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Can Design Journalism be Reinvented?

Στο (πρόσφατο) τεύχος #07 του NextD, ο Garry K. VanPatter παίρνει μια πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη από την Julie Lasky, Editor-In-Chief του περιοδικού i-D.

In Conversation 7.1 we take a look at the state of design journalism. It is no secret that the traditional design press has, in the past, played a huge role in the design communities understanding of itself as well as the public perception of what design is. While a new generation of web publishing platforms have already rocked the traditional design press universe the power of the print press remains significant in many parts of our community. Embedded in that industry is the model of design journalism, what it currently is today, what it might be, should be, etc. Needless to say these are difficult subjects to unpack.

Σίγουρα ένα must read για όλους όσοι ενδιαφέρονται για την μελλοντική πορεία του design, το design journalism και τις αλλαγές στο τοπίο της παγκόσμιας βιομηχανίας του design.
By Nassos K. @ 6/16/2005 02:01:00 μ.μ.
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15 σχόλια

  1. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:34:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: Welcome, Julie. As editors working in very different ways, there is, I think, a lot that we can talk about, from the role and state of the traditional design press, to the various revolutions underway in the design communities. As Editor-In-Chief of I.D. Magazine, I'm sure that you have a unique perspective from within the print magazine publishing industry.

    Since our NextD Journal readers are globally dispersed and span many disciplines, let's start with some context setting. Many of our international readers will be familiar with your magazine while others are likely not. How do you describe what I.D. Magazine is today at this point in its history?

    Julie Lasky: To answer your question, I need to jump back a bit. I.D. was founded in 1954 as Industrial Design. It was a smart, attractive magazine that celebrated post-World War II industrial production with an emphasis on the larger cultural forces shaping?and shaped by?design. Over the years, the name was abbreviated to match professional shorthand, and in the late 1980s the initials came to represent something else entirely: International Design. From what I gather, the publishers founds it difficult to sustain a publication devoted to a relatively small market of industrial designers, so they broadened the content to embrace graphic, interactive, and environmental design.

    Today, I.D. remains interdisciplinary as well as international, but we haven't abandoned our roots. We devote at least half our pages to product design, though what that is, exactly, is getting ever murkier?and more interesting. For instance, our latest issue (March/April 2005) includes a story about a pair of artists at the University of Western Australia who work with living tissue to challenge the ethics of biotechnology. Among their "products" is the prototype for a leather jacket cultivated from mouse connective tissue and human osteoblast cells, grown on a polymer armature. (The outcome goes by the name "Victimless Leather.")

    In the same issue, you'll also find projects by a young English designer who was trained in the stained-glass restoration workshop at Canterbury Cathedral. He creates illusionary light boxes that look like they marched out of late 19th-century theatrical design (if light boxes can be described as ambulatory). Is this work product design? Art? Science? Homage? Is the other product design? Art? Science? Critique?

    In both cases, the answer is easy. Yes.
  2. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:35:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: Apart from the details of upcoming articles, how do you describe your overarching strategy today? Is it your intent at I.D. Magazine to provide a window into the present and future of industrial, graphic, interactive, and environmental design, or is your mission something else?

    Julie Lasky: Though our audience is mostly professional designers, we are not a typical trade magazine. I like to say that our service is to open eyes. Your window metaphor is apt ­ we try to enlighten readers about current and potential design developments around the world. We also stick to our founders' mission of exploring how design connects to a broader cultural and political landscape. We tend to approach daily headlines with the question, "So, what's the design angle?" We rarely have to look hard to find one.
  3. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:35:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: : Let's take a look at the bigger picture for a moment and talk about the state of the traditional design industry press in general. I am very interested in your take on where the industry is today.

    I'm guessing that you must know that it is largely due to the state of the industry that we exist here at NextD Journal. We have been able to create this humble little publishing platform as we found that the traditional design press seemed to be intent on having the same old conversations about the same old issues with the same old people. In doing so they had largely missed the very real revolutions underway in the design industries. Specifically they had missed and were providing very little coverage of the real drivers of change occurring in the marketplace impacting the design industries. At the time that we launched NextD there was virtually no coverage of the forces driving change around design leadership today.

    The industry seemed to be flooded with print publications primarily focused on promotion and all chasing after the same old stories. Often they were doing little more than promoting promotions. We moved our humble little platform into that void and have been surprised by the response. We have found an enormous appetite for authentic views into the state of design today. What we hear from our readers is that they consider the traditional design industry press to be increasingly out of step and inconsequential. Here is one of numerous comments sent to us from one of our subscribers: "My view is that the traditional design press publish mainly inconsequential fluff that contributes to managers and the general public not taking designers very seriously."

    I ask you this question in the broader context beyond your magazine. What is your take on the state of traditional design press and the job it has been doing in the last five years to provide a window into the monumental shifts underway that are impacting the design industries today? On a scale of 0 to 10, ten being best, how would you rate the performance and innovation of your own industry?

    Julie Lasky: There are too many design magazines serving too many constituencies for me to assign a general value to the lot. Even in the realm of industry publications, examples run from flashy style books to organizational newsletters to how-to bibles. Almost any publication that has managed to survive has forged some kind of pact with its readers and is delivering an acknowledged service.

    To remain viable, however, magazines may very well be neglecting content that is of interest to a slice of their market in favor of appealing to the largest possible readership. That is why journals such as yours are a big asset to the design industries. The Internet gives you an economical way of selectively finding and building an audience and sustaining in-depth analyses.

    Having said that, I do believe there are two areas where design journalism could do much better. The first is in the realm of criticism. Architecture is the only design discipline with a sustained critical tradition. Product design, graphic design, and interior design all have much catching up to do.

    The second area is the one you alluded to: the intersection of design and corporate practice. To put it bluntly, designers need a better understanding of business; business leaders need a better understanding of design. My experience has taught me, however, that the design media alone cannot bridge the gulf. For example, we have made many quixotic attempts to publish inspirational stories about how design can improve a client's profitability, only to be denied the slightest shred of evidence. (The facts and figures are proprietary, the clients always say; those are the breaks, the designers chime in.) In such cases, one's choice is to hire, at enormous expense, an investigative business reporter to crack how many units actually moved after the product's logo was redesigned, or take the designer's word for it that sales were "awesome." Given the modest budgets of magazines whose circulations rarely, if ever, top 100,000, you can imagine which route most publications take, and why your reader might consider the results "inconsequential fluff."
  4. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:35:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: To be clear, our focus here is to facilitate understanding regarding the many forces driving and shaping design leadership today. I am trying to follow the logic that you set forth regarding what you perceive to be a lack of criticism in the design industries. You stated "Architecture is the only design discipline with a sustained critical tradition." I am not sure what that has to do with understanding the dynamics of your industry.

    Let's be honest. Isn't the more central issue is that there is virtually no tradition of criticism in your own design magazine industry? Where is the intelligent debate occurring regarding what is and what is not going on within your industry? Where is there informed discussion regarding where design community magazines are focused today and how they are focused? As far as I know there is no such dialogue.

    It seems that design industry print publications are evaluated primarily as forms of graphic design. I am sure you can point to many graphic design awards that you have won as a result of hiring Bruce Mau and others along the way, but I am not sure what that kind of recognition has to do with where the design magazine industry is focused.

    Help us understand the logic bridge that you are trying to make. Are you suggesting that the reason why the traditional design industry press is the way it is springs from your perception that there is no "sustained critical tradition" outside of architecture? What are the feedback and measurements mechanisms for your industry?

    Julie Lasky: GK, you ask, "Where is there informed discussion regarding where design community magazines are focused today and how they are focused?" As far as I know, there is no such dialogue." We at I.D. have initiated such a dialogue in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design and National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University. Last year during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, we launched the first in a series of public conversations about design criticism that will attempt to illuminate how, not just design magazines, but also the general media, make decisions about what to cover and why. (Follow-up conversations will take place this year in New York, London, and Miami.)

    By investigating editorial approaches from the points of view of journalists, designers, manufacturers, and marketing specialists, we hope to expand the breadth and seriousness of design's representation in the press. Currently, even within trade publications, there is a push to represent design as fashion?the chic accessory to a modern lifestyle. The media are only too happy to tell this story, which tends to be about the runaway success of Hummer cars, Viking ranges, or iPods, and is generally as bland and predictable as a fairy tale. It has become so boring, in fact, that more and more publications are skipping the narrative altogether and going straight to the information most consumers want: How much is it and where can I get one?

    If the design media adopted a more critical strategy, I believe design journalism would better reflect the realities of practice. For instance, designers seek what is optimal, not what is perfect, or else they would accomplish nothing. And yet even in the editorial pages of professional journals, much design is touted as flawless when it is always, at best, a compromise. We believe there is much to learn from the bumps. In I.D.'s recently developed "Crit" section, we ask experts to evaluate all sorts of design projects, warts and all.

    Now, none of this really gets to your question about how the magazine industry (or do you mean more specifically the design magazine industry?) evaluates itself. There are plenty of prizes from many associations, not all of them concerned with graphic design, but in the end, the only really important feedback comes from readers and advertisers. If we cease to perform a service or if we lose relevance, they will quickly let us know.
  5. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:35:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: Are you familiar with the term thin-slicing?

    Julie Lasky: I believe Malcolm Gladwell uses it in his new book, Blink. He says, "As human beings we are capable of making sense of situations based on the thinnest slice of experience."

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    GK VanPatter:Yes. I would venture to say that based on your knowledge, experience and various mental constructs, you can probably take a quick look at a magazine and have a pretty good idea of what is going on behind the scenes there. What challenges they are grappling with, what their strategic orientation is, etc. In doing so you would be conducting a form of thin-slicing.

    While the intention of this conversation is certainly not to get into transformational consulting work, I cannot help but be struck by what I see here. In our practice, we do a lot of thin-slicing around complexity of challenges, challenge architectures, intermixed challenges. This particularly occurs on the fuzzy front-end of organizational transformation projects when the client is not quite sure what the challenges are. We call this the terrain of B4Design.

    What I saw quickly in your response to 3 and 4 above suggests that you may have some challenge-clumping going on. What I see, taking a quick look, is that several challenges or levels seem to be mixed together. This can make getting to meaningful, appropriate solutions difficult.

    Before we embark on declumping, we might conduct a quick little mental test by changing the picture; changing the industry to see if the logic that you propose as a rationale holds. It would go something like this: Rather than look at how the design media and media in general cover the design industry, let's step outside that box and look at how the baseball media and media in general cover the baseball industry. Would it make sense for those media companies to suggest that the structure and focus of media coverage was being dictated by the attributes of the various baseball teams? Is that a good logic fit?

    Say we looked at how the media covered (or did not cover) the Iraq war. Would it make sense for CNN to claim that they did what they did because of the attributes of the troops in the field? Would it make sense for CNN to suggest that they need to go out and somehow fix the troops in order to improve the depth and quality of their media coverage? The logic that you seem to be proposing does not seem to stick well when it is moved outside the design magazine publishing industry. I would suggest that this then raises a number of interesting questions to consider.

    Of course it might be possible that the design magazine industry is unique with a logic all its own. It is more likely that what we are looking at here is a challenge-solution landscape of mixed levels and force-fit connections. For unknown reasons, numerous layers of challenges are being clumped. In turn, a number of solutions seemed to have been sewn to a number of challenges where there appears to be an odd-ball kind of fit.
  6. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:35:00 μ.μ.  
    If we convert what we were discussing in 3 and 4 above to a series of challenges (which in our world is a form of question looking for solutions), the discussion becomes more understandable, more clear. We end up with something like this:

    How might the design media industry...

    1. rethink itself to better reflect how the design community is changing?

    How might I.D. Magazine...

    2. play a roll in the reinvention of the design media industry?

    3. play a role in helping to improve how design is depicted in the general media?

    4. reinvent itself to better reflect how the design community is changing?

    5. position itself as an innovation leader?

    6. continue to please its advertisers?

    7. stay connected to its existing customers?

    8. capture new customers?

    9. better reflect the challenges facing the design community?

    10. better reflect the drivers driving change in the design community?

    11. better reflect the numerous revolutions underway in the design industries?

    12. play a stronger role in the reinvention of design?

    13. play a stronger role in covering how the future of design is being created?

    14. play a stronger role in bridging the gulf between design and business communities?

    15. play a role in examining the state of critical thinking in the design disciplines?

    16. increase the critical thinking capabilities among the design disciplines?

    17. increase the critical thinking capabilities among design journalists?

    18. determine if increasing the critical thinking capabilities in the design community is necessary?

    19. determine if the question of critical thinking has anything to do with the changes underway in the design industries?

    20. Determine if there is a connection between how design is being depicted in design magazines and how the general media depicts design?

    You can see how once challenges are unpacked from one big fuzzy clump, they lead to very different kinds of solutions. Possible solutions for one challenge might have nothing to do with solutions for other challenges.

    With challenges refined/unpacked, the connections ­ or lack there-of ­ between the challenges and the various suggested solution paths become more clear. The two solutions that you made reference to were A) launching a design awareness campaign for the general media, and B) creating a "Crit" section in your magazine.

    The awareness campaign solution seems to connect to Challenges 3 and 5 above. This solution seems to point in the direction of I.D. Magazine focusing on transforming the general media awareness of design.

    The "Crit" section solution seems to connect to Challenges 16 and 17 above. This solution seems to point in the direction of I.D. Magazine focusing on transforming the state of critical thinking and critical expression in the design disciplines.

    As valuable as those activities might be, neither of those solution paths seem to be directly connected to the transformation of the design media industry in which you operate or to the transformation of I.D. Magazine itself. At best, connections between the solution paths and Challenges 1, 2, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, and 20 are tenuous.
  7. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:36:00 μ.μ.  
    All of this suggests to me that I.D. Magazine leadership could likely benefit from working with one of those new-fangled strategic design companies that are capable of doing visual challenge mapping. You may or may not be aware that methods now exist that will take the fuzziness off complex challenge situations that all organizations face. A map of all the interconnected challenges can be made, from broad strategic challenges to more narrow tactical challenges. I believe such an exercise would help all parties involved better understand what is connected to what in the landscape of challenges around your company and industry today. A side benefit might be that this would also help your leadership to better understand how design practice itself is changing and in ways that appear to be outside your present radar screen.

    It is possible that such a map could help you rethink your world in a way that better connects to where design is going. If you are serious about banishing fuzziness from your strategic challenge landscape, this would be a good route to consider. I am sure that your leadership team would not want to miss the many opportunities that are no doubt embedded in that landscape.

    Let's acknowledge that many of these challenges are extremely difficult. Most organizations today have limited resources so leaders want to make sure that they are addressing the right challenges, the ones that are central to needed change. A visual challenge map can help leaders see and better understand what is central and what is not.

    I want to turn now and connect back to something that you referenced earlier. You said, "Currently, even within trade publications, there is a push to represent design as fashion ­ the chic accessory to a modern lifestyle." In your efforts to transform the general media coverage of design, what are you telling them about what design is today? From the I.D. Magazine perspective, what is design?

    Julie Lasky: GK, I'm not sure I gave you a thick enough slice of our objectives to warrant the charge of fuzziness. I merely alluded to two areas where I believe design journalism needs improvement, and why. Your list suggests that you perceive a wide range of deficiencies, and I am interested to know how, in your view, the design press might better reflect or engage the design professions, especially in light of the revolutions you perceive taking place within them.

    In essence, we define design as strategic decision making in the service of producing something for the market. But pushed to the wall, this definition does not exclude art or craft. Even as it relates to product or graphic design, it need not be confined to production in multiples. When you get down to it, the "something" does not even have to be material. I might even say that design is really pure strategy. To borrow a term from the architect William McDonough, it could even be relabeled "intention."
  8. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:36:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: OK, time for a group hug. Talking about strategic fuzziness is difficult. Folks (including designers) who can do this kind of thin-slicing work see clumping and fuzziness quickly, easily. No big deal. Suffice it to say that this is part of the new strategic landscape that now exists, a much different realm of activity from old style, traditional design. For some, it's a new world to wake up to.

    Challenge mapping is a process of illumination, a form of sense-making. In practice the challenge map referenced above would be based on your own fact-finding and co-created with your leadership team. The intention is never about charging anyone with anything, but rather coming to terms with the realization that strategic fuzziness exists, that defuzz methods exist. Such discovery can be unsettling to some, but it can also have significant positive impact in terms of moving conversations, organizations and communities forward. Once everyone understands that there is now transparency into the fuzziness, traditional rationales often disappear.

    In practice, there is growing awareness that the most important part of many projects takes place on the front-end where the objective is to move from fuzziness to a state of clearly defined challenges. You know the old Albert Einstein quote, I'm sure. When asked if he had one hour to save the world, how would he spend that hour, Al replied that he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes solving it. That logic still applies today.

    You asked me about solution suggestions for how the design press might better reflect or engage the design professions. I would suggest that it is quite premature to jump to solutions. I believe that no solutions from outside will resonate with you if you have not yet come to terms with the new context in which your industry and magazine now reside.

    Out of that realization and acknowledgement comes the surfacing of the challenges that you now face. Without that realization, generating solutions to challenges not yet acknowledged is a futile exercise. If your industry remains focused on what design once was, or one shrinking sub-sub-subset of what design is today, it is doubtful that any suggestions would make much sense in that context.

    A lot of this has to do with the quality and range of your own fact-finding. This is work that your team has to undertake itself. If the question is how to best undertake that work, I would first suggest casting a much, much wider international net as you do your fact-finding. If you are asking the same old, same old as to what's happening in the industry, what is changing and what is driving change, you would likely get very different answers than if you went outside that circle and asked the same questions elsewhere.

    Internationally, design today has hundreds of permutations. At NextD we have people writing to us from all over the world, talking about new models, seeking input and collaboration. Certainly we understand that what drives design in India is very different from what drives it in the Netherlands or the U.S. Design today is massive, on the move and reaching new strategic heights.

    It is highly likely that you and I move in very different circles, communicate with very different people and have very different views about what and where design is today. I will say that there is never a doubt in my mind that your industry and I.D. Magazine in particular has great potential to be doing much more in the realm of helping to move design forward.

    You spoke earlier about the expense of unearthing facts and figures about design, but I can tell you that we have no budget here.

    We do this work on a shoestring, but that does not inhibit us from staying connected to the many streams underway in the international design community ­ and we do this as a sideline activity to running our design practice. It's a frame of mind approach rather than a big budget one.

    I'm guessing that your recent issue entitled "The I.D. Forty/Design's 40 Biggest Influencers/Who Drives Design?" represents the most up-to-date culmination of your knowledge regarding what is going on in the realms of design today. Let's take a few minutes to see if we can connect a few dots there.

    Reflecting back to what you said earlier in this conversation regarding the need to educate the general media about design, help us understand how from your perspective that goal is advanced by the content of the I.D. Forty issue? Help us understand what we are looking at there.

    The I.D. Forty issue appeared to be positioned as if it was a global statement on design in general. Was that your intention?

    Are we looking at what you perceive to be the international drivers of design in the form of human beings there? Are we looking at your perception of drivers in the U.S.? Do you perceive these to be the drivers of all design or the drivers of your previously described specialties: graphic, industrial, and environmental design?

    Is this your take on the many forces driving change in the international design community today? Help us understand what exactly we are looking at in your I.D. Forty?

    ID40.jpg

    Julie Lasky: Let me preface this by noting that email is a deceptively harsh medium. At no point in this interview have I taken offense. In fact, I feel so kindly that I will make the rare gesture of expressing myself with an emoticon: smile.gif.

    The I.D. Forty is an annual list of influential designers the magazine launched about a dozen years ago. Consuming an entire issue published every January, the list quickly acquired a different theme each year, including West Coast designers, "30 under 30," international designers, design-savvy corporations, and socially conscious designers.

    Last year's I.D. Forty-the first under my editorship-was in fact an I.D. Fifty, presenting designers culled from each U.S. state. This year, we decided to stabilize the theme. We polled some 800 international designers, curators, educators, retailers, and manufacturers, asking them simply whom they considered the most influential people in the design world, based on the subject's recent contributions and likelihood of shaping future practice. (In other words, we were not honoring lifetime achievement.) We welcomed suggestions from any corner of design practice and any part of the globe.

    When we picked this course, we intended to make it permanent rather than allow the I.D. Forty's themes to slosh around.And since we were introducing some basis of comparison over time, we decided to rank our Forty. (Design-world innovators tend to have good, long careers, and we imagined readers would be interested in knowing how subjects stacked up from year to year.) Candidates who received the highest number of nominations wound up at the top of the list. This is not to suggest that rankings were based solely on brute mathematics, but that they were generally inspired by the popularity contest we ran.

    Does the 2005 I.D. Forty represent a culmination of our knowledge regarding design today? Good heavens, no. We could have easily put together a dozen lists composed of completely different names and felt confident in each case that important people were receiving their due (and that other important people were being scandalously neglected). Ultimately, this list is a highly diffracted spectrum of viewpoints issued from around the world and consolidated by I.D.'s editors. It's a snapshot, really. And like many snapshots, its interest lies in the moment it captures, which is so clearly protean. Snap again a second later and the picture changes, though many qualities remain consistent from frame to frame.

    Even before we had compiled the final selection, however, we swore off this approach. A bonus question on our nomination form asked for the names of under-recognized designers. We became so smitten with the responses that they will be the subject of next year's I.D. Forty. So we're back to mutating themes after all.
  9. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:37:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: Yes, I'm sure we both find that having a sense of humor is necessary in and around the business of design journalism today. I think it is also inherent in this kind of interaction forum that the exchange is very different. The basic dynamics of the magazine business consist of heavy outgoing broadcast and relatively light incoming. This kind of forum changes that dynamic considerably. Changing dynamics can be a little startling. I noticed earlier that your definition of design centered around decision making. Was that the definition at the center of your I.D. Forty, or are other definitions of design in the works?

    Were the 800 people selected as voters given your definition of design or another definition? What was the definitional basis of the I.D. Forty issue?

    Julie Lasky: Here's a direct quote from the call-for-nominations: The I.D. Forty will "offer a contemporary cross-section of design's most respected authorities, proponents, and trendsetters. It will feature people who have made a lasting impact and those who promise to shape design's future.Nominees can come from anywhere in the world and operate in any design discipline: product/industrial, graphic, interactive, architecture, or interiors.They can be designers, clients, curators, media representatives (with the exception of I.D. or F&W Publications staff), retailers, academics, or manufacturers."
  10. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:37:00 μ.μ.  
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    GK VanPatter: That's interesting. I do not see any definition of design there. Was the assumption that the 800 people ("designers, curators, educators, retailers, and manufacturers") that you selected as judges would have the same general understanding of what design is today as your own? Was there an implicit kind of understanding among the 800 regarding what I.D. Magazine was referring to when you referred to design?

    Julie Lasky: I was confident that nominees would fit our definition of design. It's quite broad. And they did. No suggestions fell out of the boundaries, except for a few posthumous ones.

    How do you define design?

    10
    GK VanPatter: First and foremost we make a distinction between defining the fields of design and defining design as an activity. We recognize that there are now not five but rather hundreds of variations within the fields of design. Globally there are many, many waves of change going on around design today. How the fields are changing impacts how we think about what design is as an activity.

    Recently I was in conversation with Dr. Terrance Love of the Design-Focused Research Group at Curtin University in Australia. He was describing a study that he is working on with Dr. Ken Friedman of the Norwegian School of Management in Denmark focused on mapping the design disciplines. Within the field of design they have so far identified three meta domains and "over 650 different sub-fields each associated with distinct bodies of knowledge and cultures of practice."

    With the new levels of diversity acknowledged, definitions of design as an activity that focus on the creation of products or artifacts are not only highly presumptuous, but completely inadequate. We also try to avoid preference-based definitions such as design is decision-making or design is ideation. We know those kinds of definitions tend to be more a reflection of the cognitive preferences of the person doing the defining than the reality of design.

    To settle on a working definition of design as an activity that is broad enough to include all forms of design today and specific enough to be useful is a rather tricky task.

    We still like the broad definition coined by Charles Eames that design is a method of action. Today some in the community, ourselves included, would prefer to revise that to read: Design is a human-centered method of action, or Design is a method of action that results in human-centered change.

    In doing so we also recognize that the debate around whether all design is or should be human-centered is far from complete.

    What's most important here is to understand that there is no longer just one design, but many. Today there is a need to move away from old notions of what design once was. Especially in situations where the intention is to conduct global design competitions where leaders are identified from something described as "any design discipline," this understanding becomes particularly important. Within the community, many models and notions of an expanded design now exist. It would not be difficult to find numerous models to reinforce the notion that the boundaries of design have already significantly changed and continue to do so. For the purpose of this conversation I will refer again to the Love model as just one example. Take a close look at what this means in terms of traditional assumptions regarding all or "any design disciplines."

    Here is the Love Three-Domain Model of Design:

    Domain 1. Technical Design domains (e.g., engineering design, computer hardware design, building construction design, etc.) The key feature is that this kind of design depends heavily on the designers having good mathematical and scientific skills.

    Domain 2. Art and Design domains (e.g., graphic design, fashion, etc.) The design domains previously taught in the UK 'Art and Design' schools. The primary focus is aesthetic attractiveness and desirability.

    Domain 3. 'Other' Design domains (e.g., government policy design, education program design, behavior design, organization design) Design domains that fit within Simon's definition of design and are in neither of the above domains.

    Regardless of whether one subscribes to this three-domain model or another umbrella model, the point worth noting here is that such modeling not only helps to explain how the field of design is changing, it also brings the present focus of the traditional design press more clearly into view. Such models are not pictures of far-off future states, but rather reflections of a future that has already arrived. The implications are significant.

    While the traditional design press may seek to position its intentions to be "broad" and "inclusive," such models make it clear that much of that industry remains focused primarily within Domain 2, and within that domain only on a very few subset categories. What gets rather confusing, especially for young people in our community, is that the traditional design press is constantly and confidently depicting its sub-sub-subset focus as "all design disciplines" and "global design".

    If we retake a look at the instructions for I.D. Forty that you referenced earlier, some of this confident structural confusion-making comes into view. This is most evident in your instructions that "Nominees can come from anywhere in the world and operate in any design discipline: product/industrial, graphic, interactive, architecture, or interiors."

    The Love model above makes it clear that suggesting "nominees can come from any discipline" while simultaneously stipulating that they come from one of five disciplines are completely different, contradictory statements. Anyone with broad knowledge of the design fields as they exist today would know that.

    Let's try on a different hat. If a competition's focus was truly "any design discipline," it might find leaders from within the Art and Design domain, but outside the few selected subsets. It might also find leaders outside the Art and Design domain and among the other 645 subsets of design.

    Of course in order to truly be inclusive of the "any design discipline" world, one would have to have nominating judges that have a sense of that bigger design domains picture. It is unlikely that furniture manufacturers, artifact retailers or artifact curators would have that kind of awareness. Your own statement that "No suggestions fell out of the boundaries, except for a few posthumous ones" seems to be a confirmation of this.

    Rather than a true picture of "global design" or "any design disciplines" as they exist today, this more closely resembles a kind of self-fulfilling, systematic closed loop. It creates a statement about the system of creation as much as it does about the outcome. This is a way of making a picture that is in itself circa 1980. Rather then illuminate a true picture of all design disciplines, such constructs serve to reinforce old notions of design's narrow stereotypes. This is not a snapshot of global design, but rather the design journalism equivalent to a Magritte painting where a valise is called a bird. This is not global design inclusive of any design discipline. This is instead something quite different.

    What troubles me about this picture is not that your magazine has decided for business reasons to focus on a small group of disciplines in order to sustain profitability. That is obviously your choice. What concerns me is the constant and confident drum beat depiction that what you are doing, who you are engaged with, what you are focused on and what you present is global design inclusive of all disciplines. This is either a perspective of honest naivety or a deliberate deception.

    Let's be honest. It is no secret that the traditional design press has been for years adept at setting up systems that conveniently position their own business interests and business models as leading design and global design.

    It is a dynamic that has long worked for selling magazines, but it has also added considerable confusion to the realms of design that exist today. Such dynamics work not to move design forward, but to reinforce frozen pictures of a profession, stereotypical notions of what design once was. For some in the traditional design press, those stereotypes are tied directly to their business models. So as long as those frozen pictures of what design was circa 1980 keep selling, there is little reason to really move on or to alert the community that design, outside that picture, has already moved on.

    With the advent of widely accessible global reach media, the days when that kind of spin would stick are rapidly coming to a close.

    Design and those in its surrounding universe are in a state of transformation like never before. Practice is being revolutionized. Entire new design schools are being formed. The new graduate and post-graduate design programs around the world are full of a new generation of designers. Multi-disciplinary, online, knowledge-sharing forums such as PHD-Design are flourishing.

    Graduate business schools are already on the design bandwagon. What it means to be a designer has already been radically transformed. Design journalism itself is no longer tied to the strategies, story lines, politics and purse strings of the old model created by the traditional design press. Designers themselves are getting much, much smarter. A new day of international design awareness has already dawned and it is through that lens that all things design are now viewed, including your I.D. Forty issue.

    How this is already underway becomes clear if we look at multiple views and language instead of just that of I.D. Magazine.
  11. Blogger CrazyMonkey έγραψε 7/11/2005 07:37:00 μ.μ.  
    The Language of I.D. Magazine

    On the cover: "The International Design Magazine / Our Power List Design's 40 Biggest Influencers"

    On the cover: The I.D. Forty / Who Drives Design?

    From the editorial: "The I.D. Forty grabs the zeitgeist ­ I have no doubt about it."

    "Top of the list"...In the credits to your Number 1 choice: The artifact curators at the Museum of Modern Art..."This relentless pursuit of excellence and rigorous discernment that drives it is why every designer dreams of being in MoMA's collection. Why every design lover understands the department's significance. And why no one challenges its bragging rights of being second to none."

    In the credits for your Number 10 choice: Design Within Reach furniture retailer Rob Forbes: "Doing for furniture what Victoria's Secret did for lingerie."

    In the credits for your Number 22 choice: Karim Rashid, "The rise and continuing rise of Karim Rashid provides recently minted designers with a roadmap to stardom. Most noted for: Proclamations of peace, love and techno music."

    Other Perspectives

    (A sampling of NextD journal reader observations on I.D. Forty)

    "When I read the criteria for picking the top influencers ­ I think it overall reveals a very traditional perception of what design is."

    "The tone and focus are limited and narrow."

    "I've looked at the list. The problem I have is that it has so little to do with what I see as core issues and problems in design."

    "The list is a list of individuals who for the most part drive style."

    "Pretty irrelevant."

    "All the figures named here are important designers doing good work, often exciting work. The problem is that the list recognizes a limited range of activities as design."

    "Lists such as this do not do what they should because they reduce important questions to entertainment."

    "It is funny that both MOMA Design Department and Murray Moss both made the list. . . . As a shopkeeper, Murry Moss curates and displays a richer cabinet of curiosities than the museum."

    "I'm reminded of my experience as an undergraduate. I would come home from the university during breaks. Upon seeing me on the street, our next door neighbor would ask routinely, "Now tell me again, what do you study?" The exchange was always the same. I would always reply, "I study design," and she would follow-up, "Do you make dresses?"

    "I would like to see less fluffy discussion about design and much more discussion of the bigger picture. Issues that really concern most designers and consumers. It is only then that we will be taken seriously by the general public and businessmen."

    "This type of list is always entertaining for a general readership and certainly appreciated by those who get listed because they are reinforced as a brand and this is great marketing for them. In the arena of services and commodities, these lists are mostly valuable as histories of the latest in material designs. As in most cases, however, these types of lists do little to move any understanding or appreciation for design as something beyond just 'appearance' and 'experience'."

    "A much better perspective on design currents comes through the web; much less glorification much more to ponder. I find very few articles in design magazines that challenge a way of thinking and make me reconsider how and what design can do ­ which is what we should be talking about."

    "Design magazines are too insular and self promotional."

    "I haven't spent too much time there as I found few articles of interest to my Ph.D. research project on strategic design processes and methods"

    "In relation to the traditional design press, I don't see any real ?out of the box' thinking in relation to what design is and I don't see any real effort in the descriptions to go behind the scenes, under the surface and look for what it is that makes the top five successful."

    "I think the list represents influential drivers within a traditional perception of design ­ and I think it is leaving out new types of influential design drivers. I miss leaders like NextD from the list, people who are moving the design industry into new territories and are defining and developing new perceptions of what design is and new ways of working in this space."

    "My research focus is on design methods and processes in leading design agencies ­ I have found very few articles useful for my purpose in the traditional design press.

    "It is disturbing that a museum curatorial staff is rated #1."

    "The fact that good design is measured by a museum is problematic in that it symbolizes design is still measured in a glorified sort of manner."

    "Design magazines need to be more in touch with social impact than they are today."

    "I think that MoMA, as with many museums presenting design alongside art, has become out of step with 21st century thinking about design. Museums usually present the decorative approach of Victorian England and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London."

    "The consequences of designs ­ who benefits, who is served, who loses, etc. ­ are not revealed in these lists. The consequence is that the 'influence' or 'drive' is based more on 'fashion' and 'style' than anything of more substance. The approach to creating such lists are as revealing in some cases as the lists themselves."

    "The ID40 list seems to be a random collection of names and tends to have a bias towards the art side of the design field, overall representing a just very narrow focus of what constitutes the field of design."

    "It is clear that I.D. has a liberal view of "design," "innovation," and "achievement."

    Evidently these globally dispersed folks in the community who have perspective on the broadening field of design are not drinking the I.D. Magazine Kool-Aid. They have rather startlingly different perspectives on the picture that I.D. Forty represents.

    Earlier you made reference to a concern about the state of design journalism as it exists today. I, too, have concerns, but not exactly the same ones that you have expressed here.

    From my perspective, the number one most troubling thing about I.D. Forty is the role that our existing form of "design journalism" has been playing in the creation and enabling of such pictures. It is a game that has been going on for years. Closely connected is concern about the consequences for the community. What are the consequences for continuing to publish conveniently frozen pictures of what an industry was, as opposed to what an industry is?

    Enmeshed in such pictures, what happens to the community's perceptions of the real challenges and opportunities facing us in practice and in our design education institutions? How does this Magritte-like picture impact the next generation's ability to orient themselves? It seems obvious that the cost being paid by the community is not insignificant. Disorientation never serves to speed up innovation, but rather slow it down. We are kidding ourselves if we think there are no consequences for broadcasting this kind of forceful and frozen depiction of ourselves regularly into the community.

    While design is being reinvented in BIG ways outside of that picture, let's not be afraid to ask ourselves to what degree do we need to reinvent what design journalism is, what it does and what it stands for? Can we find the future of design that has already arrived by looking through the lens of traditional design press business interests? In light of the many changes underway around the design arena, let's not be afraid to ask those with the power to publish/broadcast into our community: What are the new roles and responsibilities of design journalism?

    Is the primary role of design journalism to depict real and clear pictures? To stimulate thinking about design? To illuminate challenges and opportunities? Or are we here primarily to spin holographs of ourselves? Earlier you referred to fixing design journalism. I would love to get your take on whether the fixing that you have in mind includes addressing these issues that continue to have huge impact on our community.

    Julie Lasky: Defining design, as you eloquently state, is a kind of razor's edge. Or in your words, "To settle on a working definition of design as an activity that is broad enough to include all forms of design today and specific enough to be useful is a rather tricky task."

    Even your own formulation immediately begins to unravel: "Design is a human-centered method of action or Design is a method of action that results in human-centered change. . . . We also recognize that the debate around whether all design is, or should be, human-centered is far from complete." We both agree that design is best understood in terms of approach rather than product. I say "strategy" or "intention." You say "method of action," though I'm not quite sure how that differs from strategy.

    Where we differ most profoundly, however, is in the perceived dangers of marking out this territory and providing examples of those who practice effectively within it. You offer a number of statements by people who believe the I.D. Forty cut too narrow a swath.

    Remarkably, however, only one proposed an example of an influencer who should have been in our collection ­ namely, you. I would like to hear more about how NextD is "moving the design industry into new territories and. . . defining and developing new perceptions of what design is and new ways of working in this space," as is vaguely described. There has been and remains room in I.D. and the I.D. Forty for expanded definitions, but I would ask that they be expressed concretely with examples. Who would you or your readers liked to have seen on the list?

    Names, please. I know it's discomfiting to supply them, but that's the only way you'll help me understand the dimension you find lacking.

    As noted, we sought to represent people who have recently demonstrated profound influence in the design world. The type of power they wield is often commercial and clearly not to your taste. Still, the framework was much broader than you give us credit for, considering that it also embraced forces shaping sustainability, design education, new business models, and new technologies.

    Our suggestion that "Nominees can. . . operate in [you incorrectly paraphrased this as "be from"] any design discipline: product/industrial, graphic, interactive, architecture, or interiors" maps out a world of two, three, and four dimensions; of objects and experience; of inside and outside. (And note that we used the word "can," not "must.")

    The statement describes a big universe with expandable boundaries. And though you see the results as proof of a constricted realm, the resulting list included people who don't fit easy definitions: Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago; Peter Diamandis, who sponsored the Ansari X Prize; Natalie Jeremijenko, the new-media artist and electromechanical engineer. Moreover, your text excerpts mislead in suggesting we took a worshipful view of our influencers.

    Anyone looking for jaundice rather than bubbling enthusiasm could have made an equally effective case. Part of what you quoted about Karim Rashid, for instance, was clearly ironic in context; the other part (you conflated two separate bits from the main text and callout) was diminishing, or would have been if you hadn't lopped off a chunk of it, and not in a thin-slicing kind of way. The original states: "The rise and continuing rise of Karim Rashid provides recently minted designers with a roadmap to stardom. But where form is concerned, young guns may have moved on to other models."

    Then again, even Malcolm Gladwell would agree that concise formulations run the risk of reflecting bias, which is what this entire conversation is about, right? I believe the way to avoid reductionism is to draw generalizations based on observations, and test and refine them with a flexible mind, so the realm reflected by journalism is consonant with activity in the world.

    Naturally, the landscape will look dramatically different depending on how one maps it. Given the complexity we both agree inheres in definitions of design, a map can be constructed in diverse ways.

    This year, the I.D. Forty mapped influence. Next year it will look at that same question from the other side ­ the 40 most underrated people in design. That list will no doubt be as controversial as this one, considering that we will explore the relationship between public recognition and personal success.

    You may well find our I.D. Forty subjects irrelevant or our mapping methodology faulty, but to suggest that I.D.'s approach is constricting and symptomatic of a larger distortion of public design awareness strikes me as narrow in its own right. A quick skim through our pages will reveal examples of practitioners and projects that fall outside anyone's definition of object-oriented design. Whether such people fit into your own universe is still unclear. I would love to hear more about its parameters.

    As for your reference to "drinking the I.D. Magazine Kool-Aid," I can only hope you have no personal recollection of the Jonestown affair, and that you are not consciously linking my enterprise to a cult led by a psychotic demagogue responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. The comparison does little credit to your appreciation of nuance or to the consumers of design journalism everywhere.
  12. Anonymous Interior Design έγραψε 1/25/2006 02:25:00 π.μ.  
    Did you want a ton of infomration about this?

    interior design office
  13. Anonymous interior design έγραψε 4/10/2006 03:43:00 μ.μ.  

    graphic design Interior Design - Do You Love Decorating Your Own House? Get Paid!
    Are You Ready To Start Your Career In The Interior Design Industry?

    A Designer creates, organizes and designs commercial and residential properties. A designer works with the interior of a particular space and various internal spaces.

    How To Break Into The Design Industry is a thoroughly researched report on how to take your interest and turn it into a full fledged career. It takes you from the beginning - helping you figure out if this is really for you - all the way to finding clientele for your new business. Interior Design graphic design
  14. Anonymous interior design έγραψε 4/12/2006 06:24:00 μ.μ.  

    architecture interior design Interior Design - Do You Love Decorating Your Own House? Get Paid!
    Are You Ready To Start Your Career In The Interior Design Industry?

    A Designer creates, organizes and designs commercial and residential properties. A designer works with the interior of a particular space and various internal spaces.

    How To Break Into The Design Industry is a thoroughly researched report on how to take your interest and turn it into a full fledged career. It takes you from the beginning - helping you figure out if this is really for you - all the way to finding clientele for your new business. Interior Design architecture interior design
  15. Anonymous Vision Tool and Machine Design έγραψε 4/21/2006 09:22:00 μ.μ.  
    Very interesting reading. Thanks.

    Sincerely,

    Pat
    Vision Tool and Machine Design

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