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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


A New Kind of Originality: Thinking Through Other Disciplines

Mark Breitenberg.

I propose a paper on design education under the conference theme of 'blurring the institutional boundaries'. I will argue that we need to understand and teach originality and invention in new ways: no longer as ex nihilo acts of inspiration but rather as the creation of new combinations and relationships among existing concepts and practices--a collage notion of originality. This theoretical position, well articulated in many areas of postmodern thought, has never been applied as a specific model of education. Most importantly, it leads to and supports interdisciplinary education. But I will argue more than just the obvious idea that designers need to be fluent in different design fields. More importantly, designers need to think through concepts and structures of other disciplines. To borrow from the Russian linguist Victor Schlovsky, they need to 'defamiliarize' themselves from the knowledges and practices in which they have been trained. This journey away from home to understand more fully where one lives becomes the abiding idea behind a new curriculum for designers which I have implemented at Art Center College of Design. The second part of my paper will thus present a practical solution to the question of teaching originality and interdisciplinary education that may be applied to other fields as well.


Mark Breitenberg  (United States)
Liberal Arts & Sciences
Art Center College of Design

Mark Breitenberg holds a PhD in Literature and Critical Theory from the University of California with a specialty in Shakespeare and Renaissance culture. He is the author of Anxious Masculinity (Cambridge University Press) and many articles on early modern literature and culture. He has also written screenplays, educational tapes for Time/Warner, as well as articles and catalogue essays on contemporary art. He is currently the Chair of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Art Center College of Design, where he has designed a new liberal arts and sciences curriculum for the College in the past two years. That curriculum is based on interdisciplinary education that fosters a novel and very postmodern understanding of creativity. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on design education and the the place of design in contemporary culture.

  • Originality in Education
  • Interdisciplinary Education
  • Dissolving Boundaries
  • Teaching Creativity

(30 min Conference Paper, English)