Next September, we will be moving into the new premises of L’Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique on the Ile de Nantes. 11,000 m2 for an investment budget of 30M euros, this is the largest investment in design since the creation of the Cité du design in Saint Etienne.
We have been working on this project since 2008. The institutions, Grandes Ecoles, Universities and companies have gradually come to recognize the interest and relevance of what we do together. It became obvious that we needed to give ourselves the means to bring together all our activities in a single, emblematic location, which would put the region on the map, for the greatest benefit of staff, students and alumni.
Bringing together our activities and our teams, currently dispersed throughout the city over six different sites, is an opportunity for us to finally give full resonance to our work in design, creation and innovation. The geographic segmentation of the Bachelor’s, Dnmade and Master’s programs has made it difficult to optimize projects and collaborative work. From now on, it is a question of working transversally and between all the disciplines, and of combining the technical and project management aspects into a coherent whole. Having faculty and students from all disciplines and all graduate programs cross paths frequently is an opportunity to enrich all our practices.
L’École de design Nantes Atlantique must take advantage of the confidence of the institutions and the means given to it to take on a new impetus. It will be structured around tactical and strategic issues, around professionalization, the gradual transformation of design professions, and the social responsibility of designers.
Professionalization and digital transformation of professions
The relationship with businesses is at the heart of our pedagogical approach. More than just creatives, it is about training creative professionals who will find jobs as designers. Every year, over 80 companies propose projects in partnership with us. This educational approach allows students to think about many different sectors of activity and to be confronted with innovation issues in a highly professional way.
We are going to devote ourselves to the implementation of extended multi-year agreements that will reinforce the strategic dimension of design rather than its more tactical aspects. For example, several agreements have just been signed with the SNCF, Crédit Agricole and Nestlé. Their ultimate goal is to integrate our activities more widely and apply them simultaneously to Bachelors, Masters, apprenticeships and continuing education, so that design and designers are no longer considered as a “one-off skill set” but rather as a managerial pillar that can hold up all of a company’s activities.
Twenty years ago, L’École de design was one of the first institutions to teach digital design at a time when some were telling us that it was not a design discipline. We saw it as the training of the future and have since launched various undergraduate and graduate programs in the digital field.
But while digital technology has now taken over all the creative professions, it is important to develop all our training courses, to reinforce the learning of digital technology, which is disrupting all our know-how. It is a question of the competence of young graduates in their search for their first job. Digital technology is transforming all professions, and it seems to me that we have an important challenge to take up in order to upgrade our programs and thus demonstrate their relevance.
The design of the new building raises the question of these developments. It is a question of keeping, improving and developing everything that makes design specific in terms of its origin and culture linked to the applied arts, and at the same time being in phase with the contribution of digital technology and new digital tools in the changing face of disciplines.
Innovation and the Designer’s social responsibility
For the past 10 years, L’École de design Nantes Atlantique has been implementing a pedagogy that radically transforms the traditional design and applied arts curricula. It is about consecrating the shift of our professions towards more global and strategic reflections on the future of companies and society, as innovation becomes the key element in the development strategies of organizations.
Speculation on the uses of tomorrow becomes a factor of progress, which up until now has been embodied by science or economic development.
It is also a question of breaking with the myth of design being a solitary occupation. Design is a profession of transdisciplinary and transversal sharing and it is up to us to embody it.
The themes of our five design labs take into account societal shifts towards greater responsibility and ethics on the part of conscious consumers: the Digital design lab deals with the relationship between man and machine in the age of digital technology and artificial intelligence; the Food design lab focuses on how to eat better and how to feed 10 billion people on the planet; the City design lab examines the issues of living together and creating a society; and the Care design lab deals with the new relationships we need to maintain with regard to our health, well-being, ageing and security. The recently created Media design lab takes up the considerable challenges of information and mediation.
The research activity – essential for the recognition of design – that we carry out through the design labs must better inform all of our activities, thus allowing us to reflect on and share the advancement of our knowledge and practices, for the benefit of all our students.
The pooling of resources between undergraduate and graduate programs will enable us to place these societal issues even more firmly at the heart of our activities and thus to devote the designer’s ethical dimension to seeking responsible solutions for tomorrow.
Over and above innovation, and the development of companies, the designer must embody progress for the good of society. If design becomes strategic, the designer could embody progress at the highest level of any organization, precisely where the engineers and financiers are.
L’Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique will soon be moving to the Ile de Nantes. This is an opportunity for a new impetus, new reflections on the professions of creation and innovation, on education and more fundamentally on progress. No other project is richer or more exciting.