As an unexpected twist to the end of the semester, for my Design, Management, and Organizational Change class with Richard Buchanan, we were asked to design our ideal design consulting company. The class was split into three groups that are to approach the question from three different perspectives: people, products and services (forms), and brand, vision, and values. I’m in the people group.

We were asked if there is a new role for design that we could tap into. Are there new forms or places for design? And although not explicitly stated, where are there opportunities for what Buchanan calls fourth order design, or systemic integration? What problems would we want to address? Would we focus on the internal or external issues of organizations? What kinds of clients would be like? How does the vision affect the firm? What might the implementation of the vision be?

To this end we mapped the competitive landscape of design and business consulting firms. We detailed the problems design companies face moving into newer territory. And we debated endlessly on what it is we would like to do and the problems we would like to solve with design. Albeit, much of our discussions remain somewhat vague. And we are having a difficult time coming to consensus, or barring that, direction.

As it stands, we have not come up with anything too radical. Our ideas are already in the minds of many designers and consulting firms. So our dilemma and deliverable may be to articulate a means to position a design firm in a new space and the value of design in that area.

Will we be able to do that better than an existing firm looking to do the same thing? Or will this will merely turn out to be an academic exercise? In five weeks, I’ll let you know.