Politics and education in art and design

“We expect art to be shocking, extreme.” say Dunne and Raby.

I think it might be the other way around sometimes though, art tries to be just art, and we somehow decide to take it personally. Maybe because it’s one of the last uncommercialisable and don’t-have-to-be-politically-friendly forms of expression. Maybe because you can’t call the cops because you’re being personally offended by what’s being displayed.

Or can you?

For example, if you try to exhibit a chocolate Jesus at Easter, well your show might be canceled.

Or if you’re not of the same ethnic background as the person you’re sculpting you might have people protesting to the government.

I’ve written a lot about design and education in my interviews lately and I feel that the same education also applies to art. To understand art and it’s value, it’s value as a commentary, a personal vision, a stance is something that is taught. To understand the value of the design methodologies to better a business, see the potential in an idea, think out of the box about a certain problem, needs education as well. But what does it take in North America to achieve that when european dry design is met with suspicion.

Being a young country, maybe North America hasn’t been exposed as much as Europe has to a history of art. Growing up in Paris, I was taught art history at age 7 and knew my Gauguin from my Seurat. I doubt you could say the same from most young kids now.

In the UK, a few years ago the Design Council was involved in an endeavor to push design classes to take place in primary schools. I hope that comes back as a part of the national curriculum, as Denmark did with user-centered design.

The earlier you learn about the value, place and potential of art and design in the world, the less likely you are to grow up to be the kind of adult who calls up your local council with a petition because someone’s exhibiting an egg-shaped baby.

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.


  1. “To understand the value of the design methodologies to better a business, see the potential in an idea, think out of the box about a certain problem, needs education as well.”


    Education is a set of principles which helps to create a community of thoughts. It really has a goal, and why we call it propaganda or education depends a lot more on the discrepancies between the accepted values of the community and the promoted content.

    Growing up in Paris is the key more than growing up in Europe (or even in France). You could replace Paris, by London, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, etc. It becomes less true if you grew up in Ljubljana, or in deep rural area of France. Children from the country side will have a rich culture about the local environment, plants, nature, animals. They will be able to interact with it because it what matters to them.

  2. Hi karl,

    I agree with you about the first part, the education-based fight about creationism versus darwinism in the USA is an example amongst many.

    However, I tend to disagree with you about the latter. Living in the countyside isn’t an isolated concept. In what country, under what economic conditions, with what space, in what kind of family, all these things may or may not contribute to an interest or complete disregard toward the environment. Having lived in the countryside myself for many years, I’ve seen many different attitudes. Living in the Italian alps, home of Olivetti and it’s design contribution, or around Limoges with it’s porcelain manufacture, or around Erfurt with it’s former GDR factories all of these might shape an interest and understanding of design, or the mechanisms of construction, building and manufacture. Being in the countryside does not mean isolation anymore. 50% of the world’s population lives in cities now. That shapes our collective thinking as well.

  3. That would be interesting to discuss live in 10 days ;) I’m looking forward to it in front of a cafe latte at Laika.

Comments are closed.