The New Studio

Paul T. Skaggs
Brigham Young University


Paul T. Skaggs, IDSA
Brigham Young University, Chair of the Industrial Design Program

The studio method of instruction, termed “the classroom of the future,” is receiving a great deal of attention in the academic media. MIT’s new engineering building, for instance, will have numerous studio-instruction classrooms. The National Science Foundation is also promoting studio instruction in engineering and the sciences. Because the Industrial Design department at Brigham Young University (BYU) has been using the studio method of instruction for more than 40 years, we were  asked to give a presentation on the subject to the Engineering faculty at BYU. The presentation focused on the principles of the studio class and where it works well and where it may not. The conversation that was generated from the presentation caused members of the Industrial Design faculty to reflect on our own style of studio instruction. We realized that the way we look at the studio experience has changed. Many of the principles that form the core of studio instruction have evolved as the design industry, design methods, students, and technologies have changed. As design educators, we have experienced and struggled with these changes and how they have impacted our studio classes and design students. As a result, we began to look at our methods to determine what the tradition from the visual-arts past was and what is truly needed in design education today. We discovered that it was time for us to move away from the workroom mentality of the traditional arts and crafts–based studio and toward the more current business model of the studio as a war room. The focus of the studio has moved from making things to making meaning. This change has mirrored what is happening in the design industry as it has moved from focusing on tactical problem-solving skills to more strategic problem-finding and problem-defining skills. This paper outlines the history, basic principles, and focus of studio instruction and what has prompted our breaking with this long tradition.