A college-level business curriculum has the most basic requirements covered—economics, marketing, accounting, statistics. As for a design curriculum, well, that’s tough, as design has many definitions in itself. According to the author, Greg Holderfield, who is also the director for the Segal institute, building a framework for design education involves a lot more than a few core courses.
Creating a dynamic curriculum that engages students in possibility-based thinking that is powered by design is a common challenge faced by many universities. Northwestern University however had a unique solution to the problem. Instead of establishing a stand-alone design school, the management made the unique choice of addressing the interdisciplinary nature of the field head on and bringing together faculty—from engineering, communication, computer science, business and art—and students from across the university into one initiative: The Segal Design Institute.
The institute was born out of the McCormick School of Engineering, where all freshmen in engineering are required to take an introductory class in design thinking and communication. After the initial class, all design coursework is elective, allowing students the freedom to discover and follow their passion in design.
Design in the context of engineering has historically been that of data-driven solutions for problems. But, according to Holderfield, students need to augment this framework for problem solving with a view that is human-centered. Why? Simply because it is this element that makes design appealing across the wide spectrum of university disciplines. Design is evolving to become an essential component in many professional fields and the curriculum must be applicable, relevant and actionable for each student. “In short, we felt the Segal must produce students that are fluent in design but can also apply that mindset and toolkit to whatever career they chose to pursue,” writes Holderfield.
This year, Segal will be offering a new class in the area of design, “Envisioning Information in a Business Context.” It focuses on visual messaging of data to tell a narrative — not to sell, but to have the information stand on its own through design.
It looks like design in business is here to stay.