Out of the Hothouse (1996)

RUST, C. (1996) Out of the Hothouse – Design Consultancies and CAD. co-design – Interdisciplinary Journal of Design and Contextual Studies, July 1996

Out of the Hothouse:
Design Consultancies and Computer Aided Design

The result of a 4-year investigation into the developing (in the early 1990s) impact of computer aided design. A lot has happened since. The title here is the one given by the journal, the original title was Out of the Hothouse: is there a future for Industrial Design Consultancy? I feel that represents the paper more precisely.

Download full paper from archive.org

Industrial Designers traditionally have worked in a relatively simple, craft environment. In 1990 it was possible to be a design consultant with little more than a drawing board and telephone in the spare bedroom. Bruce and Morris have concluded that low entry cost, coupled with lack of regulation, contribute to a fragmented, small-scale consultancy industry. Our own research indicates that design consultancies are only prepared to invest in relatively low-cost technology. (since 1996 the technology has become remarkably cheap)

For a number of reasons, including the growing use of information technology, the focus of industrial design activity may be moving away from the “creative hothouse” of the consultancy and into the more constrained but perhaps more productive environment of the manufacturing company. This may be masked by a continuing presentation of the consultancy as the mainstream of design practice and the relative modesty of in-house designers,

As a result of increasing focus on information technology, as well as other organisational issues, much more design may be carried out in-house in future. Those independent design organisations which survive will need to have a much clearer sense of purpose, including an understanding of their relationship with clients, the role of technology in their practice and the nature of “ownership” of a design project.


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