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Our Three Graduation Profiles

Willem de Kooning Academy
Mon 20 Jan

On top of own major, the students choose from a wide range of elective projects within Autonomous, Commercial and Social Practices.

These projects will introduce them to WdKA's three graduation profiles: Autonomous, Commercial and Social Practices. The students can choose from a wide range of contemporary subjects and issues. Within the Practice, the students focus on new challenges in the fields of technology, the use of public space, the need to engage the public and a challenging international context. You will work on real-life, practical assignments which transcend the boundaries of your professional discipline. In the final phase of your studies, you will graduate in the practice which best suits you as a professional.

In short, the Practices are defined as follows:

Autonomous Practices

Autonomous Practices focus on the artistic and expressive possibilities of the (individual) artist, teacher or designer; who work from the perspective of their personal vision of the world and the human condition and give shape to this vision.

Within Autonomous Practices, students can specialise in one of four study paths: Critical Studies, Digital Craft, Hacking, and Public & Private. These four paths roughly cover relevant contemporary fields in which an autonomous practitioner may be expected to operate. The purpose of these paths is to provide a framework for students to work with – not limiting them in any way, but rather helping them to contextualise their work. Each study path has its own specific courses, tutors with relevant professional backgrounds, and external partners with whom students can collaborate.

Critical Studies focuses on the question of how to provide a critical edge to art and design in a contemporary cultural and political context. Students consult theoreticians and relate their findings to the works of relevant artists and designers. In collaboration with their peers, they share their documented insights in a public symposium, an exhibition, a performance and/or an intervention.

Digital Craft focuses on authorship and appropriation – the act of making something your own. Here, appropriation means not only reusing technologies but also pushing them beyond their standard uses. The goal is to invent your own media and to do so with conceptual and technical rigour. In Digital Craft, students acquire and share concrete skills for working with both digital and analogue media; they continuously refine their ideas, experiments and techniques through a ‘can do’ working ethic.

Hacking means finding applications that were not intended by the system’s maker. Hacking doesn’t specifically refer to digital systems, but rather how to artistically hack any kind of system – social, cultural, political, economic, technological. The question primarily concerns the development of a hacker’s mentality – how to critically analyse and penetrate systems and apply attributes in order to find loopholes, detect blind spots and take matters into your own hands.

Public & Private focuses on contextualising the public realm on a national and international level. This may be related to urban architecture, culture, the economy, virtual worlds, social or political issues, and the increasing privatisation of all of these domains. The result is focused on intervening within these domains in any conceivable form: an image (sculpture, film, photo, billboard), a performance, a digital artwork, etc. It may also serve to trigger a social process or way of thinking.

Autonomous Practices external research platform 

Commercial Practices

Commercial Practices explore the ‘next economy’ and possible new economic scenarios in an age of omnipresent technology and data (big, open, hidden), accelerating geopolitical changes, and sharing of information resulting in emerging markets and new modes of production and consumption. What are the attitudes, skills, methods, knowledge and technologies that will allow us to create value, to generate meaning, and to relate to this new economic context?

The Commercial Practices programme focuses on the potential and the roles of artists and designers in developing the mindsets, skill sets and tool sets required in future commercial scenarios. These are experimental, imaginative, open and speculative, but also realistic scenarios. Within the Commercial Practices programme, concept development and art/design skills go hand in hand with commercial principles and new perspectives on marketing and entrepreneurship. Keywords: innovative products and services in the ‘next economy’; new markets and new target groups; working in collaboration with commercial clients.

The four projects within the Commercial Practices are New Frontiers, Branding, Data Design and Service Design.

New Frontiers challenges you to experiment, to make connections and to push boundaries. You will be developing new ways of thinking and acting within innovative processes. In order to do so, you will be working collaboratively with other students and with professionals from the field. You will be conducting research and working independently. The end result does not necessarily have to be a ‘physical product’, but may also consist of identifying future opportunities. You will learn to be innovative and to visually apply this in a way that is inspiring to others.

The time when Branding was seen as merely developing a logo, brand, visual identity, or an advertising and/or marketing campaign, is far behind us. Branding is so much more than that: it is about values, needs, ways of life, identities, expression and trust. And it is not – as many policymakers seem to think – a ‘soft issue’. Rather, it is part of the very foundation of our quality of life. Partly as a result of the influence of the ‘new critical consumer’, brands are no longer primarily influenced by the masses, but rather by the individual: by you and me. A designer or artist emphasises and reinforces this belief by authentically expressing such influences in a visual form.

Data Design is linked to current developments such as open data and big data. Here you will learn to approach and handle data from conceptual, inquiring and visual perspectives. You will learn to recognise, interpret and work with various types of data, examining them thoroughly using visual research methodologies. You will also learn to use various methods and tools that allow you to design dynamic data.

Service Design is based on the premise that the design approach can be an extremely valuable tool for setting up, designing and ensuring the success not only of products but also services. The way in which you relate to stakeholders (clients, users) is a key factor in this regard. Are you interested in the ‘wicked problems’ inherent to designing services? Service design provides you, as a designer, with the insights, knowledge and tools necessary for working at the vanguard of new pioneering concepts of service provision.

Commercial Practices external research platform 

Social Practices

The focus within Social Practices is on art and design that aim to impact complex social issues by (re)designing processes and relationships. What can – and can’t – artists and designers do for a social change? Our world, our society, now seems to be changing more rapidly, more broadly and also more intensely than ever before, confronting us with systemic changes occurring simultaneously in different fields and disciplines and on different levels of scale.

The issues currently addressed by Social Practices are Cultural Diversity, Open Design, Gamification and Sustainability, four domains in which systemic change is particularly relevant.

Cultural Diversity questions systems of living together; it focuses on the globalising and urbanising world. It unravels cultural, economic, political and social structures in order to create images or interventions that influence the sensations or behaviours of ‘local’ citizens of the world.

Open Design questions systems of (design) production and focuses on technological developments and the open source movement. It works with participatory design methods, in which design and/or production processes are shared and in which users, makers or fellow designers are empowered to modify the design or process.

Powerplay focuses on understanding the rules that govern institutions, human behaviour, and power, offering insight on how to subvert and critique the status quo through the notion of critical play.

New Earth questions sustainability paradigms like the circular economy and researches equitable development in the wake of climate change, looking towards design as a political act that might reformulate related global power structures

Besides their own discipline, social practitioners also work in contexts of systemic and cultural change and are able to tweak methods of production as well as human behaviour. They are able to call attention to upcoming social issues and to face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges with a specific attitude and specific methods that are suitable for operating within fields of complex issues. They also know how to define, attract and connect with multiple stakeholders in order to initiate new projects.

Social Practices external research platform 

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