As social media continues to grow and become part of the architecture and planning disciplines, design schools are increasingly integrating these essential services and networks as part of their marketing and communication, but also in their curriculum. With many design firms and city agencies incorporating these tools into their professional practice and branding, it is important for today’s design students to become familiar with how to, when to, and the appropriateness of using social media.
Many of today’s leading schools, such as Penn, Harvard, and Berkeley already use Twitter to blast out information on lectures, events, and articles, but these schools also use social media as a teaching tool and a way to catalogue and document student work. Students in the City Planning Department at Penn have already found ways to use social media as a way to share information about current work with project partners and other interested parties. A group of first-year students, involved with creating a land use plan for the Riverwards neighborhood of Philadelphia, created a Facebook page as a collection point for group documents, links, and media.
Second-year students in the High Speed Rail Studio also used Facebook as a tool for documentation; allowing students to see the studio’s progress and share interesting articles and links for participants and fans. Further up the east coast, the Harvard GSD is hosting a professional seminar this summer on how design firms can better use social media as a branding and marketing tool to “build influence” and “shape perception”. And at other schools across the country from Columbia to Berkeley, students and faculty are finding themselves more plugged into Facebook, Twitter, and other electronic mediums as a way to broadcast information and share academic resources like never before.
So why so much focus on developing these skills? As social media sites continue to grow, firms are beginning to adapt. Major industry leaders such as Perkins + Will, HOK, and Perkins Eastman are using these tools to reach out to potential clients, fans, and employees.
The next generation of great designers, builders, and planners will be the Facebook generation: one that is intertwined with the latest and newest social media networks and sites. And as more individuals become well-versed in these tools, firms will be looking for these skills in future hires. Do you think that social media should be an integral part of the modern design school curriculum?