The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking is among eight global institutions to earn themselves a spot on the Pioneers 2018 list, which celebrates creative education and lauds schools that do things differently.
The award, which acknowledges cutting-edge teaching approaches to solving global problems, is presented by cloud-based file transfer service WeTransfer, in cooperation with the University of Underground, founded to improve access and support unconventional research, and Lecture in Progress. The latter is a free platform providing advice, insight and inspiration for the next generation of creatives.
The d-school, as it is more commonly known, was established in 2016 and is supported and funded by the Hasso Plattner Foundation. It is one of only three similar schools worldwide – the others are at Stanford University in the United States, and the University of Potsdam in Berlin, Germany.
“The other two d-schools operate in developed countries. The complexity we face locally, and on our continent, as an emerging market with diversity in culture and history makes for a unique opportunity to understand and develop new applications of design thinking. Plus, it's an opportunity for us to contribute to understanding and resolving the complex socio-economic challenges of our region,” said Richard Perez, the d-school’s director.
The d-schools collaborate on innovative approaches, using design thinking to help students collaborate across disciplines to solve problems faced by corporates, governments or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), so bringing global knowledge and expertise to bear on local socio-economic challenges.
The eight institutions on the Pioneers 2018 list cover a range of creative disciplines. The National Institute for Design in India, for example, was commended for using design as a tool for improving the quality of life in that country.
“We’re in good company. These are leading institutions driving change in the creative economy, bringing innovation and collaborative solutions to everyday problems.”
Kyoto Seika University, in Japan, focuses on the changing culture of the popular manga comic book with a long and complex history in early Japanese art. Other institutions focus on gaming, music, animation, photography and graphic arts.
“We’re in good company. These are leading institutions driving change in the creative economy, bringing innovation and collaborative solutions to everyday problems,” said Perez, adding that he was delighted to see UCT’s d-school recognised for using design thinking to address socio-economic issues with its partners in academia, business, NGOs and government.
“We live in an increasingly complex world, with challenges that will rarely be solved through the lens of a single discipline,” he added.
D-school students are taught to “embrace ambiguity, experimentation and failure”, according to Perez, who considers its disruptive, pioneering nature one of the d-school’s best attributes. Among its great achievements, he cites the school’s impact in changing “each student’s thinking”.
Perez and his team also run courses with undergraduate programmes, where they introduce design-led thinking to both students and tutors.
“We teach students to design the right thing before they design it right,” Perez said.
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