Design in the Public Interest – The Dilemma of Professionalism

By Rob Corser
AIA-Assistant Professor, University of Washington

Imagining America‘s 2008 Curriculum Project comprehensively documents the current state of engaged scholarship in the arts and proposes guidelines that embody the key values and principles derived from the breadth of the study. While design can be broadly considered to fall under the mantle of the arts, key distinctions make community-engaged design practice unique, and in some ways problematic. Based on reviews of the literature, professional codes,and contemporary practices, this essay addresses similar themes to the Curriculum Project but in design, focusing on traditions of professional organization and oversight that both raise expectations for civic responsibility and simultaneously present roadblocks to deeper engagement.