D&AD speakers debate the future of creative education

Speakers including Lord David Puttnam, Neville Brody and Emily Campbell debated the future of creative education last night at a lecture held by D&AD.

Speakers including Lord David Puttnam, Neville Brody and Emily Campbell debated the future of creative education last night at a lecture held by D&AD.

Hyper Island founder David Erixon and Additive founder Dave Birss also delivered talks on alternative education models and workplace learning.

Puttnam kicked off proceedings with an entertaining talk featuring infographics and clips from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Warhorse. Despite advances in technology and the availability of online resources such as TES Connect (Puttnam is a member of the TES advisory council), he said teachers have failed to embrace new media and use it to engage with students.

“It’s not about being robots – it’s about being relevant”

He also recommended that educators should become confident in using the internet and industry standard software to create exciting content rather than downloading lesson plans from the web. “Teachers have to engage with technology: it’s not about being robots – it’s about being relevant,” he said.

Brody agreed that the education system needs modernising and said the creative industry should invest more and be involved in training future generations of creatives – possibly through apprenticeships.

As the UK’s creative industry is highly regarded and employs more than 2.5 million people – more than financial services and agriculture – Brody said there needs to be a greater emphasis in primary, secondary and university education on encouraging people to produce ideas and not just products. Otherwise, he said, it will be under threat from countries such as China that are investing heavily in creative subjects.

Seperating design and technology

Emily Campbell, director of Creative Education Trust, also said schools should encourage creative thinking from an early age, but said the national design and technology curriculum is inadequate, as it doesn’t distinguish between design and technology and reflects “a DH Lawrence version of England, full of servile artisans”. Campbell also raised the issue that too few design and technology teachers are qualified designers or have a design degree, but said making this compulsory would be “extreme”.

Discussing CET’s alternative model, which is being trialled in eight UK academies, Campbell said there should be more of a focus on teaching transferable design skills that can link to other subjects – for example, by studying patterns that may students learn mathematics – rather than setting overly technical or limited product design tasks. Schools should be encouraging creativity through study, rather than assuming that creativity is the product of random thinking, she said.

Nurturing imagination

David Erixon discussed primary, secondary and university education and said that all follow conservative models that preserve “the way things are” instead of encouraging people to shape and create the future.

Speaking of his own frustration at tests, lectures and textbooks, Erixon said educators should encourage a collaborative approach to learning and should nurture students’ imagination and intuition. He also dismissed the idea that three or four years of university education can prepare someone for a career in industry – and said we should be combining short courses with internships (as Hyper Island does).

Workplace education

Learning on the job was also the subject of a talk by Dave Birss, founder of creative training agency Additive. Discussing his experiences of teaching creative professionals, Birss said most aren’t interested in workplace education as they believe it’s the opposite of creativity. Workplace training programmes are under funded and poorly attended, he said, and many creatives are lacking the curiosity that makes a good creative great.

By the end of the night, Birss, Erixon, Puttnam, Campbell and Brody had all agreed that creative education – and our attitudes towards it – need to change. Each had different ideas of how this should and could be done, but there was no concrete strategy (other than Campbell’s alternative curriculum) for how exactly the education system can or should progress.

The future

While all of the speakers criticised traditional education models, one audience member pointed out that the evening itself had adopted this model: listeners sat in uniform rows in an uninspiring lecture hall and took notes on paper while the speakers delivered presentations. With the exception of Puttnam and Campbell, none used technology or visual aids.

Of course, it would be impossible to cover what’s wrong with creative education – and what exactly needs to be done about it – in two and a half hours. And as the lecture discussed creative education as a whole, there was little time to focus on clear plans for reforming any one part of the system.

Time constraints aside, Puttnam and co put forward some great ideas and curated an interesting and thought-provoking debate. But as last night demonstrated, the future of creative education is still very much a work in progress and one that no-one has all the answers for. What do you think?


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