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.