Today we learned, in an apparent slip, that Richard Buchanan is leaving the School of Design. At the very end of class, in a conversation largely framed around the question of what is design, he mentioned that he would be a professor of information systems, “whatever that means.” There was a pause in the room as we students wondered if we just heard what had been rumored to be the case ever since Dick dropped all thesis advisees a few weeks ago. I took the opportunity and broke the silence: “So you are leaving?”
He did not say much more, only that it was very difficult to leave the program. Not surprising for the person who has been with the school for 17 years, first serving as the Nierenberg Chair, followed immediately by a 10-year stint as head. He redesigned the undergraduate program and spearheaded the creation of the grad program that I am about to graduate from.
Sources indicate that he has accepted a position at Case Western.
As Buchanan has provided the theoretical and philosophical perspective to design that has influenced everyone that has passed through the grad program and contributes greatly to what makes designers from the School of Design stand out amongst their contemporaries, his departure will definitely impact the feel of the program and perhaps the thinking of its future grads. I’m very curious to see how the school adapts to his leaving next year.
Personally, I have enjoyed the classes I have taken with Dick. I appreciate the broad view of design that he promotes. And there was something wonderful about being beaten down and made to struggle through difficult texts during Seminar 1 the first semester of my graduate experience. If nothing, the experience contributed to a stance of humility and appreciation for different perspectives. It’s difficult to know how much he has influenced my thinking. I tend to believe that I have been influenced more by my peers when talking about the material of his classes than the classes themselves. However, if the stories Dick tells are true, I may not realize the impact of his classes for years to come.