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A Fundamental Shift in the Product Design Paradigm Continued ...
by Michael Davis

But it is more than that. Product design is something that must be practiced as an individual. Finding the unique balance between idea and the need for personal intent expressed is a basis for Western thought and has been a key to the success of the West in the last century. If someone spends 5 years in design or engineering school, that person should only expect to practice a personal form of design in order to derive at least some satisfaction from the commitment. We are not talking about designing submarines or jumbo jets here, where the powerful collaborative systems are essential. What I am talking about is just that for the first time in history, the original ideal of the Bauhaus, to become the Master Designer has been handed to us on a silver platter in the form of Solid Modeling programs like SolidWorks and other programs like it.

Certainly as an industrial designer, I don't practice structural analysis, and most engineers have a hard time relating to the esoteric whims of individual needs of customers. But there is a common ground where both groups practice parts of each other's art. More importantly, no engineer or designer goes into their profession for the purpose of doing part of the task, and in fact most will spend their careers searching for opportunities to become the Master Designer to gain the satisfaction derived from building the total product.

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The design system today is so segmented that it is only natural there is so much angst among the players. It is difficult for any of the players to take ownership of the work and thus the whole product design and performance suffers from the process.

What I am proposing here is nothing new, really, but rather that the inevitable result of all this software development is the re-emergence of the individual's ability to perform the art of design in the Western sense of the free individual. And that will not be an American phenomenon, but a world wide one. Inventors and entrepreneurs have been doing this outside the professional loop throughout most of history, without the help of the new CAD products. Imagine what they can do now.

It seems a new kind of rock star is emerging whose instrument plays a form of "frozen music", not so different from that imagined by the great and first modern architect of the Chicago school, Louis Sullivan who coined the phrase.

Of course the large corporate structures will do much to make this a painful transition and that is really important to understand. But I need to state very clearly: it is critical that we separate the systems oriented manufacturers surviving on systems integration from the single product manufacturers where the independent creative resource is essential to the survival of the company.

To build a better foundation for this article let's back up a bit to lay in 35 years of background history. Then I can tackle the tougher problem of techniques to empowering win-win behavior within the corporation.

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