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A new report from the RSA Student Design Awards charts the transformation of design education and the design industry from a collection of arts and crafts artisans in the early 20th century to today’s generation of creative and socially-responsive problem solvers.

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Key issues highlighted in the report include:

  • The need for a more democratic approach to creativity – an approach the RSA has titled ‘The Power to Create’ – that sees creativity as not solely the preserve of designated ‘creative’ people and organisations, but as a human capacity, one that is too often underused. As an idea, the Power to Create can be deployed to reframe problems and solutions in many contexts.

  • The changing needs of industry that now demands that designers are ‘storytellers’ with transferable technical skills and approaches to problem-solving; questioning whether or not the model of a ‘T-shaped designer’ with deep expertise in a particular discipline and experience working across many contexts will continue into design’s next phase.

  • Provocations around the future of design and its role in innovation, including whether or not the RSA Student Design Awards should write a 21st century curriculum for design, training students in new knowledge domains, systems thinking and increasingly transferable skills.

  • Reflections on the 90-year history of the RSA Student Design Awards from responding to industry concerns in the mid-20th century to today’s briefs that are ahead of the curve in tackling major challenges that society and business will have to face. 

About the RSA Student Design Awards

The RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and competition that asks design students to apply their skills to today’s pressing social, environmental and economic challenges. The RSA Student Design Awards were established in 1924 and are the world’s longest-standing, most-pioneering student competition, with the goal of empowering generations of savvy, employable designers who understand the power of design to benefit society. 


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