The Design Industry Finds Itself Disrupted as Design Is Becoming a Crucial Part of Software Driven Businesses

Sailing the Mediterranean Sea

In 2011 Marc Andreessen wrote his Why Software is Eating the World article on how software is becoming a crucial part in any company.

Software changed from the design of forms and objects into the design of interactive processes and systems. Design is becoming an indispensable part of the (software) system, much like the technology itself.

Orders of Design
Buchanan’s Orders of Design, also called: 2D, 3D, Proces, Purpose. Image: NirandFar

Disrupting an industry
And with every disruptive change it has an effects on the industry. The (interactive) design industry is more relevant than ever before. Changing how business is done from being bought as a service (agency model) to being internalized as part of the company.

Although this is not an overnight market change, something is changing. Design studio’s starting incubators and using their product design knowledge to kickstart startups. Or design studio’s being bought by software companies.

Design becoming an integral part of software and business and this is great for designers and for products.

Suggested readings
Wired: The Rapidly Disappearing Business of Design

PeterMe: San Francisco Design Agencies Feeling the Squeeze

Khoi Vinh: The Shift Away from Design Agencies Has Started in San Francisco

In 2013 I wrote how design is moving from the design of objects and interaction to the design of systems (in Dutch). Check Buchanan’s Orders of Design if you’re interested in this.

Richard Buchanan being interviewed about his 4 orders of design

Q: Weâ’re talking about the expanding uses of design. What areas of design do you focus on in your work?

A: I’m interested in what I call that the third order of design.
The first order of design is communication with symbols and images. The second order of design is design of artefacts as in engineering, architecture, and mass production. In the middle of the 20th century we realised that we can also design activities and processes. We work progressively more with these activities and services. That’s the third order of design. In the beginning we called it Human Computer Interaction. Now we work with any kind of interaction, it’s about how people relate to other people. We can design those relationships or the things that support them. I’s this interaction I’m after.

Q: And there’s a fourth order as well?

A: Indeed there is. To me the fourth order of design is the design of the environments and systems within which all the other orders of design exist. Understanding how these systems work, what core ideas hold them together, what ideas and values that’s a fourth order problem. Both the third and the fourth order are emerging now very strongly.

Some designers have the ability to deal with these very complex questions that lie at the core of our social life. Not every designer, but some have the ability to grasp the ideas and the values at the core of very complicated systems. Those are fourth order designers.

Richard Buchanan being interviewed about his four orders of design

His orders are a great framework for thinking about design. It helps explain why design gets the attention it is getting right now.