Becoming more than makers: the case to balance hard and soft skills in design foundations

By Aaron Ganci

Presented 26 March 2015 at FATE 2015 National Conference: Tectonic Shifts, Unthinking Foundations Session, Indianapolis, IN


Many industries are looking to creatives to help them separate themselves from their competitors. This is especially true for designers, whose processes and visualization skills make them excellent collaborators for a wide variety of projects. Increasingly, designers find themselves working outside the traditional realm of creative activity.

To be prepared for this new reality, creatives must add new skills to their traditional technical set. Students need to become experts in soft skills: knowing how to leverage empathy, tap into civic agency, develop research skills, learn to write well, and tell a compelling story. Design academia has been addressing these skills at the upper levels for a several years now. However, in order for creative professionals to truly excel in these new domains, they must begin to practice them earlier in their academic career.

In this paper, I will make a case that soft skills should become equally important to technical skills within the foundation experience. I will provide insights about what skills are necessary for students to develop at a foundation level. These insights are derived from an ongoing research project where professional designers are observed and interviewed to accurately describe the roles and activity of contemporary design.


Slide Deck (1.9MB PDF)