Looking for Alternatives: Challenging Assumptions in Design Education

Sheila Pontis, Karel van der Waarde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In this article, we argue that, in response to emerging societal, technology, and other global transformations, nine interrelated changes in the landscape of design are having an impact on design education in four principal areas: design practice, teaching arena, students, and pedagogy. We assert that these changes require a pedagogical model that can teach new designers how to navigate external shifts. Most of the changes we propose in this article have been discussed or even adopted previously, but they have never been introduced together as a comprehensive, overarching pedagogical approach. Through the analysis of two information design courses we introduce a student-focused, research-led, and science-based approach that will enable instructors to contend with these changes. Despite the success demonstrated by both courses, through students’ work and course evaluations, these cases also highlight new challenges for design educators. We assert that the proposed approach could lead the implementation of some fundamental changes in design education, and we provide recommendations to adapt design education in a small step-by-step fashion. We end the paper with possible areas for further investigation, such as the relevance of teaching experience and identifying students’ needs and motivations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-253
Number of pages26
JournalShe Ji
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • Design education
  • Research led
  • Science based
  • Self-determined
  • Student focus
  • Teaching


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