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Interdisciplinary Working

The Royal College of Art supports cross-pollination, promoting discourse across disciplines.

Students come with backgrounds as varied as nuclear science, journalism, medicine, computer engineering, business administration and music. This range of perspectives enriches students, igniting new ways of thinking and sparking innovation as they move between media and materials. The College’s annual AcrossRCA programme gives staff and students a more formal chance to work together through a series of interdisciplinary collaborative projects that explore new ideas, approaches and skills.

‘Since coming to IDE, I’ve met so many amazing people from different backgrounds and from all walks of life, and I think that shapes an entirely new way of thinking. Surrounded by all these different approaches to design, you can become a completely different designer – you’re not just enclosed within one area of expertise.’
–Clarissa Kang (MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2016)

We believe that creative invention and innovation spring from individual imagination. We require a portfolio that shows technical accomplishments and creative ability, but most important is identifying people who can think, have creative ideas, find ways to generate and articulate those ideas, be curious about the world, see things that other people will not see and – increasingly – show potential to work in teams comprising individuals of multidisciplinary backgrounds, which can accelerate the problem identification and solving cycles. 

Our students are particularly good at combining things that others wouldn’t have thought of combining. They operate across multiple art and design disciplines, working within them, enhancing them and producing new knowledge. It’s synthetic thinking, applied in addition to analytic thinking, and it produces new ways of utilising ideas and solutions that result in outcomes that would not arise from mono-disciplinary methods and approaches, or from STEM alone. 

Our students develop the confidence to tackle global problems through experimental learning: a learningby-doing model, rather than learning from teachers. It’s a method that embeds confidence, founding deep disciplinary knowledge in trial, error and experimentation. When they reach a solution, our students know not only that what they are doing works, but why. Co-creation, working in groups and teams, brings the ability to articulate ideas. 

This happens most readily when you accept a brain surgeon to study sculpture, or an ophthalmologist to study vehicle design, or a Sanskrit scholar to study product design. These are real examples of recent RCA alumni, the last being Roland Lamb, RCA Design Products alumnus and inventor of ROLI, the keyboard that’s revolutionised music production and features in an Oscar-winning movie.

'I’ve worked with textile designers, fashion designers, interior designers, architects. These kind of opportunities really extended my perspective and the possibility of how we can push the boundaries of our own fields.’ 
– Janice Li (MA V&A/RCA History of Design, 2018)