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Photo: Ola Erik Blæsterdalen

DESIGN LITERACY - from primary education to university level

Designed artefacts and solutions influence our lives and values, both personal, and from a societal and global perspective. Designers, decision makers, investors, and consumers hold different positions in the design process, but they all make choices that will influence our future. In the Kyoto Design Declaration, The International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media (Cumulus) declared that “…to contribute to sustainable social, environmental, cultural and economic development for current and future generations, the Cumulus members will commit themselves to accepting their part in the further education of our youth within a value system where each of us recognizes our global responsibility to build sustainable, human-centred, creative societies” (Cumulus 2008). In order to solve these crucial global challenges, designers and lay people must cooperate; for this purpose, design literacy is necessary for all.


In this DESIGN LITERACY project, we emphasize a wide educational perspective on design literacy – beyond fashion and shopping. It refers to concerns and practices such as democratic participation in design processes, developing and using ethical responsibility, and understanding and supporting sustainable aspects of production and consumption. The DESIGN LITERACY project will also be considered as a stepping-stone to an EU project, connected to smart, inclusive, and sustainable growth highlighted in the Europe2020 strategy (European Commission 2010). ... Design education at primary and secondary level represents both a foundation for professional design education and a prequalification for lay persons’ competence for decision-making.


In the DESIGN LITERACY project, we focus on the content of a continuous design education, the transition between different educational levels, and how this is realised across the Norwegian educational system – from primary education, throughout the university level. In addition, we aim to contribute to a wider understanding of designers’ and lay people’s influence on sustainability issues in society. We want to articulate ideas and content in design education through Goodlad’s concepts; the ideological curriculum, the formal curriculum, and the perceived and experienced curricula (1979). We wish to examine if there is a coherent connection between the different levels from primary to the university level, as we regard this as crucial for the quality of design education. ....


The main research focus of the DESIGN LITERACY project is: What challenges need to be addressed in design education at different levels in order to boost the advancement of design literacy? The results of this research will be useful from a societal perspective, as well as for later specific changes in policy and educational implementation. This study’s importance lies in the needs to better inform design education itself, to improve the quality of design educators, educate reflective consumers, and, as a result, further the goals of a human-centred, creative society.

Photo: Ola Erik Blæsterdalen

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