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Exploring the Critique Environment of Industrial Design Education in the US:

the influence of critique experience in recent graduates’ performance in the design industry

︎Aim of the project

This study aims to explore the ID(Industrial Design) students’ knowledge application in professional areas through reviewing the critique environment.

︎Research Questions

The starting point of this study was my general quetion of why we design?

Entering the industrial design department with general admiration of spatial creation, my sophomore year was a dissonance of new knowledge and foundational struggle as a designer. It was like a train heading forward without a destination. Then, I began to question where can we, design students, share and discuss these fundamental struggles? Not, in a range of friend groups but in a more fresh environment that students can gain different perspectives on their issues. The easy and quick access was a critique environment. This study is my appreciation for critique providing a discussion environment for students and hopefully, we can utilize this unique experience not only for academic purposes but more in mindful ways to support designers in both schools and industry.

︎Method (Research Design)

Qualitative Research (interview study)
With interpretivist stance, a qualitative approach was taken to explore the influence of academic critique in helping recent graduates transition to the professional field. The qualitative approach continues the nature of the study by respecting the subjective representation of the problem area (Creswell and Creswell, 2018). This enables the current research to explore the bridge between the academic and professional fields of ID through the lived experience of major actors around ID education.

︎Method (Sampling)

Purposive sampling is an “intentional selection of informants based on their ability to elucidate a specific theme, concept, or phenomenon.” (Robinson, 2014, p.5244). The major objective of this sampling strategy is to select a proper representation of the population that is extremely relatable to the current study. Therefore, in this study, the samples were chosen based on their knowledge and experience in the ID culture. To select a proper informant in the broad field of ID, the sampling criteria was formed based on the information from the previous literature, and the my expertise from previous experience as a student and novice designer in the field of ID.

To answer the research questions, it required the involvement of major actors around the bridge between the academic and professional fields of ID. Therefore, instead of solely relying on the recent graduate’s experience, I also explored the perspectives of design educators and professional designers who can provide a more comprehensive representation of the problem area. A total of 6 samples across the industrial design field was involved in the study. Instead of recruiting a large number of samples, I recruited a small number of interviewees with various fields of professions to blend different perspectives which will be able to provide a thorough understanding to overview the complexity of the problem area (Rubin and Rubin, 2005).

︎Data Collection

Semi-structured interview

The present study utilizes interviews as a method for data collection. Along with the philosophical worldview and research design of the study, the interview is the most suitable method to collect qualitative data that explores the research topic. Using interview as a “symbolic interaction” that portrays the knowledge of the society (Silverman, 2021), the objective of qualitative data is to vividly picture the connection between the academic and professional field of ID through the lived experience of major stakeholders to answer the research questions of the study.

Interview Schedule
the interview schedule was constructed around 4 themes referring to the literature review of the present study: academic setting, professional setting, comparison, industrial design.

︎Data Analysis

In this research, thematic analysis was utilized to analyze the collected data. This approach was taken due to its flexibility that allows the researcher to interpret a variety of information on the research topic (Nowell et al., 2017). Specifically, this study conducted interviews with three different stakeholder groups so that flexibility plays a significant role in blending diverse perspectives within the sample group. However, the thematic analysis does not have a clear guideline for its process (Attride- Stirling, 2001; Braun and Clarke, 2006) so that I sought a fundamental framework to run through the thematic analysis which is the data analysis framework introduced by Miles and Huberman (1984).

the analysis framework takes an inductive process that begins with raw data and develops the conclusion through continuous data display, reduction, and verifying. Based on this framework, I conducted multiple data analyses after primary transcription. The interview recordings are transcribed verbatim by both hand and software for accurate transcription.

︎Ethical Consideration

This study is structured around humans and their experiences. Due to this, it is highly responsible for researchers to consider possible ethical issues and corresponding methods to minimize harm from the research (British Educational Research Association [BERA], 2018). To ensure this, the current research project received ethical clearance from Departmental Research Ethics Committee through the CUREC 1a procedure. Beyond ethical approval, this section will discuss major ethical concerns and methods applied to relieve them in the research.

Informed consent
The major ethical concern of the research comes from the involvement of human subjects. As a researcher, I prioritized the rights and freedom of participants in the research, specifically as the participation is voluntary (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2018). Therefore, informed consent was provided to all participants before the interview to ensure the equal relationship and understanding between researcher and participants (Brooks, Riele and Maguire, 2014).

︎Interview Insights


Confusing identity of industrial design

People are struggling from the multi-disciplinary identity of Industrial Design. Some people consdier it as physical-production while others think it more related to service design

Knowledge from critique experience

Critique helped graduates in building identity as a designer and practicing basic skills required in professional design critique

Struggles of recent graduates

Current academic critique environment focuses too much on design expertise which hinders students to encounter non-designers. This makes recent graduates specifically struggle to work with different actors in the field

Weak impact of professional insights in finals

Final reviews have long been criticized for its low effectiveness. The current structure of final reviews demotivates students as there is no next step and weakens the impact of professional insights shared during the critique

Critique structure

Participants argue that more constructive methods are required to structure educational critique environment. Specifically, methods to capture feedback and improve students interaction with professionals are needed

© Sejin Hwang