by Steven Heller
A call for greater design history instruction in graphic design education as a way to better (and Heller hinted proper) design. 'Design programs should encourage designers to become critical historians...'
"Despite all its accomplishments, the contemporary design world is afflicted by a deep vacuousness. Most students and many practitioners cannot even list or describe the field’s milestones or pioneers. I refuse to believe that this is true in other creative fields-painting, film, architecture, literature-but arguably the biggest void left by graphic design education programs is a critical awareness of design history. During the three to four years spent in undergraduate art and design school, students are offered many studio courses devoted to technology, technique, form, and even style-they are taught to solve problems in various media and to produce professional work for numerous genres. But ultimately a portfolio is the coveted end product that is given far more importance than an appreciation of history.
As co-chair of SVA’s MFA design program, I’ve found that some (not all) applicants with a graphic design background have little sense of design’s cultural significance. They lack the historical perspective that enhances modern-day professional practice. They view graphic design simply as a means to an end-a professional activity that leads to professional employment. That may be true, but this view limits the depth, and perhaps even the essence, of the educational experience.
I often urge these ‘cultural illiterates’ either to return to undergrad or take continuing-education classes that might bolster their understanding of design as a cultural manifestation. Some have taken the advice, but depending on the quality of the school and its programs, there are significant pedagogical holes that even the best-intentioned teachers have trouble filling..."