ing semantic issues. Asking design students to
create content means asking them to write. That
means the teacher needs to read and review what
the students write. It’s difficult to imagine teachers like Armin Hoffman or Wolfgang Weingart
commenting on student writing. Even Paul Rand,
who seems to have written rather well, never gave
assignments that required students to write.
Still, why not extend our Boston Pops-poster
assignment? Shouldn’t students discuss the copy
as well as the typography? Shouldn’t students discuss what makes an effective poster? Or whether
a poster is the best way to attract people to a
concert? Or perhaps even what the role of the
Pops might be in Boston, in New England, in the
U.S., or the broader music community—today and
10 years from now? Rather than ask students to
redesign (reskin or even reorganize) the Pops website, wouldn’t it make more sense to ask how the
Internet will affect the Pops’ long-term future?
That’s some of what moving from the bottom
row up to the top row might mean.
Let’s come back to Doblin’s x-axis: product, unisystem, multisystem.
I propose replacing “product” with “object”,
because product may suggest a thing to be sold,
while the result of a design process need not be
sold. “Object” also seems to be in the same family
“Unisystem” and “multisystem” are terms of
Doblin’s devising. While diligent readers may be
able to decipher them, they are not immediately
accessible. “System” seems clearer than “
unisystem.” Likewise “ecology” (or Meredith Davis’s
term, “community of systems”) seems clearer
than”multisystem.” “Ecology” also suggests the
dynamic, even living, quality of a system of systems. In sum: Ecologies are composed of systems,
and systems are composed of objects.
The examples Doblin gives of multisystems
are all competitive spaces or markets, but as
Pytor Kropotkin noted, cooperation may be
as important as competition in evolution [ 4].
Multisystems or ecologies need not be seen
only as markets. Many large organizations (e.g,
conglomerates, universities, and governments)
are themselves multisystems or ecologies. And
even some product offerings are multisystems
or ecologies, (e.g, the Univers family of type-
faces is a system of systems; so are integrated
systems of hardware, software, networked
applications, and human services, such as
Apple’s i Tunes and iPhone environments).
[ 4] Kropotkin, P.
Mutual Aid: A Factor of
Evolution. New York:
McLure Phillips & Co.,
[ 5] Neuhart, J., Neuhart,
M., and Eames, R.
Eames Design: The
Work of the Office of
Charles and Ray Eames.
New York: Abrams,
[ 6] Lawson, B. How
The Design Process
[ 7] Buchanan, R.
“Design as Inquiry:
The Common, Future
and Current Ground
of Design,” address to
the Design Research
AbOut the AuthOr Hugh Dubberly manages
a consultancy focused on making services and
software easier to use through interaction design
and information design. As vice president he was
responsible for design and production of
Netscape’s Web services. For 10 years he was at
[ 8] Robinson, R.
E. “Let’s Have a
Anderson, Ken &
Lovejoy, Tracey (edi-
tors) Proceedings of
EPIC 2005, American
September + October 2010
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