“Everything that’s made to be used”: this is the wide net we are casting when discussing design education at İstanbul Bilgi University’s Department of Industrial Product Design. We are dealing with the fundamental shifts not only in technologies and user behavior, but also in the politics of everyday life, and this necessitates acknowledging local and global dynamics in the design, production and use of objects that humans tend to populate this earth with.
To outline a few of these aspects that have been guiding us in defining our curriculum, can help explain how we aim to expand the field. At BİLGİ, industrial design education is no longer limited to the ‘industrial’ paradigms. There is a simultaneity and multiplicity of pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial modes and practices in conceiving and making useful things. This simultaneity also generates various hybrids, cross-overs, and leaps amongst these modes in thinking about products. The design modules and courses within our curriculum ask for the designer’s engagement with the traditions of making, the flexibilities of digital manufacturing, as well as the interfaces between the software, the object and the subject. We are constantly in search of modes in which the designer can work to propose new juxtapositions, new possibilities not for the sake of novelty but for figuring out what the world needs, and imagine the industries that can deliver these.
Therefore, the designers’ responsibility is also wide-cast, it exceeds the sales projections, the mandates from clients, to include the well-being of the users, the producers, and a consideration of the footprint, and the meaning of products for this earth. We strive for a designer who can become transformative as much as collaborative, posing questions and in constant search of alternatives.
To think of design as external to life and thus politics on an everyday basis is impossible. The world needs more imagination and more proposals than ever before. There is still a great asymmetry amongst populations and within; meanwhile micro-wars and forced mobility are generating further reactionary polarizations around the world today. Furthermore, the resources available for continued acceleration within the industrial paradigms of production and consumption are diminishing. At the same time there is rapid change in our access to information (despite all attempts to regulate or manipulate); there are constant leaps in how connected products are becoming; and there is room to re-position the producer and the user (and perhaps to stop mentioning the consumer). Facts such as these need to be discussed in design education, to remind ourselves that we are always ‘situated’ yet the ground is not always stable. Whatever the context and nature of the project, there is always the need to formulate and articulate the problems towards providing projections and proposals (I dare not say solutions).