Design is an alternative history; told through the cups, the saucers, pens, cars and the clothes; all the objects we surround ourselves with. It adds value to the world around us yet it is often dismissed and labelled ‘not academic’. With an object that performs its function well the design often goes unnoticed and is something which is taken for granted but poor design is instantly noticeable. Put a bad toothbrush in your mouth and you are suddenly aware of a bad design choice.


Alina Wheeler, Brand Designer 2016

Not always defined by the end-product in the same way a scientist, engineer or craftsperson might be but far from being ill-defined masters of no trade, designers are inquisitive by nature, striving to improve the world by concerning themselves with the finer details.

Their relentless pursuit of betterment follows a haphazard iterative process or, more accurately, a journey punctuated with failure.

Resilience is key to designers’ success. James Dyson famously produced over 2,000 prototypes for the first bagless vacuum changing his design 5,127 times. Taking attention to detail to entirely new levels, car manufacturers now have workforce divisions devoted to the optimal depth of a physical button press; apparently, the answer is 1.6mm.



Tim Brown, IDEO Executive Chair


Since its first appearance as a named academic subject in 1988, Design & Technology in schools has followed a similar journey.

The early days of Woodwork, Metalwork, Needlecraft and Home Economics eventually gave way to Craft Design and Technology, CDT, a move which promoted a skills-based curriculum but one which prioritised materials and process over the use of ‘design thinking’; a phenomenon that has since become a buzzword in the world of business.

As industrial designer and visionary Tim Brown puts it: “Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.”

The concept has led to a paradigm shift from a typically gendered curriculum of specific material elements to a unified design-orientated curriculum focused on problem solving and this human-centred approach to design.

“The world of work is not as it once was: ‘a life of careers as opposed to a career for life’ is clichéd but almost certainly the future on the near horizon”, writes Neil Burch, our Deputy Head (Academic) in his article on Attitude to Learning.

This is the approach we take to Design as a subject. The pupils we teach may not pursue it beyond Bradfield or indeed become master craftspeople but that is not the point. An education in Design provides pupils with the ability to be flexible and resilient in order to apply themselves and succeed in any number of careers after they leave, many of which are yet to exist.

Far from being just a Sixth Form subject, we look to the skills required at the highest level and have embedded them within our Faulkner’s curriculum. Pupils progress through the subject developing their ability to independently research, design, iterate and ultimately produce a solution for a need which they have identified.

We focus on working with industry, where possible using ‘live’ experts to inform designs as well as material choices, while working closely with local manufacturers as well as suitable material sources.

We help pupils to become open-minded so that they can empathise with the needs of others and take an expansive approach to problem solving. These pillars are the foundations of a curriculum which is built for the problems we face now and those we will face in the future.

We encourage the consideration of sustainability, the cost of materials, innovative manufacturing methods and communication, all of which underpin our education and all of which enable pupils to confidently provide examples of how they can utilise these key skills and ideologies with their potential employers.

All of this is not to say we don’t aim to inspire our designers to pursue careers within the creative industries and why would they not want to consider it?

Advertising, architecture, computer services, museums, fashion, performing arts, film, crafts, publishing and many more like them are worth a combined £115.9bn GVA, Gross Value Added, to the UK economy. This is greater than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, oil and gas industries combined.

Not only that, but also they are growing, at twice the rate of the economy as a whole, with two million people employed in 2020, forecast to expand to three million by 2030. According to a recent Design Council report digital designers can expect to earn between £609-£757 per week; much greater than the UK average of £539 per week. This demonstrates the inherent value of Design to these industries but also to our pupils.

In Design, we help pupils to thrive in any creative pathway, be it product design, engineering or the more sculptural approach, all are of equal value. Far from being prescriptive we aim to inspire while furnishing pupils with the skills required to make the world a better place one design at a time.

An education in Design provides pupils with the ability to be flexible and resilient in order to apply themselves and succeed in any number of careers after they leave, many of which are yet to exist.