UxD — A new double degree in design engineering

UTC and ésad-Amiens (the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design d’Amiens) have just award­ed the new dou­ble degrees to the first class of grad­u­ates. The ‘design­ers’ will hold the ESAD’s Master’s degree in dig­i­tal design and the spe­cial­ty User eXpe­ri­ence Design of the UTC Master’s degree. This approach­es places the design­ers and their func­tions at the cen­tre of the inno­va­tion process. 

As Bar­bara Den­nys, Direc­tor of ésad-Amiens, sees it: “A good design­er does not just dress things up, but is a col­lab­o­ra­tor who is involved far upstream in the process of design­ing and devel­op­ing a new prod­uct”. With this sort of state­ment, it is not at all sur­pris­ing, that ésad has just set up – at the invi­ta­tion of UTC – a dou­ble degree train­ing course. From an admin­is­tra­tive point of view, this is quite an orig­i­nal pro­pos­al, indeed unique in design train­ing, inas­much as the stu­dents are reg­is­tered simul­ta­ne­ous­ly for both cours­es and will be award­ed both estab­lish­ments’ diplomas. 

Choice of the “open­ing”

The course inno­va­tion does not stop here, because the stu­dents cho­sen to fol­low the dou­ble degree and the ideas on which the pack­age is based are quite sur­pris­ing. At a time when head-hunters sub­di­vide the pro­files they want into sur­gi­cal­ly nar­row sets of skills, the ésad-UTC col­lab­o­ra­tion address­es “stu­dents in design, graph­ic arts, in com­put­er sci­ence and in human­i­ties who want to car­ry out for­ward-look­ing projects focused on human/world inter­ac­tions which mobi­lize tech­nolo­gies”. And this appar­ent­ly het­ero­ge­neous group is invit­ed to imple­ment this far-reach­ing pro­gramme by rely­ing on an essen­tial con­cept, design can­tered on user expe­ri­ence. For Anne Gué­nand, head of this par­tic­u­lar UxD course at UTC, “design is one way to shape experience”. 

Expe­ri­ence as a source of innovation

The vision above is shared by Bar­bara Den­nys for whom artists and design­er have in com­mon that “they pro­duce forms which also rep­re­sent thoughts”. For expe­ri­ence inten­sive design work, shapes are gen­er­at­ed through an in-depth explo­ration of the world and all our sen­so­r­i­al feel­ings. From this stand­point, the user plays a cen­tral role and design­ers seek to “under­stand our expe­ri­ence to trans­late it into then for­mal qual­i­ties need­ed inn a design process as expect­ed by a user”. Here we have a phi­los­o­phy where per­cep­tion and action are inter­twined, as defend­ed by the UTC lec­tur­ers in charge of the course, like Charles Lenay, for example. 

Design­ers less focused on their per­son­al experience

One of the five stu­dents who reg­is­tered for this dou­ble degree pack­age this aca­d­e­m­ic year under­lines the fact that the UxD approach “allows design­ers to be in a bet­ter posi­tion to defend user expec­ta­tions and needs”. Bar­bara Dan­ny see a way “to delo­cal­ize design think­ing for the ben­e­fit of users and to lim­it any temp­ta­tion to adopt an ego-cen­tric stance of design stu­dents while in train­ing”. This vision, focused as it is on expe­ri­ence and on the alter ego, jus­ti­fies the pres­ence of stu­dents com­ing from pre­vi­ous human­i­ties stud­ies. “Today, dig­i­tal objects are becom­ing per­va­sive and there are increas­ing num­bers of projects to design the new objects”, explains Aman­dine Mas­set, lau­re­ate in the first class of the new UTC-ésad dou­ble degree package. 

A win-win-win situation

In an envi­ron­ment with increas­ing num­bers of con­nect­ed, inter­act­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing objects in every aspect of day-to-day life, com­put­er sci­ence engi­neer­ing is a must for design­ing “apps”. Design­ers use soft­ware pack­ages that frame inter­ac­tions and var­i­ous dis­plays but do not cov­er devel­op­ment aspects of the prod­ucts. Where these three worlds meet: human­i­ties, design and engi­neer­ing, you have some­thing that is close to the future pro­fes­sion­al con­texts. Design­ing a new tech­ni­cal object today, when you think about it, comes down to meet­ing and under­stand­ing the future users, invent­ing forms that will reflect ‘their image’, while com­ply­ing with nec­es­sary tech­ni­cal con­straints, prod­uct fea­si­bil­i­ty and mak­ing a safe intro­duc­tion in the mar­ket-place. This is the win-win-win ideal. 

The social con­nec­tion, an object yet to be designed

In this per­spec­tive, design­ers are required to bring togeth­er all the var­i­ous dimen­sions of a cre­ative process. More­over, adds Bar­bara Den­nys “this part­ner­ship arrange­ment with UTC increas­es the scope of pos­si­ble actions for future design­ers through addi­tion­al poten­tial ori­en­ta­tions”, under­lin­ing the open-atti­tude of UTC via the pluridis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty approach to its Master’s degree. As far as the notion “design” itself is con­cerned, the new stu­dents would like to see its scope enlarged, as can be not­ed in their choice in favour of “design­ing social links”. We can see that dig­i­tal, social net­works have become com­mon­place and we can read­i­ly observe that the dig­i­tal world is seek­ing to re-build and for­mat com­mu­ni­ties, com­merce and ser­vices. The “”social link” itself has become an object that can be re-designed, much in the same sense as an on-line client-area is designed! 

This first class of grad­u­ates demon­strates that the UxD dou­ble degree is suc­cess­ful, as seen both by the stu­dents and the lec­tur­ers. Eleven new stu­dents have already reg­is­tered for the next aca­d­e­m­ic year of this inno­v­a­tive course offer. 

Aman­dine, tak­ing the dig­i­tal option

Trained as she was at ésad in graph­ic design, Aman­dine Mas­set has just fin­ished her end-of-course place­ment to val­i­date her dou­ble-degree… which she did at a design ori­ent­ed inno­v­a­tive start-up. This some­what hype qual­i­fi­er cov­ers the phi­los­o­phy of the UxD Master’s degree: inno­vat­ing via pro­to­typ­ing, pro­gress­ing by iter­a­tion, in a close rela­tion­ship with all the actors involved. “The way the start-up User Stu­dio (cf. http://www.userstudio.fr) oper­ates cor­re­sponds per­fect­ly with the ‘train­ing image’ we acquired in our UxD cours­es: inno­va­tion via expe­ri­ence and a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the user’s expec­ta­tions”, under­lines Aman­dine Masset. 

As Aman­dine sees it, the phi­los­o­phy can be sum­marised by 3 words: curios­i­ty, empa­thy and resolve … to which she adds cre­ativ­i­ty, inge­nious­ness and … the capac­i­ty to calls one­self into ques­tion. She made good use of these intrin­sic assets dur­ing her 5 months place­ment to design appli­ca­tions for the com­pa­ny cus­tomers’ Inter­net sites. Today, she doesn’t want to lim­it her pro­fes­sion­al hori­zon to graph­ic arts, nor to get involved too much in indus­tri­al object design. “Per­son­al­ly, I would pre­fer to con­tin­ue in start-ups or design agen­cies so as to learn more about the design­ing of dig­i­tal prod­ucts”, she says. As an under­stand­ably ambi­tious young per­son, what she likes above all is to be ful­ly in charge of the design of new prod­ucts, under­scor­ing the impor­tance of team-work and cus­tomer rela­tions. We need not add at this point that Aman­dine Mas­set puts human rela­tion­ships at the core of her activities. 

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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