| The Royal Designers Summer School (RDI Summer School) is designed to inspire those who attend to use their creativity and wit to serve the global community better at a time of great change. It is run as a transformative experience, bringing together young and more experienced designers with “wild-cards”, those who are in some way touched by design. Its core purpose is to create the conditions to stimulate intellectual reflection across many disciplines and generate insights, and in some case create the confidence to engender lasting change.There is a short link here www.theRSA.org/summerschool, giving more information.Please note that applications are now closed for this year’s school.Young designers come to the end of their formal education – at Bachelor or Masters level – and, with some good fortune, start work. Often, these early jobs are taken gratefully but may narrow rapidly onto a specialist path that may not be all that meaningfully or purposefully chosen. After a few years – say between 5 and 15 years after graduation – there can, and maybe should, be a moment for reflection. The School addresses the need for that reflection, and provides young designers with an opportunity to review the next step in their careers at a telling time.
On the other hand, Royal Designers (RDI’s) are usually well into their careers: indeed we cannot be elected by RSA without having demonstrated “sustained excellence” in our field. RDI’s are often influential leaders in their respective fields. But in a time of rapid social and environmental evolution, which of course needs design to offer solutions, even the garlanded RDI’s need time for reflection: we may be older and more experienced than the young designers, but our continuing influence makes reflection equally necessary, and no less exploratory and no less challenging. The School provides RDI’s space for reflection, and also, through close interaction, gives an opportunity for us to engage with the passions and hopes of our eventual successors.
Into this mix we add a significant number of ‘wild-cards’; people from outside the design community who volunteer, or are invited, to join the School because in some way they touch the profession – as a commissioner, as a consumer, as someone who could benefit from design or is suffering from a surfeit of it. Wild-cards are sometimes the sand in the oyster or the balm on the wound. They are invaluable in this role, confronting designers with the consequences of, and context for, their actions, giving design a touch-stone. Wild-cards sometimes begin from a position of healthy scepticism, yet have invariably found the experience as transformative as the designers.
There have been 8 Summer Schools since 1999 and each one has gently pushed the boundaries of design and its community. At the School, everyone is regarded with equality; there is no hierarchy. The RSA’s Faculty of Royal Designers attempts to raise funds to run the school as effectively a pro-bono activity, to make sure that it is open to all, purely on merit, regardless of ability to pay. In part the funding pays for accommodation for those who attend.
An aim of the school is to provide a fertile meeting ground for those whose paths might not otherwise cross. As the summer school grows, its network and influence grows too. Since 1999, nearly 250 first-class young designers have attended the School, and many have begun to play a significant part in the UK design community and beyond. Given the calibre of the candidates, we believe this effort touches many who will be the future leaders of the design community. An increasing number of wild-cards have joined them, and increasingly the school has taken a proactive stance on issues of sustainability, social empowerment, and personal responsibility.
At the school, there are no classes as such, and the choreography is understated to give those who attend the utmost freedom. Such freedom comes with responsibility but we hope, provides a reward. There is reflection, conversation, inspiration, stimulation, play, tears, laughter, and we hope, moments of clear insight and even epiphany. More than that each year, we cannot say, as it remains to be discovered, born out of the particular collective experience of those who attend each School.
At the School the three groups come together to spend four days taking what can become a radical journey. They prop each other, confront each other, question each other across disciplines and cultures – and question themselves, without hierarchy or preference.
We know from experience that the people coming out of the School have been touched and enhanced by it. The aim is always to understand design better, in its ever-changing context, and therefore to be better able to use design for the common good. For everyone there is the possibility of an answer to a question long-addressed, or an insight into a purpose formerly misunderstood, and these are the key desirable outcomes of the school. For some, the School has even led to a moment of “epiphany”, triggering a fundamental shift in personal or practice direction. Several have handed in their notice on the Monday they return to work, others have finally taken the plunge and founded the design practice they have long wished for. The wild-cards develop a sense of the drivers behind design, and often a new respect for the designers themselves, and perhaps leave regarding design and less risky, more trustworthy than hitherto.
The four days are punctuated by visits from outside speakers, performers and events and meals that encourage debate. Another aim of the school is to provide a fertile meeting ground for those whose paths might not otherwise cross. As the summer school grows, its network and influence grows too. Since 1999, nearly 250 first-class young designers have attended the School, and many have begun to play a significant part in the UK design community. Given the calibre of the candidates, we believe this effort touches many who will be the future leaders of the design community, and many who will be their clients either directly, or in society.
This year we propose to expand the proportion of places allocated to the crucial ‘wild-cards’, so the cohort of 48 is made up of 12 Royal Designers; 24 young designers; 12 wildcards. The Summer School hosts everyone, taken from many traditional and emerging disciplines, within an apparently gentle and minimal form. All who attend give their time pro-bono, and are asked to pay a nominal registration fee of £200 if selected.
We want all those who attend the School to leave feeling that they have had at least one moment of enlightenment.
We want the experience of the School to be a seed for something within or around the world of design later in the careers, but we may not know what that will be until much later.
We want the Royal Designers to be able to spend a little time being challenged on their world view to bring it into sharper focus, so that, where they have influence, they can explain it to others who might find it useful.
We believe the rich mix of the School broadens its eventual impact, whose effect is felt over the ensuing years in its ripples out to wider society.
And, we want the experience to develop in those who attend a sense of their personal responsibility to use their talents widely and effectively for the good of humanity….whether that is through Firmness, Commodity or Delight remains to be seen.
Images taken on behalf of the Royal Designers by Alistair Hall of we-made-this http://wemadethis.co.uk/
You can see more of Alsitair’s pictures of the summer school at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdisummerschool/sets/