AT THE HEART OF IT

Mexico 2014 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Kerstin Scheuch, General Director of Centro, on teaching design, social projects, and the broader education system.

Kerstin Scheuch
BIOGRAPHY
Kerstin Scheuch holds a degree in History of Art (Vienna, St. Andrews) and an MBA from Insead, Fontainebleau. Before Centro she served as Executive Consultant for KPMG London (2000/2001). From 1996 to 1999 (during its 100th anniversary) Kerstin was the general director of the Secession Vienna. She was in charge of PR and Marketing for the 24th Council of Europe Exhibition in collaboration with the Austrian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs (1995/1996), and worked at Sotheby’s Vienna as liaison between experts and clients (1991/1993).

Centro has become the first higher institution in Mexico to focus on design. What makes Centro different from other universities?

The university is based on two principles: believing in creativity and acting with audacity; this has been at the core of all we do. Believing in creativity means taking creativity seriously as a force that can foster sustainable economic growth. Formerly, when contemplating innovation, we have generally looked to science, and in particular technology, as its sources. People are more conscious nowadays, in an economy of abundance, that every choice we make is influenced by design and innovation, from our homes to our appearance. We prefer a balance of form and function, and the key question is who will deliver it in a meaningful way to the customer.

What kind of programs is Centro offering its students?

From the outset, we covered design comprehensively from digital media, industrial design, and architecture, to cinema and television, marketing, fashion, and textiles. Additionally, we provide specific programs to promote an innovative approach among our students, and to better prepare them to become future entrepreneurs. We have classes where we teach the students methodologies for problem solving that run through the stages of research and analysis to prototyping, in learning how to overcome a challenge. We also have an Entrepreneurship Center, which is responsible for all of our related programs. We organize startup weekends and other events there. We teach finance, organizational behavior, and marketing. When our students graduate, they are solid designers, but also have a sense of purpose and context. We teach our students that ultimately design is a means of solving problems, which explains their success.

What social projects is Centro developing?

Centro has developed a wide range of social projects. For example, recently we researched the problem of "ninis," young people who neither study nor work. We discovered first and foremost that the root problem they shared was an inability to envision a different future. In design there is a tool called future scenario planning, which is basically a way of designing such alternate futures. We came up with mini projects that they could undertake themselves, such as producing and selling products.

Can you talk about Destination Mexico and MOMA?

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is a prestigious institution in terms of art and design, and therefore we were happy that it invited us to be its cultural partner. That involved helping it research the Mexican market. We were the link between the store and the Mexican designers, maximizing the number of designs that went to the store and solving problems from packaging, to pricing, and transportation. Destination México was one of the most successful projects for MOMA.

In 2013 the overall theme was whether to look abroad for examples, or design our own future. Now we are preparing a conference on the scope for Mexico to be innovative, and my task is to invite individuals who are both leading figures in their field or sector, and also inspirational speakers like visionary ideas.

What has been Centro's contribution to the national educational system?

Education is changing and our focus is on what it could ideally become. Whether you are in medical care or education, change is inevitable. For example, there are countries that have key cards for medical records. You do not have to start from scratch with a new doctor. The same can apply to education. You take the first semester, and then start the second semester, where a new professor will know about you. The creative use of data to better inform leaders that will transform education. To teach a good class today, it cannot be limited to transmitting knowledge. The teacher plays more of a curatorial and coaching role. One needs to differentiate between the essential and the ephemeral, which is why Centro's success relies on having been started by both educators and professionals.