Not Just a Box of Crayons

In Policy, Strategy on 2010/02/20 at 11:11 am

Where is design? I wrote this paper — Not Just a Box of Crayons — on mapping the design sector in 2003. I share it here in response to regular requests over the years for something like this for those who, like me,  need a map to help explore uncharted territories such as the design sector. Enjoy.


Without a conceptual map of the design sector, identifying and understanding the interrelationships of its industries is like picking colours from a box of crayons. Individual industries appear stand-alone and often colourfully autonomous. And, like crayons, the means to mix industries are limited or arbitrary, at best. Outcomes are therefore dominated by the ‘forms’ of design, and miss the potency of the creative ‘substance’ which underpins all design practices.

This paper explores the use of a 3-dimensional Hue-Lightness-Saturation “colour wheel” to map the design sector. The key ‘hues’ of the sector are “Imagemaking”, “Objectmaking” and “Placemaking” to represent the key forms of practices on the wheel. The vertical ‘lightness’ axis represents “scale” — from the millimeter-scale of micro machines to the kilo-meter-scale of urban planning. The tangential ‘saturation’ axis represents “materiality” — the extent to which a design entity is abstract (at the common core) or concrete (embodied in tangible form at the outer reaches). The resulting Form-Scale-Materiality (FSM) model of the design sector positions all forms of design practice — advertising, fashion, industrial design, furniture, interiors, architecture, urban design, etc — within a scaleable and interactive conceptual framework for students, educators, researchers and practitioners of design to better navigate the parts and relations that should make up a vibrant design sector.

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