DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Elaver, Richard Anthony (1); Laperre, Dries (2); Lewis, Mark (1)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Appalachian State University, United States of America; 2: Howest University College, Belgium
Section: Changing Innovation Landscapes 5
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.35199/epde2019.66
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


Product Design has historically been a very focused discipline, often taught as a professional program preparing students to fill a known role in industry. This has become, for many schools, a kind of 4-year technical job training.

In moving ‘Towards a New Innovation Landscape’, the premise of this paper is that our field needs to more regularly engage design students with other disciplines, and broaden the application of product design skills into more diverse arenas of creative problem solving.

Beyond the design of products, design can be a more integrative skillset, design thinking a creative-problem-solving tool for diverse groups, and design communication tools (sketches, models, storyboards, etc.) can act as prototyping tools to help express and explore ideas in diverse contexts.

This paper will introduce how this type of pedagogical approach has been applied in two different institutions: Howest University College in Belgium, and Appalachian State University in the US.

Both schools have a Product Design bachelor’s program that has been central in creating multi-disciplinary team-based experiential-learning opportunities that engage students and faculty from multiple disciplines to work on real-world challenges. For the past three years, Appalachian State University has implemented a semester-long multi-disciplinary class titled AppLab that engages student teams with external clients. And Howest has implemented two different short-term programs: a two-week ‘Multi-disciplinary Project’ engaging students from other disciplines; and ‘WOW-week’ (Windows on the World), a one-week multi-disciplinary project more focused on co-creation of human-centered design projects.

This paper will detail the different approaches these two schools have used to construct these types of learning opportunities, along with a profile of the participants, resources, and methods utilized. This will provide a meaningful structure for a comparison/contrast of the different approaches used on different continents in order to draw conclusions regarding positive and negative outcomes.

From this, the hope is that other educators, in product design and other disciplines, can learn from these efforts and continue a discourse about how to broaden the engagement of product design education with other fields.

Keywords: trans-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, co-creation, team learning, design thinking, project-based learning, team organization


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