Looking at society as the embodiment of a living environment, which is constituted of social, cultural, mental and material components, raises the question about how this is (or should be) actually organised.
In the summer semester 2015, a new issue of the “Design & Organisation” lectures started at GUC Berlin Campus. During the whole semester, a group of 23 (Graphic-, Product- and Media-) design students has been exploring the links, tasks, parallels and potentials between design and organisation(s). The course was complemented by a series of lectures that dealt with the organisational dimensions of design.
The exploration started with a historical introduction into System Design, discussing insights from the HfG Ulm, exemplifying the ‘Frankfurt Kitchen’ as an approach for a taylorist assembly line in home environments, or investigating the works of Hans Roericht in terms of a “Design as Organisation of Food Services” (Marion Godau).
For sure, designers can also benefit from non-structure or even chaos. Yet, thin is the line between open and closed structures within the design process. This challenge was contrasted in the following sessions with Juli Gudehus (“The better the rules, the more fun are the games!”), Uwe Kuckertz (“The Architecture Perspective”) or Anja Rosendahl (“The Brand Perspective”).
Together with Christoph Fleckenstein (iondesign), the students moreover explored how “shaping needs” can include both addressing needs and creating them. Including an intense discussion on the sustainable dimensions of design, e.g. in terms of local production, or creating and sustaining regional jobs.
In regard to conceive design as an epistemic, analytical tool, e.g. for understanding place or life, the topic area was then broadened towards considerations about “Urban Organisms” (Ares Kalandides) as well as “human and cybernetic Organisms” (Stefan Greiner). The former showed how our understanding of a city actually changes the planning of a city, which does both have a strong link to design. Referring back to Norbert Wiener, the latter explicated the closed loop between technical and human systems: Both work as regulatory systems, which are based on feedback loops. From a cyborg point-of-view, this helps a lot to understand the human relation to tools: Being used to use and learn tools and techniques, we can somehow externalize what used to be limited to our brain or body beforehand.
This understanding again opens up the field to “hack” these tools and techniques. Hacking is nothing more or less than modifying an original meaning and transforming it into something completely new or different. Thus the cyborg perspective entails, that this does not only mean to experiment with technology but also with our bodies (e.g. in terms of broadening our senses).
Undoubtedly this raises some fundamental, ethical questions. Not only in terms of how we can create a more open access to technology in future, and create processes in which everybody can participate. But also in terms of how we define the boarders of “human” and “technology”!
The multiperspective input of this course, was taken as a basis for design-argumentative short texts, in which the students would approach general or specific perspectives on the “Design & Organisation” complex. Diverse points of view were possible and being discussed differently: How can design (help to) inform an organisation. How can it trigger the processes with or within an organisation? What role can design play in institutional organisation(s)? What about organisations that deal with design topics? This led to a broad spectrum of diverse derivations, suggestions, opinions and proposals that aim at designing organisation(s) and organising design.
Twenty-three short essays were compiled in a booklet. Fortunately the narrative styles are as broad as the topics being discussed: From rather subjective or anecdotic stories to abstracted or generalizing papers, the authors have been dealing with the links or parallels between design and organisation; all considering limits as well as chances and potentials for design in terms of organisation, and vice versa. Often revealing a critical and reflected thinking about design. And occasionally – maybe unconsciously – opening the field of discussion towards an almost heideggerian understanding about the “presence-at-hand” versus the “readiness-to-hand”, or even the “being-in-the-world” in general.
Tom Bieling | Berlin, Mai 2016