I put forward two familiar quotes as encouragement to educators
contemplating taking innovative leaps in pursuit of change towards a better world
through the education of their students who are, after all is said and done, our future
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”
- Buckminster Fuller
“First they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then they fight you, and then you win”
Looking back now, it’s difficult to remember the time in the 80s when a small number of dedicated people were trying to persuade UK industries to integrate design into their organizations for greater economic success, especially today when most international companies recognize the value of design as a major business resource.
Naomi Gornick was part of that small group of design management evangelists, and together with David Walker from the Open University, was invited to start a Masters in Design Management at the Royal College of Art in late 80s. Her vision was to create ‘new design professionals’ who could promote the value of design throughout industrial organizations.
As she said with characteristic humility “As educational experiments go, the first attempt floundered. But not without creating some remarkably successful careers.” Many graduates of that original program started their own consultancies such as Engine Group and Plot, several work inside companies such as British Airports Authority and Procter and Gamble, some are respected educators.
Naomi recognized an underlying paradox in undergraduate design education. The ethos of the design academy is that of a hothouse of invention, creativity, and “blue-skies” thinking. She was a pioneer in addressing the dilemma “how much of the outside world should be allowed in while this creative development is taking place?”
Her educational rationale was not to make designers reject their core skills, but to make them contextualize their professional work and give it a new sense of purpose. She pioneered a new platform of education at Brunel that included a syllabus based on current business case studies, team building, design research, links with Brunel University School of Business and Management and formal industrial collaboration / internships.
In short, Naomi Gornick helped define the modern graduate design management education.
She was then involved in the development of several radically new design programs at London Institute (now University of the Arts, London), Middlesex University, de Montfort University and at Kingston and Regents¹ Business Schools. As a consultant, she developed Master’s programs that reflected global changes in globalization, current organizational structures, social impact, sustainability and environmental stewardship. And because of her thought leadership, there is far more inclusion of the key global issues affecting design, and inclusion of business and contextual studies in undergraduate design degree programs.
Naomi was a frequent author for the Design Management Journal, Honorary Professor of the University of Dundee, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Open University, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Chartered Society of Designers, In March 2003, she was the first international member of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) to Chair the jury for IDEA Excellence Awards in Washington DC, USA. She was a frequent lecturer on design management for DMI, the European Academy of Design and the Design Research Society. Her papers are published in (USA), Designjournalen (Sweden) and Innovation (Quarterly of the Industrial Designers Society of America) as well as The Designer and DesignWeek in the UK.
Read her paper co-authored with Ian Grout, on the future of Design Education.