Letter from the Editor

Education is Learning That’s Designed

Architecture of school

By Sam Aquillano

Learning is fundamental to being human, and therefore fundamental to design. Sure, all animals learn, but humans? We put the rest of the animal world to shame. Somewhere along the line we figured out how to learn, and it changed everything. We learned to adapt through experiences, to shift based on our environment, to change our behaviors, and to pass knowledge to others—or you might say we learned how to educate ourselves and others. Which leads us to this issue’s focus: education. 

After reading the insightful articles within, I can’t help but think of education as learning that’s designed. Learning is so complex, it truly requires good design. We all engage, absorb, and practice differently. Plus, the pandemic has shifted education in time and space, and amplified pre-existing gaps and inequities throughout the system that must be addressed and redesigned. How do we design curricula, experiences, tools, technology, and spaces to be adaptable and accessible to everyone and meet this moment of change? 

Experience design matters throughout the education ecosystem. In this issue, you’ll read about a new curriculum design and approach from Jessica Sanon, who works to teach and mentor young women of color to explore and flourish in STEM fields. We held an amazing roundtable with industry experts sharing their best practices for designing an organization that values and strengthens learning. The design of our education environments shapes the experiences of students young and old. Taryn Kinney and Phillip Nowlin collaborated with their teams and engaged the whole academic community—including the students—in the co-creation of an entirely new kind of school in Arizona. I want to attend this high school! Lastly, community matters so much in how we come together to learn and practice. Josh Kery and Mimi Shalf share their research and experience on the design of learning communities and what they mean for the future of education. And there’s much more to read and enjoy. 

By the way, joy matters in education, too! When we thoughtfully design learning, joy in education is possible. I hope you learn from the ideas shared in this issue, and that it helps you find joy in your educational and learning experiences. 

I’ll see you out there and online,


Sam Aquillano

Executive and Creative Director

Design Museum Everywhere

Cover of the Education Issue

From Design Museum Magazine Issue 019