The last issue of Fast Company is chalked full of design topics. In particular, there is a brief article providing insight into how MIT professor John Maedacould potentially spin the Rhode Island School of Design into an art+business philosophy. As Maeda puts it, RISD is essentially a right-brain MIT. It is interesting to see phrases like “creativity and pragmatism,” and “uniqueness and mass-marketability” woven into a traditional (analog) fine art institution. The fundamental problem is that RISD, an institution that has produced the Heros of my generation, is heavily right-brain. This is a universal struggle for design education. Although there are some innovative schools taking risky leaps, the general consensus is that the current academic model maintains a curriculum that does not nurture cross-disciplinary thinking - more specifically how to think within today’s digital economy.
There is huge potential to flourish in a model based on absolute synergy between form-givers (arts/engineers) and strategists (business thinkers). In order to achieve this, academic labeling and degree classification has to evolve into a more fluid cross-pollinating model–freeing students and faculty from being trapped inside single-disciplinary ideologies. It will be exciting to see where Maeda takes RISD. Through all the skepticism, I wouldn’t be surprised if RISD’s new formula becomes a model of great envy for other art and design Institutions.