Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The implosion of design disciplines

I have seen some comments lately by designers on how to make distinctions between design areas and disciplines. There seems to be a concern that design disciplines are not se easy to separate any more and that they are becoming more similar. Even though there is an attempt to separate and define different design areas, for instance by introducing notions such as social or service design or experience design, it seems to become more difficult to define these forms of design as distinct from each other and also distinct from traditional disciplines of design. In almost all design areas today there are some design of physical artifacts, of processes and services, of visual form and expression, of relationships and systems, and not the least of interaction. An architect is involved in all these design aspects, so it an interaction designer or an organizational designer, etc.

Of course, each specific design challenge require some form of particular competences, skills, methods and tools. But at the same time, it seems as if the traditional more clear distinction of different design tasks is evaporating or maybe with a better metaphor 'imploding', in the sense that nothing disappears, it all becomes aspects of a single type of process that incorporates the full range of design 'disciplines' including their need for competences and skills.

To what extent this is reflected in educational programs and in how industry is organizing their design competences and processes today is unclear. My suspicion is that it is still done based on traditional and 'old-school' ideas of design. Of course there are examples of the opposite, for instance programs that do not see a particular design discipline as their core and instead try to educate some form of general designers. I am quite sure however that this is not the way forward. So, what is? Is it a new breed of designers that are more tightly connected to a specific type of application area, to a specific form of problems, or to a specific design process or....? I am sure we will see a lot of exciting developments in this area in the years to come. In many cases, this development will seriously challenge traditional university organizational structures with their set idea of what constitute an academic discipline and educational program.