For today’s’ critique I’m interested in getting help resolving the question as to whether I’m more interested in designing for communication or for learning. I began my MFA with empathy for designers needing to learn new skills and methods such as conducting consumer research, or to facilitate collaboration and understanding with other people in the design process. More recently I’m becoming interested to the human problem of communicating and learning new ideas in general. A concern for learning design is more pragmatic and urgent then it might first seem: in our age people must acquire at least basic understanding of new ideas at an ever increasingly accelerated rate. Is my interest in tools for communication in commercial design, really an interest in patterns of communication for learning in general? And is this a widening of my focus or a narrowing?
What has widened for certain is context. Whereas before I was talking to designers who were designing commercial products and services, now I’m seeing relevance in areas such as non-profits who require communication and collaboration with non-designers.
Here are two examples to show how the context for me has widened:
1) Originally I had begun talking with designers from companies such as IDEO and Mattel on how they designed their communications to build understanding, consensus, and buy-in, especially in the earlier “fuzzier” phases of a project. For instance, a large bank asks IDEO to help them re-imagine and re-design banking centers for millennial savers. There are no specifications on what this challenge might lead to, and so communicating intangible values such as strategy, concept, intelligence, empathy, and trust become vital to staying in business.
I’m currently involved with other CCAD students and external professionals in just such an open-ended project with a large industry association for the Horticulture industry. The essential challenge is to define the future of garden retail centers. Initially I was interested in defining tools and methodologies for conducting research and strategy with consumers and retailers. So my focus was on aiding the designers in the process, to both generate and communicate new innovations.
However, along the way it became it became apparent that a missing link in the communication chain was with the industry itself. New innovations may require resources and insights that are not easily communicated. In fact, the industry may not be suffering from just a lack of new innovation, but a lack of adoption of existing innovation.Once the task of communication is re-framed as the task of helping adoption or diffusion of new ideas and innovations, there is relevance to a number of contexts.
2) For instance, consider the challenges of a relief or care organization that is trying to build counseling centers where humanitarian needs are acute such as in Rwanda. Today, many western non-profit agencies understand that rather then setting up remote offices in areas of needs, it is more sustainable and meaningful to train local caregivers.
The strategy here is to help indirectly by training local people to help directly. One way of accomplishing this is to build tools and methods to facilitate this training.
In both of these cases the issue isn’t how to help designers learn how to research and communicate better, but how to help people learn. It occurs to me, that in our age of compressed time frames and wider collaborations, that traditional college education will need to be augmented with lifelong learning in the form of concise well designed short amounts of content. This type of personal development is going to be a constant need for everyone. This realization eventually leads me to wonder if I’m backing into the field of “Learning Design.”
My question is whether or not this topic is an unhelpful widening of my focus or an important insight and simplification of my focus.