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Once a year, for the past three years I think, the design community gets embroiled in a heated debate about business people stealing the soul of designers. The latest permutation can be found in the May 2008 of ID Magazine (one of my favorites again under editor-in-chief Julie Lasky) in a piece called “Down With Innovation” by Rick Poynor, who is a writer and critic based in London specializing in visual culture. This is important, the visual culture part, because the the source of complaint about loss of control in design is coming out of the graphic design community, not the industrial design folks. This is important, I believe, because
industrial design has always had a powerful user-centric focus ("human factors" being a core competency taught in most ID programs). This design begins with a method of understanding people--consumers, patients, whatever. And it is this methodology--this anthropological/sociological base--that is being deconstructed and reassembled as a general tool box for all organizations, beginning with corporations but fast spreading to health care and education. This is what Roger and Larry and Sohrab and Patrick Whitney and Tim Brown call Design Thinking. Others call it Innovation. The smart industrial designers are retaining their form-making abilities because they are so powerful--and beauty remains as important as ease-of-use to many people. But the methodology is what is spreading design into management courses.
The discipline of graphic design (Michael Beirut, tell me if I'm wrong here), does not start this way and does not have this kind of methodology. It is much more visual and visceral, more aesthetic. And harder to codify into a system, into a methodology.
Yikes, I've got to run to a dinner with Pentagram's Michael Beirut. We're both speaking at the @Issue Design Conference tomorrow and there's a dinner tonight. The conference is Design Thinking In A Down Economy. More later.
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