“Posters and toasters are swell.” If you ever listen to Richard Buchanan talk about design, you’re bound to hear this phrase at least once. I’ve heard it many times, most recently in the course I’m taking this semester, Design Management and Organizational Change. Buchanan believes this to be the most exciting branch of design today, calling it a “new branch of design thinking.”
As an interaction designer, an instructor for a foundational interaction design course, and a frequenter of the IxDA discussions, I know that the majority of practicing interaction designers work in web and software. But I believe interaction design has much more to contribute to design and humankind than screens.
The design management course represents a different arena for interaction design. The course is about taking what we know as designers and applying it to organizational life: how people interact in groups and work together. We can think of organizations as environments, and design for the environment and the interactions.
As to the significance of and relationship between design and organizations, Buchanan says that you could argue organizations are the most important design products of the 20th century. The complexity of organizational life make the subject matter very difficult to tackle: a perfect candidate for design.
Related to my interests in the unrecognized power of design and the troubling disparity of design as a discipline, I find the subject matter fascinating. Buchanan hypothesizes that management and organizational thinking are unrecognized products of design. With the view that there is no absolute right answer for an organization, and that the complexity makes organizations too difficult to understand in full before making decisions to bring about change, the likely candidate for the force behind organizational change is design, as design is well suited to such wicked problems.
Another point that Buchanan postulates is that from a design point of view organizations are products and that they serve human beings. If the purpose of design is to serve others, as stated in The Design Way, and organizations are products, this indeed is a ripe area for design. As an interaction designer, contemplating the idea that organizations are products that can be designed possibly to serve people better intrigues the hell out of me.
If at its simplest definition interaction design can be said to be designing for behavior, the behavior of organizations appear to be fair game and an exciting move beyond screens for interaction design.