competence of design

I see my professional identity as a never-ending process. To stay true to that principle, I like to constantly evaluate and reflect on my learning activities and vision, to develop myself in a substantiated way.

But what does it mean to be a competent, academically educated designer, and an incentive for social change? In reflecting on my development, I often asked myself this question. As mentioned in my vision, I believe it is the role of design to steer social opinion towards accepting a more sustainable lifestyle. I believe that in a capitalist society, designers harness this power. But what are the qualities that support this role? And how does the academic aspect fit into this?

To answer these questions, I want to evaluate my development using the several frameworks on design education that exist, or more concrete, that are implemented at the Eindhoven University of Technology. the competency framework Eindhoven University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design. (2005). Overall Competence of the TUE Industrial Design Engineer. that the faculty of Industrial Design provides is most directly related to design education, while the work of Meijers at al. on criteria for academic bachelor’s and master’s curricula Meijers, A.W.M., van Overveld, C.W.A.M., Perrenet, J.C., Borghuis V.A.J. & Mutsaers E.J.P.J. (2005). Criteria for academic bachelor’s and master’s curricula. is more focused on engineering education in general.

criteria for academic curricula

Meijers et al. distinguish seven areas of competence, that can be related to one another in three ways:

To indicate the level of competency, Meijers et al. also propose four dimensions in which to measure this: analytic, synthetic, abstract and concrete.

competency framework

The competency framework of the faculty of Industrial Design is an adaptation of the previous model, specifically meant for design education. This framework divides the competency in a scientific discipline into five areas of expertise:

framework analysis

What these frameworks have in common in that they have two focal points. The first is knowledge in the field of study, and the second is academically appropriate behavior and professional conduct.

The criteria Meijers et al. propose for bachelor’s curricula do not fill in how the content of the specific field of study should be developed and evaluated, which is why the competency framework of the faculty of Industrial Design offers five areas of expertise to fill this niche. These are: creativity & aesthetics, technology & realization, user & society, business & entrepreneurship, and math, data & computing.

Taking the contents of these frameworks into account, I will analyze and reflect on the domain of study and academic methods individually. I will reflect on the domain by using the areas of expertise from the competency framework, and determine my level of understanding using the four criteria mentioned in Meijers et al. Furthermore, I want to reflect on my academic methods by using the rubrics provided by the faculty of Industrial Design.

To stay true to my vision, I have decided to also use a criterium of my own in my reflections. Or, rather, I want to stress the importance of the seventh criterium of Meijers et al., which states to “take account of the temporal and the social context”. I noticed that in de competency framework, this is not even a criterium anymore, but a side note in small letters at the bottom of the visual representation of the framework. By taking this criterium first instead, I want to prioritize focusing on what is important. I don’t want to practice science for the sake of science, but instead, I want to make sure I am working on topics I believe matter.

domain development

To understand my competency profile, it is useful to take note of the learning activities I partook in during my studies:

creativity & aesthetics

I took 8 courses for developing my c&a competency, with an average course level of 1.5.

I consider myself sensitive for the aesthetic quality of my design (visual experience design), as well as the value of that quality in design, both in contemporary society and in history (aesthetics). In my design, this shows in the quality of form (project 1 design) and interaction (aesthetics of interaction). Furthermore, I am a creative thinker which means I use academically substantiated design methodologies to come up with ideas, to make design decisions and to communicate my findings and values (projects 1, 2, 3). Additionally, I validate the quality of my work in this area in an academic way (project 3 design research).

I want to develop myself more with regards to expressing myself with and in my design. During my studies, I found it difficult to express myself in a group setting, and I therefore had difficulties developing my vision. Now I have a clear vision, this should be key in being able to express myself, which I want to put into practice in my FBP.

technology & realization

I took 15 courses for developing my t&r competency, with an average course level of 1.44.

During my studies, I always seemed to want to focus on the t&r competency. I am naturally attracted by, proficient with, busy thinking about and actively developing technology (studio van der heide, hackathons). This shows itself in my work on software (creative programming) as well as hardware (creative electronics).

I am competent in the digital realization of my design. From a physical realization perspective however, I am slightly less competent in this area of expertise. I consider myself to be more of a conceptual designer as I tend to feel the need for substantiation in my ideas more than the need to synthesize it physically. Although theoretically sound, my prototypes tend to be somewhat less structurally integer than possible or even practical (project 2 design) because of this. Also, my mindset in this area needs work; I know this is something that does not come naturally to me, and I often feel overwhelmed when making my ideas experienceable. This is something that I want to develop in my FBP as well.

user & society

I took 8 courses for developing my c&s competency, with an average course level of 1.6. I have also taken a minor in philosophy which also fits into this area of expertise.

I take a user-centered approach in my design (project 1 design), since I see merit in designing with users. I am also conscious of academic methods for this purpose (user-centered design) and feel comfortable applying them (project 3 design research). This also means I am capable of designing for the user experience (use human in technology). My specialization in this field, however, lies in the societal aspect. I developed a theoretical foundation (philosophy minor) for analyzing societal challenges. I can look at these challenges from i.e. a political, economic and social perspective, and I can use this knowledge to validate my design and to aid in making design decisions.

I want to develop more with regards to using my views on hu-manity and society continuously as a priority in my design process. This will also be done in my FBP.