Chelsey Roberts is one of our Design Academy pioneers. As a student of three-dimensional design at Manchester Metropolitan School of Art, Chelsey took part in the first ever Design Academy – our strategic design programme for under-graduates – and told us how it helped her to see the bigger picture.

I applied for Design Academy because, as a maker of artefacts responding to social issues and an aspiring design writer, I wanted to learn more about the process of developing work based around major societal challenges and working in professional environments.

It has been brilliant to grow in these areas, but what I found most invaluable was being exposed to a completely new way of thinking. Strategic design principles and the double diamond design process will not only improve my design work, but also any future work I embark on that involves problem solving – which is most careers in some capacity!

Another valuable lesson I took away is that when developing solutions, 90% of time should be used to define the problem and the desired result of the solution, and 10% of time should be used to create the solution. This was a huge shift in the way the majority of students participating in this programme would normally have approached this, regardless of discipline. I think if this was taught and reiterated to all students of degrees that involve problem solving, the work produced would be much better, and certainly more relevant to people’s needs and desires.


Chelsey and fellow students on the Design Academy programme.

For me, one of the key values of this programme is showing design students exactly what they can do. Case studies and talks from inspirational professionals such as Lauren Currie (co-founder of Snook and Programme Manager of Hyper Island) and creatives such as Freddie Yauner certainly emphasised this.

In each design discipline available at universities like my own, regardless of the universities well placed encouragement for interdisciplinary collaboration, there’s a tendency for students to have a narrower idea of their future prospects than perhaps they should have. As someone who spreads her work across several disciplines mixing processes and materials, I thought I was in a better position than most regarding this.

However, Design Academy has opened me up to think about the bigger picture, the role digital technology can play in and with my work, and how collaborations on a larger scale and with unexpected organisations and groups is not only a possibility, but an exciting and beneficial thing to do.

Presenting work to a panel which included professionals from IBM, Design Council and the Cabinet Office was daunting, but incredible. Meeting such inspiring people and learning more about them personally was a privilege, and I was very proud when they awarded my team ‘highly commended’.

Overall, this has been a fantastic experience and one I’d recommend to anyone from any design discipline who wants to further their professional development, learn more about strategic design, and see the bigger picture.

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