Research through design as a teaching tool
For an academic in an applied, professional area of study, such as Industrial Design or Engineering, the competing interests of teaching, administration and the demands of research are compounded by the need to maintain a realistic understanding of current practice. A ‘research through design’ model of teaching by example, and involving students in ongoing, real world projects, is illustrated by the work of award winning designer Simon Ancher, the Academic Director of a degree in Environmental Design (Furniture). A study of his projects demonstrates how professional practice and teaching can intertwine to the advantage –and possible disadvantage - of both students and lecturers. Ancher’s work is on occasion initiated by briefs set for students, demonstrating creative working practice to tight constraints in the studio and construction workshops in action. Ancher also undertakes commissions that involve pushing the boundaries of his understanding of materials and form, which he works on alongside the students, discussing with them ideas and development as he goes, and including them in experimental form making. This paper analyses Ancher’s practice as it impacts the students and the quality of teaching. Using specific examples of work, it tracks the development of the designs, the involvement of the students and the outcomes. This approach to maintaining relevance and currency in professional practice as a basis for teaching is discussed and its advantages, disadvantages and limitations outlined for academics in related fields.