Management of design as a translation process
thesisposted on 11.08.2015, 14:27 authored by Marta Gasparin
This dissertation proposes a new perspective on management of design by regarding it as a translation process, using a framework based on Actor- Network Theory. Within the field of management of design, design has been defined as a problem-solving activity, a tool for either improving the decisionmaking process or for fostering radical innovation by making sense of things. Designers have generally been considered individuals with a different sensibility, able to make a difference by producing interesting and intriguing products which can deliver value to the customers and create value for the firm. Actor-Network Theory is a methodology for the socio-technical analysis that treats the actors as enacted and relational, and explores the network creation through an analysis based on a flat ontology, in which there is symmetry between human- and non-human actors. There is no a priori size, power or complexity of the actors, as these elements are built through the relations and understood by following them. The study is based on an ethnographic investigation of three design objects: the Serie7, the Egg (designed respectively in 1955 and 1958) and the Ice (designed in 2002), manufactured by Fritz Hansen. Based on the analysis, a new interpretation of the design, the design process, the role of the managers and designers, the value creation process, and the role of technologies of managing is presented. Design is defined as an outcome of the construction process of things made by mobilising and enrolling actors through the translations of goals. The design process is the process of enrolling, mobilising, and translating goals, creating the design in a heterogeneous network of allies. It is a chaotic practice, muddled and contingent, with the inevitable risk of unintended consequences. This process is guided by the managers, who act as spokespersons, while the designers are macro-actors, representing all the actors involved in the creation process, in the multitude making or agreeing on the final decisions concerning the design and its development during the life cycle of the object. The individual qualities of insight, intuition, vision, and creativity are reinterpreted and assembled in the language of the design. These qualities are no longer the properties of an individual, but collective virtues in relation to which governing and managing have a fundamental role. The managers are spokespersons, actors who translate the needs, the expectations, the demands and the desires from different actors. They work towards sharing the goals by encouraging the other actors to adhere to the programme of actions. The value is constituted and forged through the relationships, it is not something that is proper or embedded in the product, but is adopted and adapted by the allies in the network. The technologies of managing are not simple tools for fostering creativity, as described in the previous literature, they are actors mediating the process and conveying information that managers can use to make decisions. The technologies of managing are identified as black boxes and leaky black boxes. A black box is totally closed, a leaky black box is something the managers are working and acting on, stimulating the translations and actions that are shaping the network, including or cutting off the network actors and features, as well as mobilising actors.