Patrick Johansson, Tsinghua University

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As part of the effort to ICAD Design Days to stimulate deeper discussions with the design community on the nature of being a design professional and the values of our work as a collective, we reached out to various industry practitioners and stakeholders, seeking their perspectives on a series of thought-provoking questions on current issues in relation to the core values professionalism.

Patrick Johansson, Associate Lecturer at Tsinghua University shares his views with us.

 

What should the relationship between the academia and the industry be? How are we able to bridge the gap between what the academia is producing and what the industry is demanding (skills/traits/attitude, etc.)?

The relationship between these two fields goes back to the industrial revolutions. And when we think about it, it probably goes back even more. It’s a feedback model, or autocatalytic model, between propositional and prescriptive knowledge. If we take engineers and scientists, and study the symbiosis between these fields in ontological and epistemological terms, we also notice that due to the early 21st century tertiary education revolution the lines between these two types of disciplines are not as distinct as they once were. This is partly a reason for this discrepancy between the dichotomy in the question. For educationalists, analysing this question through the lens I propose might be elucidating.

 

What does “multidisciplinary” mean to you? In your practice/industry, do you think it is more important to be a “generalist” or a “specialist”, and why?

Well, going back to the first question, we see that knowledge based growth is a persistent historical phenomenon requiring competitive and open market for ideas, but that is closely tied to this search for new connections. In a way, notions like generalist and specialist only really exist on paper — as any job will in some way of another involve a multifaceted array of responsibilities. Even the most specialised operator is also a generalist, within the scope of their actions. I think the friction between these two factions has been around for a long time, and likely to be around for the foreseeable future.

 

Are the nature of awards and competitions still relevant today and why?

In a way, education is just a complex system of awards. As educationalists we are gatekeepers, judging potential candidates on the knowledge that we ourselves have defined as worth knowing. In that sense, we are the gatekeepers and we also move the goalposts. In that sense, awards don’t actually play much of a role in society. That said, they do provide a measuring stick for yourself and for others. As we move towards a more transparent future, I feel the value of a jury sitting in an opaque room will be questioned — as indeed will larger issues of partiality and bias. But for now, it’s fun to put something up on your wall.

 

What do you think is important for the arts practitioners/designers of the future to think about and challenge?

It is hard to provoke, engage and stimulate without having a horse in the race. I hope artists will continue to straddle this particularly choppy sea. In our field, we also tend to follow an interpretivist paradigm — that there are multiple ways to the same truth, and that our observations carry with them our social and cultural biases. This kind of thought, I feel, is particularly important to spread in an increasingly split and intolerant world.