Work in Progress
by Ponto


Division of Labour was the first theme explored in the context of this project. This exploration occurred in both practical (workshops) and theoretical (reading, talking and writing) means. This present document indent to consolidate and summarize the discussions, and pin-point our finding together with our point of view.

In his essay Research and Destroy, Daniel van der Velden[1], introduces a statement from Annette Nijs[2] the cultural spokesperson for the VVD. She wrote “We are making a turn, away from the assembly line to the laboratory and the design studios…” on a study by the TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research) that states that nowadays the major portion of economic growth derives from design. Following this observation by Annette Nijs, van der Velden questions if the designer can be a successor of the factory worker and still encompasss the strategic aptitude they hold in the meeting rooms? He writes: “Is a designer someone who thinks up ideas, designs, produces, and sells, or someone who holds a mouse and drags objects across a computer screen?”

This observation couldn’t be a better introduction to the workshop that we prepared as part of this project (and more specifically as part of the exploration of Division of a Labour as one of the themes). In these series of two workshops (MoP I & II) we used methodologies of production based on manufacture production models developed by Ford and Toyota. We see that these two models could be used as metaphors of two different kinds of practice within the industry of Graphic Design.
The first one, Ford, can be easily associated with the culture of a Design agency or the overall relation between different specialized sectors of industry. This system is defined by the independence of each station, allowing for specialization of the workers who are invited to co-operate between them and other stations, but focusing solely on their one task. This is reflected in the Graphic Design industry within big design agencies where the designer is seen as “someone who holds a mouse and drags objects across a computer screen…”. In this framework the creative and strategic side is taken over by communication managers, marketing experts, art directors and design managers which engage on behalf of the client to direct the design process. A big part of the design decisions are therefore made by people outside of the design “sector”.
In comparison, the second model, Toyota also known as the “Just-in-time” model, is much more fluid than the Ford Model as it allows for participants to adapt to either co-operate and/or collaborative systems, having the freedom to be part of more than one assignment. This model was designed to be responsive and flexible and is a perfect metaphor for the small design studio where the designer can engage in more than one activity. Often the small design studio also engages in self-initiated projects as part of their practice, which allows for the exploring of other disciplines in the process. It is subjective which one works best but the workshops reflect that the groups that worked in Toyota’s framework have much sense of ownership and pride on the final outcome.
Nowadays, within professional practise of design, one spends only a small portion of time actually ‘designing’, while the rest of it is spent on phone calls, reading, meetings, making mockups, thinking, discussing… the so called administrative, organizational work. Some might not agree but all of this ‘non-design’ activities are also inherent and crucial part of the design process. In a big design agency, it’s obvious that these activities are not held by the designer himself but normally taken over by, for example, project managers or art directors who then work on the behalf of the client to guide the designer in the same strategic perspective, and making his work on the same level of that of a factory worker. If these administrative activities are seen as crucial in the design process, then other intellectual and non aesthetic-driven activities like writing, editing, curating, can also be logically accommodated within the definition of ‘design’ and perhaps lead us to a wider idea of design process in itself.

[1] van der Velden, D. (2011). Research and Destroy: Desogm as Omvestogatopm. In: Blauvelt, A and Lupton E Graphic Design: Now in Production. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center. p16-18. (Originally published in Metropolis M 2, April/May 2006.)

[2] NRC Handelsbled, 9 February 2006

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27 May 2013

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