Annual Lecture 2022

Building on the success of the 2021 and 2022  Freshers' receptions in the convivial Lecture and Loftus rooms of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, we held the 2022 AGM and Annual Lecture, with buffet dinner, at the same venue. The venue proved to be very suitable for this event.

The annual lecture after the AGM and buffet on October 7th was to be given by Sir Liam Donaldson. Unfortunately, a change to his travel plans meant that he could no longer be in Newcastle on that day. NCA honorary secretary Gilbert Cockton stepped in to give a replacement lecture, Coming Soonish, Design Tripos, a brisk tour of the creative design practices that will add new undergraduate experiences and postgraduate opportunities. He was able to repurpose content that he had prepared for a keynote address at a conference in Brazil  11 days after our AGM. This keynote benefitted from his impromptu presentation to a more general audience.

In November 2021, the university announced a new tripos in Design, to begin in 2024.

A brand-new Cambridge degree - the first undergraduate course ‘designed from scratch’ at the University for a number of years - will merge arts and science to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

For the first time, the Design Tripos brings together architecture, engineering, and materials science in a single degree. Blending technical content with design freedom, the course will offer a different kind of creativity, and a new approach to tackling societal and environmental issues, including poverty and climate action.

Using practices of design and our understanding of how they influence people, economies and the natural world, the four-year Master of Design (MDes) degree will be structured around hands-on, problem-based learning projects. Studio work and practical skills, including drawing, writing, coding, and fabricating, will complement taught courses in the humanities, social and natural sciences, and mathematics - bringing historical, cultural, ecological and economic context.

This new tripos will add a distinctive student experience for Cambridge undergraduates that will prepare them for new opportunities in technical innovation. While details of the tripos are not yet publicly available, this new tripos will reflect what we know about creative practices in design work. The lecture provided a brisk tour through these practices, comparing and contrasting them with long established disciplines at Cambridge.

The Design tripos will be only the fifth creative degree programme at Cambridge, joining Music (1948), Architecture (1971), and two relatively recent Masters of Studies in Creative Writing (Crime and Thriller, Performance). It is a tiny step towards a more balanced mix of scholarly, professional, and creative degrees. For much of the university's history, only vocational subjects were studied (Divinity, Medicine and Law). Mathematics was added in the eighteenth century, followed by a dozen new triposes in the nineteenth century (see list provided by Queen's College). The twentieth century established the range of triposes that are currently offered, with many new vocational masters added so far this century.

Gilbert's lecture began with the research and practice of five Cambridge Professors who will or could have a role in the new tripos. He then focused on six fundamentals of creative practice, as consistently identified in a half-century of research into creative practice and innovation. He closed with brief examples of how creative progressions of design work can be supported by a range of resources for ideating, connecting, coalescing, and tracking within design teams.  As with the existing Music and Architecture triposes, students' work on the new Design tripos will have a very different character to that of the vast majority of Cambridge programmes in the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, and professional disciplines. With innovation so crucial to future economic, social and cultural development, Cambridge's embrace of the broad creative practices of design is bound to lead important contributions to our creative futures.

Gilbert Cockton (above photo by Bill Telford, former NCA Honorary President)is Honorary Secretary of the Northumbrian Cambridge Association, as well as its website manager and newsletter editor. Following History Part I and Education Part II at St. John’s, as a comprehensive school teacher he developed e-learning programs for history and social studies. This led on to a PhD in Computer Science and a career from research associate (Heriot-Watt and Glasgow) to research professor (Sunderland) in Human-Computer Interaction (what happens when people use computers, and how we can design to make this more worthwhile). Following a national NESTA fellowship on Value and Design, Gilbert became Professor of Design Theory at Northumbria University’s School of Design in 2009, and Emeritus after his first retirement in 2019. He soon returned part-time to Sunderland, following which he became Emeritus Professor again, in Computer Science. He has chaired the jury for the World Usability Initiative Design Challenge since his second retirement.

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