Detroit 2022


In this workshop, we will first give you a sneak preview of the brand-new Cumulus Design Competency Resource* which aims to become a global platform for design teachers to share their best student ‘Learning Experiences’.
Then we invite you to share your stories about the Learning Experiences you conceived for your design class or studio and how they inspired and enabled students to grow their competencies in design.
Working in small groups, we’ll then tag your stories using the Design Competency Resource, to make your unique learning experiences accessible, shareable and findable for the global Cumulus Community of design educators.
*AADTE, Cumulus and DCF have been working on the creation of the Design Competency Resource over the past three years, funded by a Cumulus grant.

Workshop Description

The AADTE Working group is about to launch a website highlighting the competencies that makes being a designer so special as a shared resource for design teachers around the world. Before its official launch during Cumulus Antwerp in 2023 we need you to read this and join us in Detroit.

Before you take off….
While you are getting packed your suitcases to get to the Cumulus conference in Detroit, you’ll be mentally preparing for deep, inspiring and mind-bending paper presentations and discussions.
For a week, you won’t be teaching students or managing your departments. The everyday interactions with design students in the classroom or design studio are getting more distant on your back mirror.
While the view forward at the broad, deep and far-reaching landscape of research is inspiring, we feel that taking a better look at the everyday of teaching provides a similar wealth of insight, if we take the effort. To quote Goethe, ‘The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes’.
This AADTE working group session will aim the lens of inquiry at what is usually right in front of your eyes in the classroom, and in the design studio. What’s so special about teaching design? What kinds of learning experiences are involved? Can you identify the unique design competencies that are being taught?

For example
We feel that the most important and strategic things in design that are so valuable in today’s discourses about design thinking are situated and acquired in learning experiences of students in the context of everyday teaching. For example, in model / figure drawing, not only do we acquire skills like observation, drawing and composition but also learn to ‘think spatially’, to ‘see relationships’ or even learn to empathize. In another example, by asking students to work in small groups, with one of the students managing the process, all students learn about collaboration, and some learn about managing a project.

What we are looking for
What are your best stories about creating learning experiences in design? What are the most valuable learning experiences you can share beyond the walls of your own classroom or studio?  How do these experiences help students to grow? What are some of the higher-level design competencies that are situated and acquired? Could you inspire colleague teachers around the world? We would love to capture some of this knowledge and experience.
We’re not looking for theories on how design thinking gets developed, but looking for the everyday moments in the classroom, where students are working on project work, either alone, in groups, in the class, in a lab or in a studio…

The workshop
In the workshop we’ll invite you first to describe a learning experience you set up for students. You could present in a hands-on way how you prepare it, how the learning experience plays out, the activities the students engage in (both in the studio and in their own time) and how discussion, sharing, and feedback occur. And anything else you feel is important.
We have prepared a list of possible learnings (design competencies) with their definitions. These competencies will be used as tags so other teachers can find the learning experiences; they’re interested in on the website/shared resource we’re creating.

Post workshop
We’d like to publish the learning experiences you presented in this workshop (with your credentials off course)on the website/resource we’re creating, so that at Cumulus Antwerp we can celebrate the rich diversity, depth and value of everyday teaching.

How we got to here…
At Cumulus Hong Kong (2016), Pr. Job Rutgers from OCADU in Toronto began a partnership with Dr. John Fass and Mo Ling Chui from UAL’s London College of Communication (LCC). This partnership applies design thinking to the creation of design pedagogy and design curriculum. Since then, the group presented workshops and papers on Design + Art Competencies at Cumulus conferences in Kolding and in Paris. In 2018 it organized a large workshop at AIGA in Minneapolis and presented a paper for the Design Research Society Conference in Limerick, Ireland.
At Cumulus Paris we agreed with Cumulus conference organizers (Luisa Collina and Martti Raevaara) to integrate the format of the competency workshop to date into the pedagogy working group, to create an annual platform to summarize and synthesize findings on art + design competencies. Prior to COVID, during Cumulus Rovaniemi, we created a team of ‘rapporteurs’ to create an overview of the competencies being implied within the broad array of presentations and papers. Now at Cumulus Detroit, we again pick up the collaborative conversation, and would love to see you there!

We are: Design Competency Futures
The facilitators of this workshop (Rutgers, Fass) are founders of the Design Competency Futures initiative. As design educators and researchers, we have seen how the discourse on design thinking has popularized design far beyond the profession of design.
But how do design students acquire their valuable competencies? To find out, at conferences around the world we facilitate workshops with leading designers, design educators and design administrators and co-investigate, co-create future proof design competencies. For more information on our process please refer to

Time: Wednesday 2 November 2022,  13:30-15.00, Room 1141

Get in touch:

Pr. Job Rutgers
OCAD University Toronto, Canada

Dr. John Fass
LCC London, UK