The competence of designing intelligent systems

I see my professional identity as a never-ending process. To stay true to that principle, I like to constantly evaluate and reflect on my learning activities and vision, to develop myself in a substantiated way.

But what does it mean to be a competent, academically educated designer, and an incentive for social change? In reflecting on my development, I often asked myself this question. As mentioned in my vision, I believe it is the role of design to steer social opinion towards accepting new value. I believe that in a capitalist society especially, designers can wield this power. But what are the qualities that support this role? And how does it fit in an academic environment?

To answer these questions, I want to evaluate my development using the several frameworks on design education that are implemented at the Eindhoven University of Technology:

  1. criteria for academic bachelor’s and master’s curricula by Meijers at al. Meijers, A.W.M., van Overveld, C.W.A.M., Perrenet, J.C., Borghuis V.A.J. & Mutsaers E.J.P.J. (2005). Criteria for academic bachelor’s and master’s curricula.

  2. the competency model of the faculty of Industrial Design, an adaptation of the previous framework. Hummels, C. C. M., & Vinke, A. A. (2009). Developing the competence of designing intelligent systems.

The criteria that the faculty of Industrial Design provide are most directly related to design education, while the work of is more focused on engineering education in general, and offers a better understanding of what criteria are taken into account. I will also be using the rubrics The 2019 version of the Rubrics Booklet was used, which can be found on the Indutrial Design download page provided by the faculty of Industrial Design for this purpose.

Framework analysis

What these frameworks have in common in that they have two focal points. The first is knowledge in the field of study, and the second is academically appropriate behavior and professional conduct.

Meijers et al. distinguish seven areas of competence, that can be related to one another in three ways. To indicate the level of competency, four dimensions are proposed in which to measure this: analytic, synthetic, abstract and concrete.

The competency model of the faculty of Industrial Design very similar. A key difference, however, is that it divides the competency in a scientific discipline into five areas of expertise, which are meant to cover the field of Industrial Design specifically. These are: creativity & aesthetics, technology & realization, user & society, business & entrepreneurship, and math, data & computing. These provide a more hands-on way to analyse one's development in this specific area, and although it lacks the dimensions to measure the level of competency, this is made up for by the rubrics booklet, which provides concrete and in-depth criteria for this.

Taking the contents of these frameworks into account, I will analyze and reflect on the domain of study and academic methods individually. I will reflect on the domain by using the areas of expertise from the competency model. I will determine my level of understanding using the four criteria mentioned in Meijers et al. and the rubrics, which I will be using to reflect on my academic methods as well.

To stay true to my vision, I have decided to also use a criterion of my own in my reflections. Or, rather, I want to stress the importance of the seventh criterion of Meijers et al., which states to “take account of the temporal and the social context”. I noticed that in de competency model, this is not even a criterion anymore, but a side note in small letters at the bottom of the visual representation of the framework. By taking this criterion as a priority instead, I want to stress that I do not practice science for the sake of science, but instead, I want to make sure I am working on topics I believe matter.

Domain development

To understand my competency in the several areas of expertise, it is useful to take note of the learning activities I engaged in during my studies:

Creativity & Aesthetics

I have developed my C&A competency in 8 learning activities and with an average course level of 1.5.

Academically proven design methodologies have been proven invaluable to me in the area of expertise. I feel comfortable with them, as I can analyse them and apply them for the specific purpose I have in mind, such as making design decisions and communicating my findings and values. I have experienced many different means of ideation because of this, and feel like I am able to naturally adept them, as I have shown in my fbp. Where I have used a.o. competitor analysis, business model experimentation, business model canvas, interviews, experience prototyping, manifestoing through design, speculative design perspectives, root cause analysis, storytelling, network mapping and more.

I consider myself sensitive for the aesthetic quality of my design As I have shown in the course visual experience design, for which I scored excellent marks. as well as the value of that quality in design, both in contemporary society and in history. As shown in the course aesthetics, that was a part of my B3.1 semester. In my design, this shows in the quality of form and interaction. As shown in my first design project and the course aesthetics of interaction respectively.

Furthermore, I am a creative thinker which means that beside the fact I use academically substantiated design methodologies to come up with ideas, I also approach the design process through intuition. This comes most naturally to me on topics within the process that have a T&R aspect, as I tend to consider these things more naturally. I think my FBP is a very good example of how I approach a design process.

Technology & Realization

I have developed my T&R competency in 15 learning activities and with an average course level of 1.44.

During my studies, I always seemed to want to focus on the T&R competency. I am naturally attracted by, proficient with, busy thinking about and actively developing technology. For example at my own design agency, studio van der heide and during hackathons. Both of these taught me how to develop technology, and also how to document it well. This affinity also shows itself in my work on software as well as hardware in the courses i took. For example creative programming and creative electronics.

I am competent in the digital and physical realization of my design. This includes the accurate estimation of the feasibility from several perspectives, as well as the skills to fabricate said prototype using advanced software Such as Unity3d in my research project, or Linux and Apache in my fbp. and cnc tools. And a variety of other tools, for example in my second design project.

User & Society

I have developed my u&s competency in 8 learning activities and with an average course level of 1.6. I have also taken a minor in philosophy The courses of which this consisted can be seen here. which also fits into this area of expertise.

I was taught to take a user-centered approach Which I showed in my first design project. in my design, and I see merit in designing with users. I am also conscious of academic methods As I learned in the course user centered design. for this purpose user-centered design) and feel comfortable applying them (project 3 design research). This also means I am capable of designing for the user experience (use human in technology). However, I discovered during my studies that there are a lot of other aspects one can focus on in design as well. After exploring this, my preference lies in the societal aspect. I developed a theoretical foundation for analyzing societal challenges during my philosophy minor, which means I can look at these challenges from i.e. a political, economic and social perspective, and I can use this knowledge to validate my design and to aid in making design decisions.

I want to develop more with regards to using my views on humanity and society continuously as a priority in my design process. This will also be done in my FBP.

Business & Entrepreneurship

I took 3 courses for developing my B&E competency, with an average course level of 2.

I see the business perspective as an effective way to bring your values as a designer to a broad public. I am able to create a value proposition for my designs (introduction to business design, fbp), but am also knowledgeable about more in-depth marketing strategies, for example conducting market analysis (design innovation methods). I have an entrepreneurial attitude, which shows itself in my own business (studio van der heide).

Math, Data & Computing

I have developed my md&c competency in 8 learning activities and with an average course level of 1.6.

Handling data and algorithms is something that I find easy to do. I developed a theoretical foundation for this (data analytics) and am also capable of applying it in practice (making sense of sensors). Developing an algorithm for this purpose is something I can do and well (hackathons) and I am knowledgeable about software used for this purpose (data analytic).

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