International Journal of Art & Design Education

Cultural Capital: A Thesaurus for Teaching Design

Volume 29.2   2010



This article seeks to unravel what is hypothesised as being at the root of design education: the cultural capital of design educators. The premise is that capital is developed within the design learning environment: that is, designers-to-be and educators-to-be are encultured into design while studying, the same way that parents enculture children into families, or families and friends enculture young people into society. This article begins by introducing the concept of cultural capital, a body of knowledge that acts as an asset in particular situations; our study focuses on knowledge that is useful to being a designer and design educator. We continue by exploring what kinds of capital designers have and what role this capital plays in the educational setting. Four key themes are identified across the cultural capital of 19 design educators from different geographical locations in the Western world. These themes result from analysing educators' intimate narratives, which reveal some of the values, beliefs and actions inherent to design. Furthermore, the themes illustrate a sampling of the design educators’ thesaurus: that is, what design educators draw upon for teaching and designing.