Design strategy in industrial design – university environment

Martin Baláž, Zuzana Waszczuková Pergerová


The paper mainly focuses on the creation and formulation of a design strategy in a creative process, on multidisciplinary communication, personal experience and teaching methodology. An important although not the only result of our research is a university course Design Strategy in Industrial Design, intended for the 1st year of master’s studies in the study program Design at the Faculty of Architecture of the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava with a multidisciplinary connection within an integrated course module. A path full of individual effort and initiatives by the Faculty of Architecture and by the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava led to the creation of the course. Basically, it was the university environment and opportunities for multidisciplinary communication that inspired us at the beginning and finally brought the results, which are discussed in more detail in the paper.

In an effort to deepen the previously rather formal contacts, the personal initiative of students, pedagogues and doctoral students of design and construction programmes resulted in a creation of an open design team FAST at Faculty of Architecture (team leader Mgr. art. Martin Baláž, ArtD.) and cooperation with FME Racing Team from the faculty of Mechanical Engineering, which began with a project Futuristic Prototype within the competition Shell Eco Marathon 2014, intended for university teams. Democratic leadership and individual initiative far beyond the lesson plans provided a first impulse, the first signs of a team design strategy. Nevertheless, moving towards the goal was initially not easy for everyone, even though the opportunity to design a functional vehicle was appealing. The relatively different nature of the cooperating departments, with their own design strategies, pace of work and output expectations, has posed a challenge that persisted throughout the whole project. A significant convergence of our views and opinions, of course, came by happy chance with a successful result. The joint project received a grant from the Tatra Banka Foundation – „Viac dizajnu“ (More Design), and the results have been exhibited even in the Czech Republic and Germany. A number of presentations, lectures and articles, for academics and for the general public have been accomplished concomitantly. Thanks to its media presentation and the exhibitions, the project became known to the professional and general public. Both research teams thus gained more support from the heads of their faculties, and the mutual cooperation could fully develop.

After evaluating the results of our first multi-disciplinary collaboration, we chose a strategy of greater integration with the teaching/learning process, so we decided to incorporate few bachelor’s theses (in vertical studio of Mr. Baláž) in our next project and to improve the communication with supervisors from cooperating departments, with a positive impact on students, who therefore could also cooperate more extensively. At the same time, as part of the new accreditation, a new subject Design Strategy in Industrial Design (guarantor, pedagogue Mgr. Art. Martin Baláž, ArtD., ArtD doctoral assistant Mgr. Art. Zuzana Waszczuková) began to fully develop, with the objective to mediate closer multidisciplinary contacts for a wider group of students. From the perspective of semestral design topics, this compulsory elective subject is similar to the Studio Design Courses, but has lower expectations as to the level of the final output. The emphasis is placed on communication and gaining knowledge and experience from the multidisciplinary cooperation. The character of the semestral design topics and the way of teaching the course are discussed in the second part of the paper, where we explain the evaluation of students working process and design strategies, which we observed, and we pay attention to the “intermediate phase” of the creative process, by which we mean a stage where many students temporarily lose motivation, usually while they focus too much on technical and production parameters of their designs. Experience has shown us that every student experiences this phase during the semester; the only difference is which design strategy they choose next. Based on almost 5 years of experience with the subject Design Strategy in Industrial Design, we would like to emphasize that direct cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has clearly enriched and streamlined the design process for our students. The “action-centric” or “learning by doing” approach also brought positive experience. For the purposes of this paper, we have approached graduates of this teaching format with a request for anonymous feedback. We quote the results of the survey in the “design research” section.

In conclusion, we present selected results of our pedagogical efforts in the form of case studies of student work from the subject Design Strategy in Industrial Design at FA STU in Bratislava. We also present a publication that has resulted from a multidisciplinary cooperation with the course Bodyworks (pedagogue Ing. Jana Gulanová, PhD.) at FME STU in Bratislava.

Keywords: education, engineering, transport, action-centric, peer learning, strategy, multi-disciplinarity, collaboration, design, product