One of the first things we learn in [design] school is the WDO definition of industrial design; products, systems, services, and experiences. It is clear from the beginning: industrial design is a multidisciplinary study. Throughout history, individuals have come together to bolster the personal toolkit of the modern-day design student. Marketing, rapid prototyping, and psychology; all additions to our ever-evolving skillset of the designer. As graduating design students, there is an onus to take one’s personal experiences from education and better-equip the next generation of aspiring designers. I truly believe that everyone’s journeys though education are different and provide opportunities to loop in experiences from new disciplines to shape the teachings of tomorrow.

I have a great appreciation for my alma mater. My design education was more than I could have imagined, and it would feel almost incomplete to move into the professional world without finding a way to further improve the experiences for the next generation. To fulfill a full-time internship requirement as part of my degree, I had the pleasure of working for a themed entertainment company. It was a placement that was certainly different than most; instead of working on products, I was working on systems, services, and experiences as part of a lineup of theme parks and resorts. One of the most invaluable takeaways from my internship was the chance to work across different departments. Design education often reinforces our ability to collaborate with like-minded folks – but what about non-designers? It was through these interdisciplinary colleagues that I learned the power of storytelling. These people could spark imaginations while communicating the most mundane of subjects. Storytelling is at the heart of the entertainment industry and it permeates into every business segment.  It is a masterful balance of rational and emotional attachment that gets people on board with ideas.

One thing that I would like to bring to the future of design education is an enhanced focus on presentation skills that leverage the power of storytelling. Young designers will give dozens of presentations throughout their school careers, however there is an intrinsic assumption that students will improve through repetition. To learn about the corporate implications of the design process, students take business electives. To learn about creating designs that resonate with users on an emotional level, students take psychology electives. Presentation skills are essential in the designer’s toolkit. We are often told that a ‘design is only as good as our ability to communicate it.’ It may be time to draw from the non-design community to help the next generation get there. Will the students of tomorrow take electives in theatre and communications? Only time will tell.

The need to further explore how storytelling and presentation skills shape designers are a direct result of my experiences. I encourage readers to reconnect with the institutions that began your journeys and bring home the unique experiences that each and every one of you have. Education is a circular process, and I look to the future with optimism.

Justin Low is a fourth-year student pursuing his Bachelor of Industrial Design at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). For the past four years, Justin has served in various entertainment roles at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. He is currently a marketing assistant at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, BC.

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