Design Studio Culture and the Hero Designer Student


In this paper the two authors argue how the design studio culture has created and still supports a  particular student model, that of the hero designer.  They claim that this is due to a series of factors which they name and analyze one by one, all contributing to the formation and maintance of a behaviour that exhausts students but at the same time enchants them enough to not allow them to protest. These factors are:

Student acculturation: Students develop a hero designer self image through socialization and affiliation with peers and faculty in studio (…) The mecchanism of the studio includes internalized dispositions that compel students to act and react in certain ways (…) Acculturation slowly leads students to adopt the traditionally inherent values held by others like them as constituent elements of the studio culture.

Student self-identity development and interpretation of their own behaviour: The issue raised is “how do I fit in?”(…) Forging an identity results both in psychological gains and burden. It is the contextualization of the response with the rest of the peers that forges the identity choices.

Cognitive Dissonance: it is the stress that emerges when one’s behaviour does not align with one’s beliefs or knowledge (…) Under that stress individuals rationalize their behaviour to reduce dissonance (…) Failing to do so might endanger their dreams through falsification of the prerequisite behaviours.

Severity – attraction – affliation hypothesis: when students are convinced that irrationaly painful experiences will ultimately result in proportionately more rewarding and appealing outcomes (…) this explains their allegiance (…) it also explains why they seek the company of others in the same position (…) the affiliation hypothesis explains how the close interaction with classmates enhances students’ social and professional support which they need to become the hero designer (…) the bond between the students contributes to the acculturation to te studio culture.

Effort-justification hypothesis: if an ndividual suffers to attain a goal, the goal iteself becomes more attractive (…) this is how they rationalize difficult situations such as crits.

Deference to authority: compliance with social pressure and authority figures occurs naturally because students are assigned a given role (…) Authoritarian and autocratic teaching promotes students’ willingness to rationalize dissonant behaviours and maintain their hero identity.

Studio gratification: Persistence in studio is reinforced by two aspects of this gratification. The first is woted in rationalising behaviours that reinforce their self-image through grade reward. The second is in self-determination theory which posits innate human needs for
autonomy, competence, and relatedness: the innate human needs of feeling able to make a choice, capable, and related to others, which are highly promoted by the studio framework (…) a problematic aspect is provided by an authoritarian grading system system that perhaps places effort and product all the same level as process and substance of learning outcomes.

The authors claim that their arguments are validated by the institutions’ grading charts (images above) which illustrate how similar grading looks for the design studio of the four Texas architectural schools. The high percentage of As contributes to according to them to the conservation of this type of student.

The analysis, in my opinion, lacks anchorage. Even if these data is valid why would institutions want to maintain this design studio culture, what is the motivation behind this practice? Unless we understand this we are unable to evalute all this argumentation. All and all it is much more a psychological analysis aiming to verify a subjective view on thsi matter rather than a reality check.


References & Image

Bachman, C., & Bachman, L. (2010). Self-identity, rationalisation and cognitive dissonance in undergraduate architectural design learning. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 13.2(4), 315-322. ISBN: 9780521537643

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