In 2012, digital design agency ustwo launched the #IncludeDesign campaign to fight for the inclusion of creative subjects in the classroom, after the UK government's Education Secretary Michael Gove attempted to remove them. Headed by ustwo's global design director Joe MacLeod, the team successfully overturned Gove's policy in February 2013.
Since then, the team has continued to dedicate time to education, recently developing a new initiative ustwo learn, which aims teach people about design education in the digital world. We spoke to MacLeod to find out more.
Tell us about the ustwo learn initiative
It really kicked off with us founding the #IncludeDesign campaign. To me it felt like this campaign united the design community in defence of creative subjects in schools. And it was because of this that we learnt a lot about education, politics, and the wider needs of our industry.
We also realised that there are complicated issues that require action from practitioners to help education as well as defend the needs of a growing industry. The aim of the ustwo learn initiative is to educate as many people about the practices in digital product development as possible.
Obviously this is pretty big ask, so we have started the process with two main threads. Firstly direct education - UX, Agile and Visual Design Boot Camps and internships, externships, and apprenticeships. And secondly, sharing best practice alongside the latest techniques.
Who can take part? And how can people get involved?
We've tried to cater for the widest audience as possible.
From school pupils to teachers, we're inviting school parties to come to the studio to experience the excitement of this industry. We're also offering internships and studio visits to graduates as well.
Finally we're educating clients and people in industry to become more aware of the latest practices in digital product development and help them see through the hype of 'Silicon Roundabout'.
Why do you believe 'the established education is cracking under the pressure to deliver' highly trained people?
The digital industry is moving at a remarkable pace and it's therefore difficult for teaching practices to stay relevant when techniques are changing so quickly. We want to open the doors to the studio to show the latest techniques in digital product development and to support teachers, practitioners and industry leaders in understanding them.
How do you think design education can be improved?
It is a matter of education and industry getting closer. Therefore teachers having more access to industry as well as industry being more engaged in education.
Currently education seems to be a one-way street in society - we go to school, we learn a trade and we get into an industry. The distant relationship between education and industry reflects this and needs to change.
Why do you think that there's seemingly more focus on academic subjects, opposed to creative ones?
I think there’s been a misunderstanding of what a creative subject is. The Gove perception would resign creative subjects to a footnote in the academic calendar. What we believe is that all subjects should have an equal footing.
We’re working everyday in project teams that have a balance of skills sets. This breaks down divisions between disciplines and champions the team approach. That team has skills in design, development, interaction design, and processes.
It doesn’t put one above the other and this is what we should be teaching in schools. Balanced and respected disciplines working together should be the basis of education in the future.
Why do you believe keeping creative subjects within education is so important?
It's vital that we learn creativity and objectivity together. Alternatively we resign creativity to an art form and become formulaic in our more academic subjects. It's this in turn that will have an big impact on our ability to innovate in all fields.
What do you think the long-term potential impact would be if, for some reason, creative subjects were removed?
Thankfully we slowed the policy down enough to kick it in to the next election. No-doubt we'll need to be vigilant if Gove gets into government again.
If this did happen and we failed to halt his approach it would result in a generation of people avoiding creative subjects as a career path. In turn limiting the people available to keep our £33.5bn design industry going.
To find out more, visit the ustwo learn website.
What do you think of the ustwo learn initiative? Will you be getting involved? Let us know in the comments.