TEACH

Image: Flexible Visual Systems, the foundation course in an interdisciplinary design curriculum, Martin Lorenz, 2020

To learn how to design flexible systems is not just learning another craft, it is going to change the way you think and work entirely. It is an approach to design, not a trick or technique. When you approach design systematically, you will learn to build a foundation that can support an infinite and ever-growing number of applications, formats, and media. Flexible Visual Systems is the foundation course in an interdisciplinary design curriculum yet to be written.

Foundation Course
1. Thinking in Systems
2. Visualizing Systems
3. Communication Systems

Main CoursesĀ 
4. What do I need to know to work in a specific field of design?
5. How to transition from theory to practice?

I am working on a book and workshop for teachers. As it will take me a while, please visit for now LEARN to get more information about Flexible Visual Systems.

While the foundation course has a transdisciplinary approach, the main courses need to be intradisciplinary. We need a generalist’s perspective with the skills of a specialist. Only then we are useful parts of a bigger network of people. 

Foundation Course

1. Thinking in Systems

The current design education is strongly influenced by an anachronistic idea of design. Historically it is understandable why art education led to design education, but conceptually and even formally the continuity does not make sense anymore. 

Attempts made in the 1950s to expand the designer’s education to sociology, politics, and economy should be revived. Without understanding the dynamics of the various intersected systems any attempt to work with or against the system will stay ineffective. We need holistic thinking in systems, rather than atomistic perspectives based on current professions which might not even exist anymore once the student graduated. 

2. Visualizing Systems

If we do not have the tools to visualize our thoughts, they won’t exist in a societal context. We need to share them with others to make them exist. Even for ourselves it is necessary to articulate our thoughts to be able to reflect on them. To be taught communication skills is essential for design education. The foundation course should therefore teach a variety of communication tools like speaking, writing, drawing, coding, animation, architecture and urbanism.

3. Communication Systems

To express our thoughts is a thought process in itself. To communicate our thoughts or the thoughts of someone else we need to take more variables into consideration. With whom do we want to communicate? How this person perceives our message, IF the message reaches the person, depends not just on the message, but by the time and place this person is confronted with the message, and to a high degree as well by whom the message is emitted. Even the media that is used to expand the reach of the communication has an influence on the perception. Communication systems are complex, but by being aware of their systemic nature we are closer to potential communication. 

Main Courses 

4. What do I need to know to work in a specific field of design?

Education has no value if the learned cannot be applied. A generalist view on everything that conditions our work has to be part of the foundation course, but a specialized education should be the focus in the last stretch of the studies. The specialization cannot be written in stone but should change with the times. The involvement of the student in the design of the main courses is of essence. The teachers become tutors that advise with their knowledge and experience, but the students need to be the driving force for their future.

5. How to transition from theory to practice? 

The transition phase between the academic and the professional world is usually not part of an academic curriculum. Students are left alone in a phase which will decide about their futures. Their experiences, bad and good, will influence their trajectory. Not just that the students might not live up to their potential because the things happening to them are almost aleatory, the academic world misses a chance to stay in touch with reality. The current reality and the reality we might have helped to construct.