Rethinking design practice

The number of design professionals calling for a rethink of design practice may be a small percentage of practitioners, but their voices are in unison, and their arguments compelling.

One of those eloquently calling for change is architect Peter Buchanen, who wrote a series of 10 essays for Architectural Review entitled THE BIG RETHINK, published between 21 December 2011 and 23 November 2012. (Buchanen’s essays can be downloaded from his link above.)

Impossible in a paragraph or two here to summarize Buchanen’s thesis, except to say that he explores thoroughly the reasons why architects design what they do, the successes and failures of their efforts, and attempts to paint a meaningful future for the profession.

Buchanen’s focus, unlike my own, is on what I call “content” – the ideas and values that drive design decisions, and the outcomes of design process. This is basically different from the focus of the DesignNode site, which is focused on processes of design rather than the outcomes of those processes.

There is a lot of excellent, provocative thinking in Buchanen’s work, and I heartily recommend reading his essays.

“Practice” is the umbrella locus for action: unless firm leaders see the need to change, no action by others in the practice will make it happen.

Indeed, what often happens is that when forward-thinking staff press management to change, and get nowhere, sooner or later they get frustrated, and leave for more enlightened places to work.

You can do all the rethinking you want, but if nothing changes, the mental effort was a waste of time. Accordingly, Managing Change is an appropriate subject of discussion here.

Return to Managing the Practice page

Content available:

Practice Management 101

PSMJ: Rethinking Design Practice

Fisher: Redefining Design

Cramer & Simpson: The Next Architect