The Anthropological Side of Design Culture
It’s been said time and time again, that as an integrated design firm we make up a collective whole of parts.
The lifeblood of an integrated design firm is its ability to lean on multiple disciplines. We have a presence in structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering alongside architecture, energy and building performance, interior design, marketing and business development professionals – the list continues to grow as we do. While there's a general formula for building a project team to get all the parts together as a whole, there is also the consideration of who we are as people and how we can leverage our strengths, knowledge, and experience for our clients. These considerations aren’t random; we’ve developed into these roles from the everyday-experiences that have shaped us as individuals. As a student, I developed an interest in sociology that finds its way into my day to day life – and after joining a large firm with a global presence, I needed to know more about who all of these people are.
DLR Group’s professional development grant program produced an internal eZine chronicling design culture.
DLR Group’s professional development grant allowed me to combine my curiosity to learn about my 1,000-plus colleagues, and my passion for publications. In partnership with Jill Maltby, who also shares a similar background, we combined forces to tackle the task of cataloguing design culture.
But what is design culture, and what are some of the less-obvious ways it can be captured within such a large firm? These were the questions we consistently asked each other. Cataloging techniques ranged from general observations to conducting interviews to learn about handfuls of people in a handful of offices within the company. By acting as anthropologists of sorts, we could discover both the minutia that makes an office tick, to what a day in the life of a regional designer looks like. As an outsider within a shared entity, it kept our observations fresh and relevant to the majority of our audience. Over the course of a year, a zine was born.
With the support of DLR Group’s professional development grant program, Dillon Webster (L) and Jill Maltby (R) produced an internal eZine chronicling design culture.
A publication doesn’t equate to collecting words on paper, then storing them away for no one to see. Rather, it acts as an invitation to immerse your mind in a world that is not your own, to observe the spaces you inhabit, to reconsider a way of observing. The value of cataloguing lies in capturing the daily influences that shape a perspective, inspire a new idea, or change someone's mind. Even when removed from a time and place, the content we collected reflects a point in time.
A designer, just like any other person, is a collective of their individual experiences. However, they’re tasked to put that collection of knowledge to use by shaping the way we teach our children, or how we apply rehabilitative design techniques. And sometimes, the reasons aren’t always what you would assume them to be.
If you’d like to learn more about our eZine, read my co-editor Jill Maltby’s account of our PDG project.
Are you interested in DLR Group’s professional development program? Read about some of our other PDG winners, including projects for a sustainable community in Nicaragua; raising sustainable natives in Orlando; and an ethical inquiry to guide design.
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