As our New Course Discourse series continues, we speak to Dr Nicky Ryan, Programme Director of Spatial Communication and Contextual & Theoretical Studies about the new undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Design Management and Cultures, for which she is the acting Course Leader.
So Nicky, the BA (Hons) Design Cultures has now been re-validated. Why has this been done and what does it change?
Well the course has been re-validated to become BA (Hons) Design Management and Cultures, which is a slight shift, but this means that the course has now got a more appropriate name that reflects its values better.
The BA (Hons) Design Cultures was a combination of design cultures, histories and theories, business and management, plus practice – so there were three core elements. That is all still there within the reimagined course, but there’s a slightly stronger business emphasis. Whilst it’s still that same combination of things, we’ve reconfigured the units in different ways. So now, for example, practice is incorporated into projects, whereas in the past we had a separate design practice strand.
Why have you developed a new MA for this subject and what is its focus?
In MA Design Management and Cultures there’s much more of a focus on leadership. We imagine that people who are already working in industry in some capacity will apply to the MA wanting to fine tune their leadership, organisational and management skills. Crucially though, these skills will be developed from a critical perspective and using practice as well, so that really has added value.
I hate to use an industry term, but the MA is a ‘T’ shaped model. Whilst we encourage applicants to have specific interests and areas of in-depth knowledge, the key to the course is being able to work across disciplines. We want people who can work with others to coordinate activity and manage projects, but also be able to question things.
The critical engagement with culture is also key to the course, because everything in this field is up for questioning. Students will interrogate what Design Management is because often management is technical thing, it’s about rational planning and organisation, but we’re trying to get our students to look at it in a different way.
What is it about Design Management and Cultures at LCC that is unique?
The thing about these courses at LCC that is different from similar courses elsewhere, is the unique combination of design management and cultures. We explore Design Management from a critical perspective as well as a typically instrumental business perspective. Plus, we’re in an art and design institution, so we’re actually in the studio and working on projects and really learning by doing.
We’re also looking at the contextualisation, social, historical, cultural and political context of everything that we’re doing, and getting to really interrogate and question that.
What kind of projects will students be working on?
Well in the BA at the moment we’re working with a local museum which was sadly burnt down. We are doing a co-design project, the brief for which we actually co-wrote with the students, so it’s a very participatory project. We’re working with the staff at the museum, and together we’re aiming to raise awareness of The Cuming Museum. It’s part of the wider context of regeneration that is going on in Elephant and Castle at the moment, and we’re thinking about this little museum and what its relevance is. We’re trying to really understand the purpose of the museum and also assess which local audiences it serves.
The students are actually doing an exhibition and a series of events. We’ve been on visits but also brought in guest speakers, curators, artists, exhibition designers to inspire them. These people might not be directly related to local museums, but they tangentially inspire them as to what they might do with an archive.
It’s a real project, and it’s a project that matters to the community. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s full on. They have to go through a series of iterations constantly about what they’re going to do, how to they solve problems, how do they work with other establishments, and even working across courses.
There are so many hurdles to cross to even make it all happen, and they’re still having to communicate outwards and think about events – what can they do themselves, what do they need to outsource. It’s a real project.
In terms of students that you’re looking to take on for the BA (Hons), what qualities would you look for?
Some people come from foundation, some people come straight from school. We have a real range of students on this course. There are some who have studied English or History, but we’re also happy if they’re interested in sciences. I don’t think it matters as long as they’re really interested in design.
I’m not expecting anyone to come in and say “I want to be a design manager”, because that’s highly unlikely, but a passion for design and a sense that somehow you want to be located in an industry in which you’re making things happen is a really key quality. Also an interest in the way that design is changing and a desire to make some impact on that. A sense of working with others is also really important because whatever you do will be collaborative.
How about the MA?
Well again we’re looking for students from a very broad field. The sister course at LCC would be the MDes Service Design Innovation course, but we’d also love to have international applicants, or people applying from the professional world. Again it’s a variety of things that we consider, but also as part of the MA application a project will have to be proposed.
Prospective students would show us a portfolio of work which could be from private interests, from previous educational work they’ve done or from a career they’ve been in. At this stage we’re looking for a sense of where students want to go with their work and their research. Where is their passion?
Where can Design Management and Cultures lead you?
It is quite broad, because the way the course is structured gives a very introductory look at the creative and cultural industries in year one. Some students come in with an idea of what they want to do, very definitely, but others haven’t a clue. We introduce the students to the design industries in its broader sense, and then gradually as you go into year two we try and encourage students to focus more.
They can customise their projects to a certain extent around the industries they might want to go into. So say for example that you wanted to work in fashion, they kind of assignments that we set are broad enough to tweak and put a certain emphasis on fashion. So you can chose your own path, obviously with support from your tutors, until you get to your final project.
With the MA you would probably already have an area which you’re interested in, but we would support and help you with that and you would be exposed to other areas in the design industry.
The range of careers this course prepares you for is diverse! You could be in house, or working for large organisations, you could be working within an organisation as a consultant – we introduce you to the different modes of work that are available.