Parsons School of Design at The New School
Continuing & Professional Education
Certificate Program – Design Leadership for Business
Economic and Cultural Context for Design, Spring, Summer, Fall 2019 – 2021
This 6-week intensive online course is part of a five course certificate program to develop well rounded leaders in design and business. Since this is a continuing and professional education program, students enter the classroom with a variety of interesting backgrounds and professional experiences. Some examples of their professional worlds include: NASA, global Design Innovation Labs, business owners, banking, and Google, among others. They also possess diverse leadership roles as design strategists, creative directors, AI experts, UX designers, and “non-designer” roles as well.
Students are from all over the globe, which creates a rich cultural learning experience for everyone.
The course is made up of 6 Modules covering:
- An Introduction to Economic and Cultural Context for Design
- Mental Models and Problem Framing
- Capitalism and Markets (and non-markets)
- Democracy and Participation
- Resilience and Agility
- Storytelling Applied to the Design Process
Student Results & Insights
The fast-paced course allows for collaboration and cross-pollination of cultural and professional backgrounds. In a course focussed primarily on context, students begin to see the value that the full understanding of a design setting plays in the design process. In a weekly reflection journal they explore their own roles and motivations as design leaders and the impact they are trying to achieve.
The biggest “aha” students gain from taking this course is recognizing how deep they must go to effectively design outside of their own worldviews and biases.
Additionally, students always love learning and practicing the Frame Creation Model (Kees Dorst, Frame Innovation) presented in Week 2; a framework for understanding context through the eyes of all stakeholders and exploring the various problem frames that present themselves before the design process begins.
This course is a balance of asynchronous and synchronous learning. Students appreciate and thrive when joined together in live class discussions. As an educator I recognize that in the case of varied levels of student experiences and interests, individual feedback also plays a key role in the understanding of the methods presented in this course.
Regarding the subject matter, I continue to notice that the majority of students throughout my design innovation teaching experiences lack a sense of context in their design innovation work. This lack of understanding and exploration of the setting for design leads to limited ideas, or worse, limitations of the cultural and economic impact of our designs. Therefore, I have a deep passion for this course specifically. In an ideal world all of my design thinking and design innovation students would have this course as a prerequisite.