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Designing for People Paperback – November 1, 2003
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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About the Author
Henry S. Dreyfuss is considered the founding father of industrial design and one of the most prolific designers of the past century. Born in New York City in 1904, he authored or inspired countless American design landmarks, including the model 300 Bell telephone, Hoover appliances, the Twentieth Century Limited locomotive, and RCA televisions.
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An interesting comparison is contrast Designing for People to Tim Brown's Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation released 54 years after. It seems reasonable to ask if the field of design has developed at all, maybe except for branding. It seems that the office of Dreyfuss was essentially practicing all methods under the mindset of "design thinking" Brown presented as the holy grail of organizational innovation.
The book holds a quite detailed account of the operation of Henry Dreyfuss and one might call it an autobiography. Biography in a form of a vitae and an industrial design business cook book. This is also the problem of the tome. At best, it provides insights and details, reports from the past which would be otherwise unattainable. At worst, it reads out as a (poorly) guided tour to a trophy room. A short story after short story in an identical format, describing yet another Dreyfuss victory in some exotic field of design. This is emphasized by the result-oriented style of the narrator, which always describes the glorious outcome of the design process, where as the process receives less attention.
The biggest problem I, as a design scholar, have with the book is about the rather mystified design process view. Although Dreyfuss does provide a lot of examples on how they as a design agency repeatedly used research, prototyping and some intuition to solve even the toughest problems, there is awfully lot missing. Even though chapter 15 does document some humoristic irks on the detail level, there is not much talk about failures, temporary set backs or the confusion usually associated with a creative process. Much of the success ends up being attributable to character of the designer(s). Designers appear as god like infallible creatures capable to undertaking and overtaking any design task better than the client company they are hired for. And the writer is very clearly depicting himself as one such uomo universal for instance in his description of transforming McCall's magazine. I'm exaggerating, but bothers me most is the complete credit for the mutual efforts of design company personnel.
I hate to say it but this book fails to give any real credit to a great number of people who must be responsible for the great achievements of Mr. Dreyfuss. Coming back to 21st century, for the defense of Mr. Brown and his fellow IDEOans, they do acknowledge the team performance making design possible. It is not just whoever and however that the visions of design can be harmonized and executed successfully, there is an appropriate combination of the right type of skills and personalities needed at the job. Of course, the prototyping techniques introduced in Dreyfuss' book and their modern equivalents are important but they are not the only source of magic.
I recommend this book for post-modern reader with an interest in the history of design business. It gives a nice modernist view on design, one which is surprisingly timely in our post-modern times. It provokes lot of thought, in good and bad. The prophecies and war stories of Dreyfuss can be boring, but there is lot of very practical information here and there to be found, making it a mostly pleasant reading.
True, the book was last touched in 1967, and the photos and examples are dated, as is the mid-century prognostication of the future (our current present.). See past these to the heart of the matter - design is about the measurements, proportions, and limitations of humans.
Dreyfuss's determination to research, study and learn the needs of the end user is an enduring theme and major takeaway for me.
The book's margins is where Designing for People comes alive for me. The ample space, sketches and handwritten notes directing the reader to photos and points of reference are superb! I appreciate the photographs as well.
If you are considering design, are a budding designer and or are just interested in design, this is a must have book.
That said, Dreyfuss does tend to come across very matter-of-factly at times, leaving little gray area in his black and white world. As a result Mr. Dreyfuss sides with the Bauhaus approach where form follows function-indeed, he often mentions the resulting form of a product as a side-note, if he mentions it at all. Whereas this may be an annoyance for some readers, the lessons you take away from his life experiences are truly informative and insightful.
As the amount of 3D design in product development grows, designers today are faced with the difficulty of "skin designing" verses thoughtful, foundation-based designing. If nothing else, this book should serve as inspiration for those of us in the field to design based on function and aesthetics-we have a duty and responsibility to client and society to base designs on research and thoughtfulness, not simply the known tools in a computer program. In any case, DFP should be on the required reading list for industrial design students to teach the history and guidelines of our profession. "Designing for People" serves as not only a reminder of the way it used to be, but it also inspires the designer to believe how it should be now.
It was very difficult to read at the beginning as I adjusted to the mistakes.
The first half of the book is really interesting as it goes through cases of the history and impact of industrial design. I feel like halfway through he ran out of ideas and started talking about random things, so it petered out at the end.
Most recent customer reviews
This book, although a bit dry, shows the thought process in...Read more