Design Dedication explores what the design pedagogy could be with adaptive mentalities

Edited by Annelys de Vet and designed by Tessa Meeus and Alex Walker, this investigative book explores the fundamentals of design education over the last 11 years.

25 August 2020

How can an educational institute support and safeguard development among its students while reflecting on how it can take responsibility for this at the same time? It’s a complex yet important issue in education, let alone design education, explored in a new publication recently published by Valiz with Amsterdam’s Sandberg Instituut. Design Dedication: Adaptive Mentalities in Design Education is a plea for adaptive mentalities when it comes to design pedagogy and design practices.

Edited by Annelys de Vet and designed by Tessa Meeus and Alex Walker, the investigative book questions how students and designers can develop a “conscious and future-proof attitude in their practice,” connecting with current issues while being visually lyrical and experimental at the same time. “It does this by zooming into the mentalities, experiences and ideas of the design department of the Sandberg Instituut with a focus on the last decade,” the editor tells us. Fulfilling the role as head of the department from 2009-2019, Annelys uses her first hand experiences to investigate how the experiences in that decade informed ideas on the future of design pedagogy.

Inviting tutors, alumni and students to articulate their individual values on the matter, the resulting publication is an amalgamation of differing creative backgrounds and perspectives. More namely, a difference in “age, gender, culture, social class and to a lesser extent, ethnicity.” In turn, this variety of voices brought together under the umbrella of design education “made the exchanges and lessons learned, most valuable.”


Design Dedication: Adaptive Mentalities in Design Education: Valiz with Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam, (Copyright © Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam 2020)

When it came to coherently structuring these voices for the book, Annelys developed an editorial structure which gradually moves singular voices into shares ones. Conversations, observations and reflections are folded within the text and ends with a collective glossary written by 23 Master’s students discussing their current values within design education. “With these accumulated voices,” continues the former course leader, “I want to develop a new vocabulary to speak about design and education, one that is receptive for the complexities of our time and the pressure students, tutors and schools are under.”

Though it sheds light on those associated with the Sandberg Instituut, Design Dedication is for anyone interested in how design can contribute to criticality, the imaginative and receptive citizen. Annelys poses: “How can we imagine and propose alternative systems of value through design?” Pointing out a couple of essential features to look out for in the book, Anja Groten (Annelys’ successor) explores the notion of collectivity and collaborative and how these ideas can be both essential yet problematic at times. Other ideas discussed include thinking through making with regards to teaching approaches, and the personal discovery of terms and values in one’s own design practice. A full list of contributors can be found here.

Elsewhere, Rana Ghavami and Agata Jaworska delve into the complexities of power structures within the education institute in their article Outlining Education. Exploring how education is often predefined through a forced curriculum, as a taster of the text, an excerpt from the article reads: “An institution first needs to be imagined before it can be drafted in practical, legal, strategic, and experimental measures. It has to be grounded in palpable desire that is held in common by a group of people. But desire is not a solid ground for staff members and students to effectively predict its manifold experiences and outcomes, nor is that sensible or feasible.”

When it came to the design of the book, created by Tessa Meeus and Alex Walker, the designers devised their own three spot colour profile with the help of students. “This was an exercise is not only opening up the production process, but also engaging with students in a discussion about standardised image reproduction processes, software, and notions of neutrality and normativity,” Tessa says on the matter. Putting many of the book’s ideals into practice with the design, the book’s design followed a more DIY approach, in turn, opening up the process to others to enhance collaboration. Coming full circle in the concept and visuals of this endeavour, Tessa finally goes on to say, “We made use of tools, type and design skills of both alumni and current students of the design department to create the book.”

GalleryDesign Dedication: Adaptive Mentalities in Design Education: Valiz with Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam, (Copyright © Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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