Patriarchs of the Design Family (was: New Uber DesignOrg)

19 Nov 2003 - 2:20pm
744 reads
Kristoffer Åberg

MessageDo I defend IDSA or Icograda? Not necessarily, but I support every honest attempt to strengthen the voice of design.

Would I want to have someone else speak for me? Yes, if they among other things constitute a powerful (lobbying) force to develop, educate about and promote the importance of design to relevant stakeholders. No, if they presume to speak for the discipline I adhere to, interaction design, without having the required competence to do so, and going counter to my interests. So whether such an organization is distant from me or not has no bearing on whether it would be meaningful or meaningless to me, much like Beth's example with the UN.

A "Yes" example: I enter the interaction design field from computer science and HCI. I'm a member of the ACM, but ACM has little value for me besides providing a permanent email forwarding address, the occasional issue of Interactions and the occasional relevant article in Communications of the ACM, ACM Technews, and the Digital Library, whenever access is free :-). But I trust ACM to be a powerful voice to develop, educate and promote the interests of computer science and computer scientists. In line with Beth's comment; if I want to influence that voice, how they speak for me, I will also have to make ACM more meaningful to me.

A "No" example: the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation in co-operation with the now defunct Swedish ICT Commission ran a workshop on digital services, based on the challenge of how to design useful and usable (digital) services. The idea put forward by the Foundation was that industrial design, with its tradition of user and use context focus to create useful and usable products, would have a role to play in the design of digital services. I definitely agree. However the contribution and existing competence of disciplines such as HCI and interaction design were not even mentioned (except by workshop participants from these disciplines), I fear, but hope not, out of ignorance (and whose fault but ours as interaction designers?). An important area where interaction design would have a crucial role to play, co-opted by industrial design which would also be an important contributor although never on its own.

So, I believe there are many issues that are common to many or even all design disciplines. At the same time there are issues unique to each of the design disciplines, best cared for by the members of IDSA, Icograda, Interaction Designers, etc. But in either case I think it is important and interesting to cross discipline boundaries to note patterns of similarity and difference. My interaction designer friends, colleagues and acquaintances have entered this particular design discipline from art, teaching, new media, industrial design, informatics, computer engineering, architecture, literature, the list goes on and on...this melange is a prime source of my fascination for interaction design.

Are industrial design and graphical design the roots of all design disciplines? Did they spawn from architecture? To me these are both trick questions. From what design theory and history I master, and as Molly points out, it depends on who you ask, on the biases of any individual design textbook author, on national or regional histories of design... The term "industrial design" entered Sweden from the US in the early 1940's, but industrial design as such had been practiced by architects, artists, and engineers long before that. Interaction design in Sweden is even more confused, since we have different flavours at different universities (art+technology, informatics, industrial design, HCI/PD, cognitive science), and even more diversity among individual interaction designers, as noted above.


Kristoffer Åberg, M. Sc. C. S
Interaction Designer
----- Original Message -----
From: Challis Hodge
To: discuss at
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 4:21 PM
Subject: [ID Discuss] Patriarchs of the Design Family (was: New Uber DesignOrg)

What do folks think of this?
Aren't there more than two design disciplines?

I tossed the above out to see what thoughts might emerge. Interesting that some folks came back to defend the orgs. I surely wasn't suggesting that these orgs should be consulting with us before moving forward.

There were some other topics that I hoped would emerge though:

1. Are these two disciplines, graphic and industrial design, the roots of all design disciplines? Did they spawn from architecture?

2. Some of us are so distant from these organizations that they are meaningless. Why is this so? As a result can they adequately speak for all of design? Can design have one voice anyway?

Any thoughts...?



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