In recent years there has been a lively debate at HDK concerning the subject matter of design. Discussions concerning design as a subject for academic studies and research, and design as a practical profession are central. Initially this was just a matter for teachers who started the programme, but now also a matter for our students. What design is and what opportunities designers have to affect social development and attitudes are relevant and challenging issues for people who take up this profession in the future. The debate is very much an issue among students and teachers alike. This discussion has resulted in a re-evaluation of the content and goals of design education and a new approach of HDK, which is reflected in the foundations of the current programmes in design.

Design: a creative process

The practice of design continually changes with society, and the notion of giving form to objects is no longer a sufficient description of what a designer actually does. The aesthetic appearance of objects and environments is just one of many aspects of the design process, a process that encompasses several stages, from the initial identification of design problems through to the adaptation of proposed solutions to production techniques and market requirements. The encounter of a multitude of disciplines is part of the nature of the design process.

Apart from the fundamental training of creative skills, studying design requires the student to become a good team worker and to have a keen sense of curiosity and openmindedness towards other disciplines and practices. A learning mind is essential to the practice of design.

Design: a human consideration

The user, the recipient, the viewer - a fellow human being is present in all design problems. A designer needs a deep understanding of how people interact both mentally and physically, with each other, with natural objects, artefacts and the environment. Studying design requires the student to develop a deep sense of empathy and imagination, to critically analyse prejudices and cultural myths, and to open her eyes to new perspectives and horizons.

Design and responsibility

Design has far-reaching effects on our daily life, our physical environments, our activities and the forming of our attitudes. Making design decisions entails responsibility. Within this responsibility lies a potential for promoting changes in attitudes, towards greater consideration, equality and sustainability in society. Studying design requires the student to become aware of her own position in the context of the design problem and to take responsibility for the decisions made.