How Designers Can Transform Education - RSA

How designers can transform education


  • Picture of Lucy Griffiths FRSA
    Lucy Griffiths FRSA
    Writer, Designer, Educator, Fellowship Councillor (CLD)
  • Education
  • Creative Institutions and Systems
  • Fellowship in Action

It has been ten years since Sir Ken Robinson gave his, now legendary, TED talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ exposing the absurdity of many of our approaches to education. The talk has been viewed more than forty million times and his both hilarious and deadly serious call for change is agreed with by pretty much everyone I’ve ever met who is working within education.

So what has changed in those ten years?

Well, there have been plenty more voices echoing Sir Ken’s, and some action, but it seems that many politicians still aren’t listening. We’re still lining children up to sit exams that have a tenuous relationship to anything they will have to do in their future careers. We’re testing younger and younger children on things they probably don’t need to know and may never use in their future lives, and we’re still not placing value on some of the things that will really matter in their futures - like their ability to create and innovate. 

Perhaps some problems seem just too big to tackle. When you have been travelling, full steam ahead, on the road to ‘accountability’ and everything you do is about measuring the success of the system, it can be scary to even contemplate an alternative. And when politics is all about the next set of figures, it isn’t really any wonder that league tables are the order of the day.

But what if we dared to ask some of the big questions? What if we decided to design our education system from scratch?  What would that look like? In fact, we don’t even need to start from zero, far from it, as we already have many of the pieces of the puzzle provided by evidence from the real experts like Sir Ken, Sugata Mitra, and Carol Dweck.

Maybe what we need now is something in addition to knowledge and evidence about what can work.

Maybe what we need is a way to tackle the process of redefining our systems.

Maybe what we need is design?

In my recent talk at TEDx Swansea, I make my case for involving designers in shaping our education system by using a design process, the tools and techniques, and the ways of thinking that design professionals apply every day. Evidence from around the world shows that designers, educators, and learners, working together, can be a powerful force in re-designing how we educate. Designers deal with complex and messy problems every day that have more than one possible solution. I argue that these are exactly the skills we need to create systems that work for everyone, not just those who need to evidence the success of their policies...



Lucy is a co-founder of We are Lucky, whose mission is to encourage people and communities to design and create better lives by 'making their own luck'.

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