Design Council and the OU Design Group

The Design Council visited the OU last week to talk about their ongoing work on the Design Economy.

This work overlaps with our own on design identities and students – rather than asking ‘what is design?’ (and getting into the usual trouble…), it can be useful to ask “What are designers doing?” and “Who is doing design?”

For both questions, the answers are not completely straightforward. Peter Lloyd (production Chair for the first version of U101) wrote about how design graduates are not necessarily doing the exact named design degree they studied (Lloyd, 2011).

Similarly, the Design Council research and work shows how design support and other jobs could be considered more as design roles when you examine the skills and abilities required.

Both of these situations are particularly true for OU design students – some have no intention of becoming traditional designers (but want to develop and broaden their creative and professional skills), whilst others may start out wanting a traditional design degree but realise that this may not be as personally valuable as they first thought.

The key in both situations is that it’s our students who create this perception and research shows that distance design students are pretty good at this (Lanig, In Press). What we need to do is get even better at providing opportunities to do this in more ways and across diverse topic areas.

There is something different about what we offer as design education and there is something different about what our students want and need.

Between these two ‘differents’ there is a great opportunity to co-create what an OU design graduate ‘is’ – and (more importantly) what it may become after graduation (or even if there should be graduation…)

Anyway, one of the ideas we’ve been working on was the creation of new design personas and titles: design roles that already kind of exist but nobody really gives them a name. Or they’re roles that aren’t normally associated with design and aren’t given the credit they’re due. Or they might even be personas that don’t exist yet – the job YouTuber didn’t exist when I was a young architecture student…

So here are a few to start your off – which ones do you recognise? What ones would you add?

Design Activist – someone wanting to do something different; to make a change in a creative and purposeful way; who wants to develop the skills and abilities to go about this.
Design Wanderer – someone who doesn’t really know what they want but they know that they have something valuable to contribute
Design Organiser – if you’re lucky, you might work on a project or in a job that has a design organiser – someone who uses creative design to actually organise and manage teams to achieve incredible things. You know it when you see….
Design Team Member – that ‘creative’ person in the office that wants their creative and team building skills to be recognised – not just for them to be the person that’s always coming up with ‘wacky ideas’

Design Ecologist
Design Client
Design Economist

Design Manager
Design Communicator
Design Ethicist

Any others?


Lloyd, P. (2011) ‘Does Design Education Always Produce Designers?’, Conference for the International Association of Colleges for Art, Design and Media (CUMULUS), vol. Paris.
  1. Ray Ison | Reply
  2. Derek Jones | Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *