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Design Collaborations: the good,the Bad, and the Unthinkable

McFadyen, J and McCullagh, J (2015) Design Collaborations: the good,the Bad, and the Unthinkable. Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal - Annual Review, 8 (1). pp. 17-29. ISSN 1833-1874


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This conceptual paper is a study of the impact of three drivers: collaboration, interdisciplinary practice, and co-operation, which we recognise as the new imperatives for future design practitioners. Contextually, seeing national and international shifts in design, we challenged the idea of single "mono" design courses and questioned our own validity. Subsequently, we undertook a fundamental re-think of what an art school is for. By taking the notion of interdisciplinary design education this resulted in new curricula, a re-branding as the Manchester School of Art, and a physical resource to match our ambition. This paper articulates the design process employed in engaging staff to reflect and re-focus on the essence of an art school, and through doing this, develop a collegiate approach to the re-design of our buildings, a coming together of our distinct departments under a coherent brand, and the embedding of pedagogical collaboration through curricula in the form of the experimental Unit X. “X” enabled us to reflect back upon and question what is a subject. Ultimately, we discussed what is innovation and the place of risk-taking in learning. These tensions and questions have become ongoing debates and drivers for future developments and research.

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