The broad versus narrow focus conundrum of design education

Published:  July 5, 2016



SPONSORED CONTENT: This article was produced in collaboration with Swinburne Online. Download a course guide for the Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) degree today.


Before choosing a design course, whether graphic, digital, UX, industrial, or otherwise, there are several things you should consider.

First and foremost is deciding how narrow to focus attention and choose a program. Do you restrict yourself to a targeted and narrow program that may limit your skill set, or do you choose a program with breadth providing opportunities for deep enquiry?

Going into communication design, it’s important that you choose a program that provides you with the opportunity to intellectualise your design practice. Communication design is an intellectual and rigorous practice. It is much more than making things visually appealing. Design talks to people and designers have to understand people to create designs that communicate.

When approaching a new design project, a well-rounded design practitioner will often identify the communication problem by asking: ‘What’s the problem? Who is the audience? Where do they live? What do they do? How will they receive this communication? Is there another way to communicate with them? What is the real problem I am trying to solve?’

A course that specialises narrowly can limit your vision and the broader thought processes behind the profession.

Design is about communication – so that’s the starting point for any good design course.

How does something behave? What’s the look, what’s the feel? How do all the elements collectively produce the act of communication?

You need to see whether you get a holistic education that looks at all of the pieces of the design puzzle – not just a few.

To better understand the course options available and be equipped to decide, I recommend students research as much as possible. Check out the websites. Talk to people. Call the course directors and ask them questions and show them your work. Start a conversation.

Swinburne Online, for example, has a blog that shows student outcomes. We have people who can answer any questions online and on the phone. And we really welcome conversation about the program.

My last piece of advice on choosing a career track to students, potential and current, is to understand what you are getting into and do it because you love it.

Design is  a complex but rewarding profession. Underpinning design is sociology, so you need to be out in the world understanding context and situations.


SPONSORED CONTENT: This article was produced in collaboration with Swinburne Online. Download a course guide for the Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) degree today.

Nicki Wragg is Program Director – Design and Media at Swinburne Online.

One Response

  1. Thanks Nicki, This is damn good advice. I’d only add that a future design career is not a pastime, or something that constitutes a more standard ‘working life’ approach. Design is a life, becoming a designer requires some serious choices, but for those who feel the call to work ‘for others, to others’ (Saville) then the choice is natural and intuitive. Follow that calling and feel for the people and connections that answer your passion.

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