DT's next task should be to re-design itself

29th April 2011 at 01:00

In his article proposing a re-brand of design and technology, Sir James Dyson wrote: "In China, where `general technology' is compulsory, engineering graduates are more plentiful than in any other country. It is no accident that they file more patents than America" ("Why it's vital that our subjects aren't left to gather dust", 8 April).

Good observation, Mr Dyson, but, in a newly industrialised country such as China, just how good is their design? How many of those are examples of meaningful, human-centred design?

Without denying the importance of technology, is it possible that in focusing so much on the economic needs of the country and looking at the subject from this exterior perspective, we fail to really address why design is so important? Should we, in fact, teach "human needs" and some history of human development before we teach design for it, and technology with it?

So what will advance Damp;T? Design in itself could achieve a place in the hierarchy, with a significant element of teaching focused on technology and the possibilities surrounding its development. An understanding of technology in itself is not what will enable students to be creative. But an understanding of the nature of creativity and human need might.

Dyson talks of "re-branding", but a "re-brand" implies simply addressing how the subject appears to others and how it is understood by them. A "re- design" would be more apt.

Alice Hellard, Damp;T teacher, London.

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