Digital design workshops

The Design Museum, London

The Design Museum’s digital design workshops focus on using technology to solve design problems. Classes of up to 30 students are introduced to the current state of design in the digital discipline at the focus of the session.

David Houston, Learning Producer – Schools describes the museum’s programme.

Currently we offer sessions on 3D printing, digital graphic design, and app design but there are plans to add more sessions around the ever-advancing place of technology in design. After being introduced to the subject and exploring the way in which the design world utilises this technology, students are taught software packages that will help them create their own designs. The session then shifts to a practical, making session in which the students respond to user focussed design problems and use tech to create solutions.

The sessions draw inspiration from the Design Museum collection by featuring exhibition objects as examples in the sessions. This creates a sense of ownership throughout the students’ visit as they take deep delves into objects found on gallery, reaffirming their interaction with a museum collection. The sessions also touch on the place of technology and engineering side of STEM’s (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) place in design.

Image courtesy of The Design Museum

We piloted the sessions shortly after opening at our new site in Kensington and quickly discovered that teachers and students alike valued their time using new software and engaging in technology to create their own designs. Like all of our schools sessions, playful exploration is at the heart of what we do with a constructivist approach to solutions being adopted for students own work. The Design Museum’s learning pedagogy focuses around real world problems and user-centred design as a way to solve those problems. Introducing some subjects such as 3D printing created an almost endless possibility for our own approaches towards teaching the sessions as well as placing limitations on the practical element of our sessions. By way of example; 3D printing can bring rapid prototyping into the hands of the individual but it can also be difficult to create a practical session that allows students to do something that they value within the session due to the large print times, many of which would surpass the lesson time. Here-in lay the problem for teachers. We soon discovered that most teachers booking this session had a 3D printer but were unable to find a practical use for it during their class for that very reason. How do you allow a class of 30 students to use a 3D printer if you have print times at a minimum of 30-60mins? The session very soon became about skilling students to use CAD modelling software and understanding the function and practical operation of a 3D printer in order to enable them to have this form of additive design at the disposal should they so wish.

Image courtesy of The Design Museum

Students leave the sessions with an understanding of the applications of technology to the world of design including knowing about leading edge uses of that technology and key examples of its practical use. Students also leave with experience of entry level software that relates to that world of design that will enable them to continue exploring outside of the session. For this reason, we use free to access student software during the sessions which allows schools and individuals the ability to set up their own free accounts and continue designing back in the classroom and at home. The main outcome of the sessions is to upskill students and equip them with the tools and knowledge to go and create. The session is also about developing students ability to use empathetic design to create a response to a user brief.

Image courtesy of The Design Museum

We have now been running digital design sessions at the Design Museum alongside our Hands-on design workshops and self-guided visit and in that time we’ve added to our offer; purchasing new equipment and handling objects to compliment the sessions such as the 3D printed and CAD created Spacecup which allows astronauts to drink coffee in the low gravity environment of space from a tea cup without having to drink through a straw. We updated our graphic design examples to include protest posters from our collection for students to gain inspiration from. We’ve also purchased a higher spec 3D printer which auto calibrates and therefore cuts out one of the main reasons for a failed print.

As with the continually developing world of digital design, the Design Museum’s offer continues to expand to meet the leading edge. We’re currently developing a robotics workshop that looks at automation and the place of robots to affect our well-being and respond to age and mobility related problems from access needs to loneliness.

David Houston, Learning Producer – Schools
The Design Museum
The Design Museum | @DesignMuseum