UT Austin & IBM Partner to Transform Design Education
UT Austin’s new School of Design and Creative Technologies (SDCT) partnered with IBM to bring undergraduate students across disciplines a design thinking course called “Radical Collaboration” in the Fall 2017 semester. The course was featured in Fast Company Co.Design and the Chronicle for Higher Education.
“Radical Collaboration” was taught at the tech giant’s North Austin studio by design professionals. The goal was to create a design course for non-designers that gives students from diverse backgrounds exposure to design thinking. The course is a compressed version of a three-month bootcamp that designers at IBM go through when they’re hired.
Doreen Lorenzo, assistant dean for the SDCT at UT Austin, and former president of global creative firms frog design and Quirky, pioneered the SDCT curriculum and worked with IBM to create the “Radical Collaboration” course. With IBM’s enormous presence in the local design community Lorenzo saw an opportunity for a partnership that would benefit students and the tech giant. IBM has been operating in Austin for 50 years and made that location the headquarters of its design efforts, with 400 designers who work on everything from Watson AI to cloud services and security.
Students in the course came from diverse majors like engineering, computer science, fine arts, and business, and worked in teams to solve problems that IBM and its clients face. During one class they used the company’s AI platform Watson to help students register for classes. The course taught design thinking methodologies which have become increasingly popular across disciplines.
All courses taught at the SDCT help students to think creatively and solve the same problems that organizations face in industries like healthcare, transportation, business, and the performing arts. In addition, students develop soft skills such as building empathy and talking to people about what they value in products and services.
Lorenzo said, “The creative economy is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sectors. We’re giving our students the tools they need to go out and succeed in it.”
Doug Powell, IBM distinguished designer, Mark Rolston, argodesign’s co-founder and chief creative officer, and Lorenzo spoke about the program during the “Make Design Work For Everyone” session at the 2017 Fast Company Innovation Festival in NYC in October 2017. Rolston noted that such academic programs make it easier for companies to hire top talent right out of school.