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The importance of MAKING DESIGNERS / John Miller


We are quite well advanced preparing for the ‘Making Designers’ show which is going to be a feature at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week.

I often think back to the time I spent designing and making things in school woodwork, metalwork and CDT classes.  It’s funny how I can remember with such detail the process of making some of those projects.  Many still exist as they’ve been cherished by my mum, or I have not been able to bring myself to chuck them out in house moves.  Since going to college I have been focussed more on ‘design’ than ‘making’, so have not really again made finished pieces with my own hands.  So I think things I learned making them are still relevant to me.

The reason for all this coming up is that I’ve been alarmed at the fact that the subject of Design Technology in schools is under threat through the curriculum shake-up that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary  is pushing through.  I think there is good about it – yes we accept our kids giving up on languages far to easily, and yes it will be great to have proper computer science back on the curriculum rather than the rather limp ICT classes that exist now.  But by emphasising the traditional academic route, practical, creative and workshop-based subjects are getting squeezed out.

During a recession caused by a lack of grasp of what’s real – after a bubble caused by an over-reliance on financial services, on consumer debt, celebrity obsession and style over substance – surely we should be getting to grips again with the idea of wealth creation.  Manufacturing, construction, creativity, quality – the government pays lip service to this, but without kids having the opportunity to cut a piece of wood in half, use a lathe or construct a model bridge how are they going to be inspired?

Gove’s proposed D+T curriculum is so regressive it doesn’t even mention manufacturing.  In fact it seems more keen on flower arranging.  Learning to cook is the only compulsory aim (yes I think that’s important too, but the only one….?) Things like digital manufacturing and using machine tools don’t even get a look-in.  As a result, plenty of schools are ripping out their DT workshops.

So, what better time to celebrate the idea of making things – I thought about contacting other designers to see if they still have these old school projects and shared my connection with them.  Chatting this through with James McLachlan, editor of the design magazine OnOffice we thought it could make the basis of a great exhibition.  So I did, they do and we are!  I’ll update next week on who’s involved and how the exhibition design is coming together.  In the meantime, please contribute to the consultation on the DT curriculum by going to:

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