#13 The Design Teacher

I’d like to introduce you all to Professor Mike Press. I’m very lucky because Mike taught me at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and it’s safe to say he has inspired me since the day I met him. Here is a post I wrote about a lecture he gave me seven years ago :)

I remember the day Mike talked to our class about Design Against Crime – it was the day I realised I didn’t need to design objects and started my journey to become a service designer. Since then we have worked together on many many things and he is now my friend as well as my role model.

I’m delighted Mike is coming to teach Hyper Island students at the end of this month. Here’s what he has to say….

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?

That we never stop learning and we never stop reinventing. A year ago I was part of a team described by my university principal as “passionate explorers” as we were delivering pioneering programmes in service design and design ethnography. Nine months ago my fellow team members all left the University to take on new opportunities outside education. So I had to do some quick learning and adapting. I’m now delivering the world’s only Masters programme on service design for public service professionals which is provided via distance learning. Online teaching is completely new to me so I’ve had to design the course and the content, and learn new methods of engaging students. It’s been challenging but hugely enjoyable and rewarding. This has helped me develop the vision for a unique MBA program which I hope to put together over the next year. We have to constantly learn new things, we have to constantly give ourselves new challenges, and stake out the new territories of opportunity.

As Brian Eno says, creative people are either cowboys or farmers. For a time I was a farmer, but over this last year I’ve saddled up to ride as a high plains drifter on a new range of learning.


What’s your burning question of the moment?

How do we reshape higher education? The world is changing very quickly and the structures and methods of education are not moving fast enough to keep up. Universities, art schools and other institutions of learning need to adapt far more quickly if they are to maintain their relevance to the communities they supposedly serve. In my view we need to envisage a diverse landscape on learning opportunities that involve public providers alongside others,  and provide flexible systems for learning that more fully exploit the social expertise within workplaces and communities. Universities were a wonderful invention of mediaeval Europe. The question is: are they fit for purpose in the 21st century?
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen/ heard/ read in the last year?

Being an educator means that you’re never short of inspiration. My students never fail to inspire me by demonstrating how they grow in terms of the challenges they set themselves and the confidence that they gain. There are so many instances over the last year and so I will pluck one at random. Earlier this week five of my students participated in a very high level exploratory workshop to help redesign NHS outpatient services. They were the only students taking part, alongside chief executives, senior clinicians and NHS Scotland policymakers. None of the students had ever taken part in an event like it, and none had ever done any work in healthcare. The CEO of the organisation running the event emailed me yesterday to say that my students provided some of the best insights and ideas in the whole event, and one student had actually facilitated one of the two-hour workshops. The week before, this very same student was talking to me about her lack of confidence and feeling that she should maybe give up her course.

This is why we teach.

What would be your one piece of advice to students on Hyper Island’s new MA in Digital Experience Design?

Aspire to be a social expert. Expertise can be social or antisocial: it can be shared and open, or guarded selfishly and sold as a commodity. All human progress relies on social expertise and realising that the thing that we are really brilliant at, as well as earning us a good living, is something that we can teach others and that can inspire others.

Social expertise makes the world a better place.