Creative Education in The Digital Age 

We live in a time where learning happens unconventionally. We’ve stepped away from the traditional classroom and now have endless methods to educate ourselves, especially living in the digital age. There is power in being able to think “outside the box” when it comes to learning new skills and strengthening our current range of knowledge. 

We sat down with Machiel Oskam, CEO and founder of Online Department as his team prepares to facilitate UX design courses throughout Spain for young professionals. Let’s listen in to learn a bit about his thoughts and ambitions for the future of creative education in the digital age. 

Creative Education in The Digital Age


Why is your focus on design training and education with all of the other sectors that are available in this day and age?

There’s is a growing shortage of skilled digital designers. Due to the fast digitization of services in almost all industries, it’s going to be vital to have more designers collaborating with engineers. They have the responsibility to bring empathy into technology teams and ensure value creation within and outside the companies. Designers are naturally more intrinsically driven to make useful and usable products. Most designers and digital designers at that are able to look at the market from a more holistic point of view. They can create with speed and flexibility while pushing customer-centric innovation forward.

A shortage of digital design experts is something that society will come to recognize that we have to deal with.

I also believe we need to find a way to change design education. For instance, we could start by developing a new system where knowledge is transferred from experienced designers to young professionals. Our current education system, although a lot of good work is being done, lacks agility and speed to adapt to the dynamics of the market. 


“Creative thinkers are the facilitators of change”


How should schools adapt to the situation you just described?

That’s a tough question to answer. I believe schools should focus on the fundamentals of creative thinking and business development from a customer-centric approach; the old models are not sustainable anymore. Creative thinkers are the facilitators of change. Specific design skills can be learned in practice at agencies and companies. 

The first challenge for tech companies is to see inexperienced designers as an advantage, instead of a risk.  I understand that it takes time and effort to train and coach them on the job, but you can use them to create change from bottom-up and benefit from their unbridled creative ways of thinking. 

The trainer-trainee concept works pretty well in our company. Our young designers work in-company with a team of more experienced designers and learn all the tricks of the trade pretty quickly. Having a mentor hands-on to teach what is happening in the field now, not only shares skills but also keeps everyone up to date with current trends, technology, and consumer habits. 

We are now convincing our clients to accept this way of working with their own teams as well because that amazing senior designer is not going to knock on their door very soon. They need to establish an authentic customer-centric culture, where sharing knowledge is part of the onboarding and training and coaching is embedded in their learning and development program. This will easily attract new talent, and it’s the best strategy to win the war for talent. 


What about digital nomads? Do you see this trend as a threat to the job market?

We’ve met both digital nomads and remote designers here in Spain and other places around the world. This group will grow as well, although some of them are self-proclaimed UX designers which I believe are also of great value although, in my opinion, UX design can only be executed in teams with integrated research activities, in an agile manner. This can be done remotely, but it’s not the same as standing in a room together. 

Being a part-time digital nomad myself, I haven’t met nomads that really conduct UX in the way I think it should be done. For them, it isn’t as important if you can travel the way that they do and live that type of lifestyle. But, digital nomads won’t travel forever, it’s not a career. When they decide to settle down, they lack experience in the field and the opportunity to continuously learn from experts who are senior designers leading the way. 

This is exactly why we decided to organize these types of UX training programs. 

You must understand that the really attractive, cool tech companies will always have high demands, despite the war for talent. They can select from the best. 

If you want to return to a great, stable job one day, you need to keep growing as a designer and learn from others, stay engaged in the community and keep in touch with the dynamics in the market. 

Having spent ample time as a part of the digital nomad community at Sun and Co, was what brought the idea to organize UX camps and training courses to life, specifically in coworking spaces and in collaboration with coliving communities.


What advice would you give to help millennials become more agile when it comes to UX design and growth?

Experienced designers should teach young professionals in the digital industry how to facilitate change and how to cope with disappointment or rather, turn obstacles into opportunities. The millennials are from a different age; they are restless, more sensitive and on a journey where life and work are almost synonymous.

It’s important, especially when it comes to design thinking to find a way to step back, fail fast and move forward with a different type of solution. Many times, this comes with work and learning the right strategies from those who have experience with this type of agile framework. 

With my colleagues, we are working on a design education platform where experienced designers facilitate collaborative training programs for young professionals; developing their personal skills and creating relationships with experienced design professionals.


You can find out more information about Machiel and his business, Online Department here. If you’re interested in learning UX and Design Thinking, apply to our UX Intensive Course from March 22-29, 2018.