News from America – Erste Eindrücke von Prof. M. Digel

Research Sabbatical in the USA, Prof. Marion Digel 2011/2012

Forschungssemester in den USA, Prof. Marion Digel 2011/2012

What’s next? In Design Foundations and Basic Design

A study on the future of Design Foundations and Basic Design Education

Was kommt als nächstes (jetzt)? In den Gestaltungs– und Entwurfsgrundlagen 

Die zukünftige Ausrichtung der gestalterischen Grundlehre – eine Studie

How can Foundation- and Basic Design Education meet future demands on designers and how useful is the heritage of the Bauhaus for teaching design foundations in the 21st century? Is there still validity to its traditional and universal principles in relation to the changing demands of society? What is necessary in the future to equip design students with the practical, theoretical, technological and conceptual tools they will need for their studies? – A perspective of the future demands on fundamental education in design is the topic of this research sabbatical in the United States.

It is based on two fields and methods of investigation: First, on interviews with design educators regarding their teaching methods, philosophies, experiences and future perspectives; second on historical material and resources regarding the spread of the Bauhaus principles and the development

of American design education. The reason for this research to be conducted in the United States rather than in Germany is based on the assumption that the Bauhaus didactics, spread by its emigrants to the US were manifested in the “Foundations Year” at most American design universities and institutionalized as an inherent part of their curriculum. Thus, the Bauhaus heritage could be embedded even stronger into American design education than it is in Germany.

So far interviews and archival research have taken me to the Rochester Institute of Technology as a visiting Professor of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, to the Illinois Institute of Design (the former New Bauhaus), to Carnegie Mellon (first Industrial Design Program in the US, 1934), to Ohio State University and to Cranbrook Academy (Saarinen, Bertoia, the Eamses and Florence Knoll were among its Alumni). Further on my itinerary are North Carolina State University, Black Mountain College of the Arts Museum, Pratt Institute of Technology and the Parsons School of Design. All of the above played a pioneering role in the development of design education in the United States and with the exception of Black Mountain College are all mong the leading institutions for design education today.

At this point I would like to thank all the people who were so helpful and conductive to my research and who were spending their time to share their insights: Prof. Roger Remington and all the colleagues at the Vignelli Center and the Department of Industrial Design, Joyce Hertzson and Roberley Bell (foundations) at RIT, Terry Irvine and Mark Baskinger from Carnegie Mellon, Reinhard Butter, Heike Goeller and Harvey Wallschlaeger (emeritus) from Ohio State University, Victor Margolin of the University of Illinois, John Grimes and Martin Thaler of the Illinois Institute of Design, Catherine Bruck of the Archives at IIT’s Galvin Library, Scott Klinker from Cranbrook Academy of the Arts, Susan Brandeis, Vita Plume, Kathleen Rieder, Chandra Cox and more from North Carolina State University… all the people lending support from the home base at Folkwang University of the Arts and to all others who have been and will be helpful and interested in this endeavor, thank you!

RaleighNC, Nov. 28th. 2011

Prof. Marion Digel

“We are fortunate at the Vignelli Center this quarter to host Professor Digel. During her time at RIT she has been involved with faculty and students. For her the exchange of ideas is important. Also studying the ways in which design is being taught is valuable in ultimately enhancing its benefits to society.” (Roger Remington, Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design at RIT, cf.

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