Rachel K. B. Troye, Head of the Institute of Design at AHO, tells us about their programmes, what forces have shaped these, and what her and her colleagues aspire to for their students and for the world.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Institute and its guiding principles?
The Institute of Design at AHO is the oldest industrial design study programme in Norway and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013. In 1996 that programme merged with the Oslo School of Architecture, later to be rebranded as The Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Our design education includes a five year Master programme that allows for specializations in either industrial, interaction or service design, or a hybrid of these. Systems Oriented Design methodologies are applied across these domains. Research and education are closely linked as well as collaboration with national and international industry and public service providers. Our perspective is that good design creates aesthetic and functional products, services and experiences that delight and improve the lives of people.
Our official vision at The Institute of Design is “Shaping Futures”. This implies we have a clear agenda to educate designers of the future, and to provide them with both strong professional and research based foundations, but also influence how this future itself is configured. This is quite a bold and ambitious vision that arguably goes beyond attempts to be the “leader of the contemporary mainstream” and far beyond merely being its follower. However, how that really unfolds in our everyday practice is central to ongoing debate and it’s obviously also rather a vision than a description of what we’ve already achieved.
Q: Within the design programme, how does AHO prepare students for the specific demands of industrial design in Norway while making sure they are also well equipped to be a part of the global design community?
Seen from an outside perspective, Norway, with its special national characteristics, really seems to have influenced both the demand and the education at the Institute of Design at AHO. Initially, some 30 years ago, the explicit goal was to “train professionals to design consumer goods for Norwegian industry”. Behind that focus was an ambition to create value for, and contribute to, Norwegian industry’s competitive advantage on an international market. One needs to acknowledge that Norway is quite a small country—approximate population 5 million, with just over half a million in the capital, Oslo—with a relatively limited consumer goods production. Instead, it historically depends much more on marine industries (like shipping and fishery) and energy dependent processes industries (such as fertilizer and aluminium). Since the oil industry became important a few decades ago, Norway has become a wealthy country that further has developed its long history of being quite an international society, perhaps due to its small population combined with its shipping industry.