Architecture, they say, has existed since the ancient times. Because as much as humans need food, air, and water, they also need a space to shelter themselves from harsh environments and the wild. But since when did the need for a shelter grow from a simple requirement to something that has meaning and aesthetics? When was architecture or design understood as something that requires thought and consideration? Or as a skill that has to be passed on?

A Look into the History

While educational and knowledge transmission methods were different from modern educational structures, the transfer of design-related skills and knowledge existed even during ancient times. Primarily passed down orally or through hands-on experience, craftsmen in ancient civilizations who specialized in architecture, pottery, sculptures, and other artifacts taught their techniques and aesthetics, passing on practical knowledge through workshops and guided mentorships. This can be referred to as an informal yet foundational aspect of design education in history.

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Artisans of ancient Egypt_©

Fast forward to the Renaissance, when a significant shift was observed in the perception of education, including design education. This era of classical revivalism found a fresh interest in art, science, and philosophy, from which a more structured approach to teaching artistic and design principles was developed. Notable Renaissance artists like Leonardo da Vinci were known for their comprehensive studies and notebooks that spanned diverse fields other than art including scientific observations, anatomy, and engineering. They also were educators and played a huge role in creating the next generation of artists and craftsmen. 

Additionally, it was during this era that formal academies dedicated to the arts began to emerge. A first of such institutions is the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence (founded in 1563), which was an academy of artists where formal fine-arts teaching was also carried out. 


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The Palazzo dell’Arte dei Beccai, headquarters of the Accademia_© wikipedia

Origins of Contemporary Design Education

The emergence of formal design education is relatively new and can be traced back to the early 20th century when art schools began incorporating design principles into their curriculum. Walter Gropius founded Staatliche Bauhaus, or the Bauhaus School, in Germany- a pioneering movement to reconcile the teaching and practice of fine arts with applied arts (design). The Bauhaus pedagogical program could be described as an early prototype of the contemporary design education system. It was from Bauhaus that the concept of a foundation course and the focus on developing a theoretical basis for design work evolved. The shift from design as an artisan trade to a scholarly discipline marks the early stages of the professionalization of design. 

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Aerial photograph of Bauhaus School in 1926, from a postcard_©The Getty Research Institute/ Junkers Luftbild, 1926.

The Bauhaus played a pivotal role in legitimizing the teaching of design as an academic subject.

A major setback of the Bauhaus school of thought was the exception of the history of art or architecture from its curriculum. Avoiding any positive mentions of history was intentional, as historical continuity had been prioritized in Beaux-Arts education, a principle in direct opposition to which the Bauhaus was established. The intent was to train students to create something new rather than reproduce.

Post World War II, an increase in demand for specialized design skills led to the establishment of dedicated design schools and programs. The emerging prominence of disciplines like graphic design, industrial design, and architecture marked the era of focused expertise and industry-specific training.   

Advent into the Digital Era and Design Education Today

With the introduction of digital technology in the latter half of the 20th century, design education witnessed a radical change. Computer-aided design (CAD) tools took over the creative process and redefined how designers conceptualized and visualized their ideas. The need to spend long hours at the drafting table was resolved. This era brought about a fundamental change in the skill sets required of design graduates, emphasizing digital fluency and adaptability. 

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The introduction of computer-aided design boosted the design process_©

Coming to today’s design education, this quote by Victor Papanek, one of his era’s most notable designers, stands true even 53 years later: “Education for designers (like nearly all education) is based on learning skills, nourishing talents, understanding the concepts and theories that inform the field, and, finally, acquiring a philosophy. It is unfortunate that our design schools proceed from wrong assumptions. The skills we teach are too often related to processes and working methods of an age that has ended.”

Today’s design curriculum contains much of the syllabus developed over years at several schools and academies in Europe, which include The Royal College of Art, London (began in 1837), The Glasgow School of Art (1845), The Rhode Island School of Design (1877, USA), Konstfack Stockholm (1844) and The National Academy of Craft and Art Industry (1818). Historical and cultural integration, human ergonomics, environmental awareness, etc were all added along the way. 

Why the Current System is Outdated

However, it is still very back in time. I cannot speak for international curriculums, but the Indian architectural education scenario is extremely outdated and hardly strives to keep up with the incredibly fast world. Encouragement for sustainability is one of the greatest ironies I have observed- sustainability is taught and expected to be integrated into students’ designs, but submission is rendered incomplete without printed sheets, often in sizes are large as A2 or more. Throughout a semester, students are instructed to print multiple sheets, resulting in a significant volume of paper waste from a single architecture classroom. 

In an era where even classrooms and offices are being digitalized, architecture colleges still want us to waste time, money, and paper to print sheets multiple times a year. 

Another bad culture that has been associated with architectural education is the encouragement of toxic culture. Recalling a professor who boasted about surviving a week with barely two hours of sleep during his college days, disregarding our evident exhaustion after an all-nighter. 

The current system of education seldom prepares students for the real-world challenges they’ll have to face. Unlike fields like medicine, law, and business, which offer valuable bits of advice derived from their professional histories, design education lacks similar guidance and counsel. 

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Architectural Education has to keep up with the changing times_©

The concern is that design education hasn’t adequately adapted to the demands of the 21st century. While recognizing the significance of existing schools of design and its practitioners, there is a call for a broader curriculum. A recommendation is for all design institutions to teach the same core principles and subsequently provide specialized advanced courses that align with the school’s strengths or lead students toward various design specializations. 

Conclusion- The Future of Design Education 

The future of design education focuses on an interdisciplinary approach, with sustainability at its core. Collaborations with fields like psychology, business, and environmental science foster innovation and equip designers to address the complex challenges prone to arise in this rapidly changing world. 

An interesting process to witness will be how much will AI take over the design world, and to what extent will artificial intelligence be used by designers. It will also be virtually impossible to abstain from the integration of AI into design education soon. 

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A11781-Analyzing the Evolution of Design Education Historical Perspectives and Future Trends

Since COVID, the trend of remote learning has also taken over, which has catalyzed the adaptation of digital platforms in design education. Online tools and virtual classrooms enhance flexibility and access, enabling worldwide student participation in collaborative learning.

To put it in a nutshell, design education has had a wonderful evolution marked by adaptation, innovation, and responsiveness. As we move toward the future, a more technologically integrated, sustainability-driven, and interdisciplinary approach has to be embraced to make up with the pace of the ever-evolving world. It is high time for today’s community of design educators to modify the design-learning strategies to accommodate the many different styles and goals of the 21st century, like Bauhaus in its time. 


Findeli, A. (1995). Design History and Design Studies: Methodological, Epistemological and Pedagogical Inquiry. Design Issues, 11(1), pp 43-65. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from

Levy, R. (1990). Design Education: Time to Reflect. Design Issues, 7(1), pp 42-52. Retrieved December 25, 2023

Micheal W.Meyer, D. N. (2020). Changing Design Education for the 21st Century. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 6(1), pp 13-49. Retrieved December 25, 2023, from 


  1. Artisans of ancient Egypt_©
  2. The Palazzo dell’Arte dei Beccai, headquarters of the Accademia_© Wikipedia
  3. Aerial photograph of Bauhaus School in 1926, from a postcard_©The Getty Research Institute/ Junkers Luftbild, 1926
  4. The introduction of computer-aided design boosted the design process_©
  5. Architectural Education has to keep up with the changing times_©
  6. A city of the future- an image developed by AI_©

Safnaz is a fresh architect who loves looking into and drawing inspiration from various cultures. Along with her passion for poetry, writing, hand-lettering and design, she is aware of the impact architecture has on shaping human lives and is a firm believer in responsible architecture.