From Object to Objective: Reframing the Goals of Product Design Education in a Postindustrial Context

By Patricia Beirne.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Design education by its nature separates design process and practice into distinct fields of study. As society changes and the technologies and contexts of design practice expand to meet the challenges of the next generation, new design disciplines and pedagogies are emerging. The stratification of design fields of study create an identity crisis for the long-established and generalist practice of product design. This paper seeks to frame the history and practice of product design to allow for a new understanding of what we are training our students to accomplish out in the world and how they can understand their relationship to related fields of study. By reframing the icons of the field as they relate not only to processes and people but also to the society as a whole, we can see a thread of progressivism in the objective of shaping everyday experiences. Given an understanding that technologies, resources and economies change and evolve throughout one’s lifetime, it is important to train emerging product designers to focus on how the design process does more than produce salable objects, it shapes the future of society.

Keywords: Product Design, Industrial Design, Design Process, Design Pedagogy, Design Education, Sustainability, Design History

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.249-256. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.047MB).

Patricia Beirne

Faculty, Product Design Department, Parsons The New School for Design, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Patricia Beirne holds an MID from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. She currently coordinates the capstone thesis project for Product Design at Parsons The New School for Design in NYC. Her current focus is on understanding the social, environmental and economic impacts of design at all scales of human experience.


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