January 2021

Publishing Design Education – A Conversation

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch is the publisher of av edition, a specialist publishing house for architecture and design. The White Book on the Future of Design Education. Designing Design Education, edited by the iF Design Foundation, will also be published at av edition this spring.

From the beginning, we developed the White Book together with the publishing house, from concept and design to the selection of paper and printing method. A conversation with Dr. Petra Kiedaisch about her view on the future of design education.

Design and architecture – that’s what you and your publishing house deal with every day. In your opinion, how important is the subject of design education and communication in the world of books?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: In the German-speaking world, it has a pretty high status. There is an unusually large number of specialist books and scientific guidebooks on the teaching and communication of individual approaches, strategies and methods in design theory, study and practice. I think, we have rather an oversupply of academic literature in this field. What is often lacking, however, is an interdisciplinary perspective or international comparison. It’s important to see the big picture. That’s why it was high time for the “White Book” and the respective research, which involved 250 experts on four continents.

In terms of publishing, “edutainment” is also important to us: clear and vivid language, clear text layout, no very long footnotes, the most important things summarized in the margin for those who read and learn quickly. Designers are mostly visual people who perceive texts first graphically and then in terms of content. Reading must be a visual pleasure for them – an approach that was also followed in the “White Paper”.

In order for design education to remain fit for the future and for future designers to be able to make positive contributions to designing change: What do you regard as the most important elements of studying design?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: In addition to basic practical skills: an interdisciplinary curiosity and the ability to abstract, reflect, evaluate and readjust. These are qualities that are not easily replaced by algorithms. The more the process, as opposed to the finished product, counts in design, the more designers must be able to anticipate and consider all relevant facets of a product, a concept, a service or an idea.

You studied German language and literature, business administration and literature promotion. Looking back, would studying design appeal to you, and if so, which area and why?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: My heart belongs to the humanities, so I would be interested in interfaces such as design philosophy or design and ethics. These design-related fields will become increasingly important in the future with regard to artificial intelligence.

If you could travel back in time, which design school, and in which era, or which teacher’s lectures would you have liked to attend and why?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: 1954-58, Max Bense at the Ulm School of Design. He developed his Aesthetica during that time and, as a teacher, he must have had a huge aura.

How did the collaboration with the iF Design Foundation come about?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: Via the chairman, Christoph Böninger. He has been a valued author of our publishing house for many years. We have already published several books together. In 2020, the foundation also supported our up-and-coming author Felix Torkar. His exceptional master’s thesis on “Apple Design” was published with the help of the iF Design Foundation and includes a foreword by Christoph Böninger.

How would you define the term “design”?

Dr. Petra Kiedaisch: As a linguist, I would certainly not presume to do so. Not even the designers of the “White Paper” study were able to agree on a definition. I very much prefer an open concept of design.

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