What is it?

The DCF is a visually-oriented system for developing curricula in design. The DCF matrix is divided into a set of sixteen categories including core skills, such as visualization, and meta competencies such as synthesis. The DCF came about from a need within the Industrial Design program at OCADU in Toronto where the program leaders set out to clearly articulate what students would be learning while studying there, what learning methods would be used, and what new knowledge they could hope to graduate with. The program is arranged around the acquisition of design competencies that develop alongside the expanding focus of the curriculum and the development of the student body as a group, and as individuals.

How is it used?

The design competency matrix can be used to develop categories for curriculum content, such as sketching or 3D printing, depending on the nature of the design programbeing written. The matrix is also evaluative, it allows students, teachers, and professional designers to assess themselves or others and map their level of ability against a particular competency.
Once completed the matrix offers an overview of an individual’s competency profile, identifying areas of expertise and where there are skills gaps. The matrix can also be used to map the competencies of a group against the tasks they are required to fulfil. The matrix also offers a way of tracking how people are learning as they progress through a course of study or career progression.

What are (meta) competencies?

Following Ennis (2008) we define a competency as ‘the capability of applying or using knowledge, skills abilities, behaviors, and personal characteristics to successfully perform critical work tasks’. This definition incorporates how we have understood competencies in the DCF as more than technical ability or mastery of domain knowledge. In our view, the seamless integration of thinking, doing and feeling in a design competency is what makes design and design education unique and much desired across other disciplines, who usually privilege the cognitive domain.
Meta competencies are defined as those that involve students learning at a higher level of abstraction.  Examples of meta competencies within our praxis are ‘Synthesis’, ‘Creative Confidence’ or ‘Managing Complexity’. They are the most valuable, long lasting and future-proof competencies that students acquire, but also the hardest to measure and codify, and therefore difficult to implement at curriculum level.