I make a proposition that Industrial Design is at a place where graphic design was in the 90s and photography was at the time of the digital camera. The line between the professional and the amateur is blurred. The amateur often explains better – and in the early days of the explainer these people were Historians (Penny Sparke) and later Management people – and this community has among them some very prolific people like the Sociologist Liz Sanders. Another things that happened in the 90s was that the STS (science technology and society) wallahs moved in to study ‘how designers design’. In the celebrated example (or atleast a example I am fond of citing – so I don’t really know if it is celebrated – and by whom, maybe by the social science people) of the Aramis study Latour does an amazing job of mapping the discourses of the various stakeholders. I teach my students to do Actor Network Mapping if only for them to understand the perspectives of the different stakeholders.
More specifically the study of the ‘design process’ ( as a step by step process/ activity plan used by designers in a fuzzy way) was an initiative of the corporation and motivated by – the goal – the desire to study the activity (activity analysis) to make it more systematic and amenable to management practices. (note whether the good product can only emerge from a rigorous ‘process’ is still an open question – but as an enterprise option it is the only way to go).
I am interested at this point – in giving voice to the designers lament that ‘oh we have been overrun by the outsiders’. But I don’t wish to go down the path of maintaining the purity of the discipline – like my colleagues – but am quite happy to be eclectic and engaged with the social science discourse. I in fact did my PhD in social science – so I have a particular stake in seeing the social science perspective come to the fore and dominate articulations.
To quickly capture the point I am making – I propose two provocations:
1. Are the products made today ‘unique’? That is could they have emerged from traditional design approaches or projects constructed in the ‘old’/ traditional way.
2. Are products today consistently successful. Is the lowering of “Risk” – by making design systematic – paying off.
(This is the project perspective – a note to myself)