Arts, humanities and design skill sets and Industry 4.0

Written by Gillian Youngs, Professor of Creative and Digital Economy, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Canterbury Christ Church University, and a Trustee of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD).

September 03, 2019

We are long overdue more effectively joined-up thinking in policy circles about arts, humanities and design skill sets in Industry 4.0 and innovation contexts. The common tendency to position STEM hierarchically above creative competences and industries which drive a substantial part of the UK’s economic success is not only outdated but misleading. In the future economy these areas are characterized a lot more by what strategically connects them than what separates them.  

This point is supported by the fact that some years ago complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity moved to the top of the World Economic Forum’s key skills for Industry 4.0. It is also supported by the growing recognition of the interdisciplinary power of design as a core field and set of approaches equally vital to the scientific and technology as well as creative sectors.

Education at all levels should clearly be addressing these new agendas in formal and informal ways, including the challenges of overcoming the silos which tend to dominate academic and applied subjects. Design is a useful area of focus because of its direct association with problem-solving approaches and the multiple paths it opens up to exploring connections across different disciplines.

Design is also rich in possibilities for unpacking contrasting meanings and applications of creative thinking and practice. It can be a strong force for bringing conceptual, theoretical and applied perspectives together to identify and understand the full complexity of specific problems and goals, as well as setting out detailed strategies for negotiating them. 

Design incorporates the potential for close attention to values of all kinds – commercial, ethical, organizational and cultural to name just a few – so can be regarded as open and inclusive in its orientation to problem scoping and solving as well as visioning and planning.

It would be productive to see new strands of policy explicitly invested in developing integrated frameworks for creative, scientific and technological interpretations of innovation and Industry 4.0. It could even be an important future aspect of Brand UK.

By Gillian Youngs, Professor of Creative and Digital Economy, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Canterbury Christ Church University, and a Trustee of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD).

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