Educational responsibilities, learning conditions, positioning skills, and international influences.
The focus on learning derives from the observation of design initiatives which are driven by the desire to convey and circulate knowledge. Seen in this light alternative educational structures, experiential learning curves, and a drive for approaching learning in an activating, playful and reflective manner is the centre of attention.
FANFARE, FREJA KIR (FK)
JA JA JA NEE NEE NEE, FEMKE DEKKER (FD)
GERRIT RIETVELD ACADEMIE, DAVID BENNEWITH (DB)
SANDBERG INSTITUUT, JURGEN BEY (JB)
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ART THE HAGUE, ROOSJE KLAP (RK)
You're all having the thing in common that you to some extent direct a program or larger institution. Along with this position of course comes a responsibility in terms of what the students get away from it. When reading the contribution from the Gerrit Rietveld Graphic Design Department for the Graphic Magazine last year, you, David, refer to a student quote in the intro of the magazine which says:
"I feel guilty towards my ignorance and lack of knowledge."
You mention this as a quote that made an impression, and also one to bring along not only as a student but also as an educator. This was one or two years ago, so things might have changed, but it did make me wonder if we could use this quote as a stepping stone for sharing thoughts on the responsibility of directing a design education?
That was on a poster in a critique from a student, Yunie Chae, who is also a person whose work I admire very much. To use and present the format of a poster so personally in an educational context touched me quite deeply. And in terms of responsibility... of course, we have a responsibility to teach, but I would say that responsibility is a shared responsibility and that students also have a responsibility to learn. So in that sense, I think there's an exchange happening in school.
But one thing that I've experienced, is that I think students are becoming more aware of, what they want from a school, and what's on offer. And that has two sides; the consumer side – which is maybe the least interesting side of it, but also on the other side, an awareness or understanding or pressure on what the school can offer you.
So speaking of the relevance of the students to form a criticality... When reading through the program descriptions of the different schools (KABK, Sandberg Instituut, and the Gerrit Rietveld), it seems that teaching the student to be a critical thinker and to position themselves within their field, is a returning key point of relevance across all the schools.
With that in mind and in order to scale a bit out: Do you think that's something which to some extent represents a DNA of Dutch design education, or could we think a bit about what elements that are a part of Dutch education?
Yeah, well, I have a bit of a fierce opponent of Dutch education in that sense, because I suppose we are an international community, and I feel very much that the individual academy choices lead to a specific responsibility. In this case, our three schools might be comparable, but a school in Groningen or in Rotterdam might be completely different and focus a lot more on skills on crafts, which is also good. You know, there's no good or bad, I think it's just a choice that we consciously made.
Being in The Hague, with all the ministries around us – the ministry of education is only 10 steps away as well as economic affairs – is all there. And we also collaborate with these ministries to talk about how we can foster change? Can we for instance enable education to become part of this paradigm shift that we kind of need for our society? How can we step in and is there something that we could do? To connect this with what David just said about feeling guilty and lack of knowledge, I think what is interesting and important is that we study together, and we walk along the lines together as tutors. Which is something that has massively changed since the 90s, when Jurgen and I both studied. Tutors were supposed to know it all, and you know, as tutors, we don't know it all – and I think this is fine! We just question things together and we figure things out together.
...although I have to say that this is a very Dutch way of thinking, and also very contemporary. I mean, we are a part of this Dutch system, and you notice that a lot of students, specifically in the bachelor phase for a graphic design education come to the Netherlands to learn about a presupposed idea of Dutch design. I don't think that's so much a part of the output anymore, however, what you're saying, Roosje, is for me a very specific way of treating your education and building this vision on what you think education should be. For me, this is a very Dutch approach. Maybe, David, you would disagree?
That’s funny, I was thinking about it this morning... Coming from overseas and looking towards Europe, and more specifically, Holland, one thing that I think was very impressive to me, and still is, is how the various design disciplines are historically built into the fabric of society. Like, graphics, product design, urban design, all of these things were part of a shared conversation, and not as a layer put on top of the other one, or a last-minute situation, such as having forgotten to make signage for the building.
I noticed Dutch design as something which was more integrated, perhaps more conversational and shared, like an acknowledgement that disciplines have an equal value and can add to each other. So, coming from a country that has a relatively young cultural history, I found it kind of amazing: you come to this place, you walk around the city and you read it, as well as situate yourself in it.
This text is an excerpt of a more extended conversation recorded and presented as part of the fanfare curation for the TOKYO ART BOOK FAIR 2020.
The visual footnotes present a compilation of related works and references mentioned during the talk.
The full conversation is available in English and is present during the VABF, or requested from fanfare.