Sunday, October 28, 2012

Design's expansion into the 'Invisible'


Recently an excellent article by Tom Fisher, the Dean of the School of Design at the U. Minnesota, titled Design's Invisible Century, provided an exceptional frame for understanding the evolving nature of design. The article makes a contrast with science's 'invisible' century, the 20th Century, when scientist thought they had 'seen' everything and suddenly the sciences of the 'unseen' realms of physics, chemistry, and psychology et. al. exploded into 'view' resulting in a scientific renaissance. The case is made in the article that design is now facing the same sort of renaissance in the 21st Century, in the realms of the 'invisible', as did science in the last century.

Most formalized design fields are defined by their domains of 'visibility' but design is expanding into more 'invisible' domains. An example is design's expansion into other professions such as management. A seminal conference was hosted at Case Western's business school titled 'Managing as Designing' which resulted in the publication of a book by the same name published by Stanford University Press. Another example is the Rotman School of Business in the U. Toronto, which has made a serious commitment to design. Around the world there are university programs combining business and design in the planning or implementation stages.

Design is moving into the domains of public policy, business and military strategy, and other 'invisible' domains of human activity. New forms of designing and new types of designers are emerging as well. Some designers from the 'visible' traditions of design are forming up to 'design behavior' or other interventions into 'unseen' worlds but that of course is dangerous without them making changes in their design practices and character. Ones that are a better fit for the task of making the 'invisible' 'visible'.

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