Gaining the skills to thrive in the world of design
Dr Faith Kane, a senior lecturer in textile design at Massey University’s School of Design in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, encourages her students to follow their instincts, discover their passions and develop their design thinking skills.
It’s a mindset that prepares students for the fast-changing future of the modern workplace – even beyond the world of design.
“Design thinking is a human-centred approach to problem finding and solving,” Faith says.
“It enables students to apply their creative skills to a range of different contexts, and to have the confidence to apply creative thinking to future scenarios we may not completely understand yet.”
Faith’s third-year textile design students recently demonstrated their ability to apply their new skills to real-world projects by taking part in a competition run by the regional council to explore innovations in reflective textiles and materials.
“The idea was to encourage people to walk and cycle around the city safely and sustainably,” Faith says. “Our students incorporated retro reflective materials into a whole range of new textile structures to transform cyclewear.”
Students fused traditional textile processes such as weaving, knitting and felting with cutting-edge technologies such as laser processing, 3D printing and e-textile techniques. Their designs were showcased in a public exhibition after the competition ended.
What makes the New Zealand education system unique, Faith believes, is the way it encourages critical and creative thinking. Students are supported to be innovative and independent learners.
“New Zealand is very open to new ideas and new thinking, and that really filters down into the approach of the School of Design,” says Faith, who came to New Zealand in 2016 after a distinguished teaching and research career in the UK.
There's a real sense that anyone can have a go at anything. They have the freedom to fail, and to learn from that and move on. Innovation can emerge and flourish.
New Zealand’s ‘have a go at anything’ attitude strongly resonates with Faith. She’s always challenging her students to experiment in other areas to broaden their horizons and keep their options open. This interdisciplinary approach is a strong feature of New Zealand’s education system.0
“My textile students work across disciplines, drawing inspiration from diverse areas like computer programming, digital fabrication, fashion, graphics, spatial and communication design, as well as fine arts,” she says.
“We don't know what industry is going to need in the next 20 years. The School of Design is placed really well to respond flexibly and creatively because of this interdisciplinary approach.”
Faith is confident that her students’ experiences at the school, including working on collaborative projects with external partners and live industry briefs, is excellent preparation to succeed in whichever career they choose.
“The skills my students learn will set them up for work in a lot of different roles and industries,” she says.
As a teacher, I'm preparing these students for a rapidly changing future.
Developing skills to stand out in the workplace
Visual communication design student April Jia Hui Liam, from Brunei, studies at the School of Design where Faith teaches. April believes the critical and creative thinking she has developed in New Zealand will be good preparation for her future career.
“Teachers in New Zealand give you the freedom to express yourself, and they push you to think outside the box. It really helps you stand out in the workplace, and in the creative industry,” she says.
Teachers in New Zealand give you the freedom to express yourself, and they push you to think outside the box. It really helps you stand out in the workplace, and in the creative industry.
Experiment with many aspects of design has enabled April to develop a broad range of skills, which will give her more opportunities in the future.
“I may be in visual communication design, but I can try out different things. And that really increases your skill set,” April says.
“Instead of just being a graphic designer, I can be a lot of different things.”
About the contributors
Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student.