A friend of mine used to say that he felt that the best education was the
scool school of hard knocks at the university of life.[ I just noted the freudian mispelling of the word scool 🙂 cool, that’s how I felt in high school]. I was pondering on these words, especially when I think about the two different graduate programs in design that I didn’t complete in these two centuries that I’ve lived. Few of us think of ourselves as quitters, and this is an issue we struggle with through out our careers, if we’ve ever dropped out. At some point or the other, in order to move forward with equinamity, we need to deal with this issue. I will share with you what I learnt today, that I’m not a quitter, and there is something, that we so often forget, and that is the concept of "free will". I took a decision to not complete those degrees, and I cannot say that I regret it today.
Here is what I learnt; my former friend was absolutely right on target with the school of hard knocks being the best teacher. What he was doing wrong, however, was interpreting it incorrectly. He would have had that kind of a relationship with his father, like the comic character Calvin, of Calvin & Hobbes, had with his "character building" father who cycles in a blizzard as a guise for barely concealed attacks. One wonders, sometimes, about people and how they manage to stay quite sane when they can think of their children in this way. Whereas the correct way to implement it is to acknowledge the vagaries of life, (laughing at myself) taking it as a prototype, and constantly tweaking the design. I think that is why I’ve had this 15 year old love and hate affair with design. I’ve both been repelled by it, by the high cost of being a designer in love with his work and I’ve been undeniably attracted by it, like a moth, drawn, unwillingly, by pheromones, towards the flame. Yes, I am passionate about design.
The decision to drop out of design school, the first time around in 1990 was seminal in shaping the rest of my career. When we are young, we rarely realise the value of what we have learnt. Design, as much as it is learnt in class, is also a "creative" service, as Steve says in the article, and you pick it up from the atmosphere. I swear that is true. That is why, as an aside that I cannot help but say, picking the right design school is as crucial as picking the right design firm.
Design, is inherently a philosophy or a system of values first, and it’s implementation, in whatever form, second. This is why you get design environments like Apple’s, recently covered in BW in an article profiling the successful subsequent careers of it’s designers. Cannot the same be said for firms like IDEO, Landor, Metadesign, Pentagram? And very soon, Ziba and DesignContinuum, as they mature rapidly.