Toward constructing a theoretical model for future design education

  • Leijing ZHOU

Student thesis: PhD Thesis


The globalization of economies, along with the rapid development of information technologies, has seen the transition of societies from industrial economies towards creative knowledge economies that emphasize knowledge and skills. However, there are challenges for design education to meet the demands of the knowledge economy. Designers are facing more “wicked problems” and poorly-understood phenomena in a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Some design educators have pointed out that traditional education programs are not up to the challenges faced in a complex world. For industrial design educators, this phenomenon raises provocative questions, such as: What are the trends in design education? How can we cultivate design students to prepare for the demands of future designers in a complex and rapidly-changing world?
This thesis aims to investigate the state of art and future vision of design education and construct a theoretical model for future design education. The thesis firstly reviews different literatures describing important elements of design education including learning theories, definition of design education and theoretical models of design education (Chapter 2). General research methods in the field of design education are introduced including interview, systematic review, questionnaire, theory, case study and data analysis (Chapter 3). The thesis conducts three studies to collect data about the influencing factors of future design education including expert interviews (Chapter 4), Top 50 design institute analysis (Chapter 5) and a questionnaire on design education (Chapter 6). A structural equation model about future design education is developed based on these studies. This model has several features, which are: (1) holistic and comprehensive; (2) reflecting the changes of industrial design; (3) based on empirical data in the real world; (4) provides operable teaching strategies for educators; and (5) indicates the gap between current situation and future vision of design education. In addition to this theoretical contribution to design education community, this thesis applies AI-supported collaborative learning strategy in educational practice, that aims to facilitate design education based on the proposed model (Chapter 7). An AI-supported design tool was developed that is innovative and efficient to help designers for idea generation and fast prototyping. A case study in the form of design workshop is implemented and discussed to evaluate the reliability and validity of the proposed learning strategy and the design education model (Chapter 8). In conclusion, the specific contributions to cultural studies, AI-supported strategy and collaborative learning are discussed (Chapter 9). The implications of future work are highlighted (Chapter 10).
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorXu Sun (Supervisor), Sue Cobb (Supervisor) & Jie YU (Supervisor)


  • design education

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