
2. Considering our contemporary condition of products and information overload, the truly responsible designer is one who designs nothing at all. (posed by DAE’s Alice Twemlow.)
After that, everybody was rounded back in the amphitheater to share the comments. The discussion started with trying to understand what 'right' meant in the first proposition. ‘Right’ can mean different things to different people. DAE students commonly shared a perception that they only know what is right for themselves, and that their designs should evoke this personification. Delft students, on the other hand, see themselves as mirrors that understand and translate the necessities of the stakeholders into a new meaning. Important arguments were raised from both sides, intensifying the distinction between the two institutions. Local students questioned the freedom DAE students have, both in terms of topics of interest and processes, in contrast to the TU’s organization, methodology-bound and rigorously validated structure. At one point, someone even questioned if the students from the different institutions were actually 'two different species of designers'. That statement led to intentions of finding a middle ground where both contrasting opinions would meet: perhaps in curriculum related projects, or within the realm of personal projects. Beers and snacks at the end eased the mix and helped to ignite possible futures.