The evolution of design education and learning

Design institutions need to forge better connections between schools, communities and the industry, says D&AD president Rebecca Wright

If you are in design education, you cannot help but be an optimist,” says Rebecca Wright, dean of ­academic programmes at Central Saint Martins in London and the D&AD president for 2021/22 – the organisation’s first from an educational background. Her optimism may come as a surprise to many, in light of the challenges that design education ­faces. 

In July 2021, the UK government confirmed plans to cut funding for art and design courses by 50% across higher education institutions in England; while university fees are at an all-time high, and lockdowns left design students without access to resources such as tools, workshops, degree shows and in-person teaching.

Much of the problem when it comes to design getting the recognition it deserves from those that hold the purse strings and designate curricular priorities is proving the ‘worth’ of the discipline: its value is far more amorphous than metrics such as immediate earnings and ­economic impact that government bodies rely on. 

“It’s much more about a really deep-rooted transformational impact, whether that’s through how our students influence and inform culture, or working in community projects that have meaningful local value,” says Wright. “They can’t be measured in terms of salary but could be measured in terms of fulfilment or positive contribution.”

Top: Shutterstock; Above and below: D&AD’s New Blood exhibition in London, which showcases outstanding work by graduates. All photography © Larry J