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Participatory Design

In the Bubble: Designing In a Complex WorldJohn Thackara, The MIT Press ($32.95)John Thackara is a designer's designer, one of the "inside" people whose imagination and critique make him someone whose ideas have more resonance and meaning for those within the practice rather than for those on the outside.

In the Bubble: Designing In a Complex World
John Thackara, The MIT Press ($32.95)

John Thackara is a designer's designer, one of the "inside" people whose imagination and critique make him someone whose ideas have more resonance and meaning for those within the practice rather than for those on the outside. Still, there has to be pause on all fronts when Thackara proclaims in In the Bubble, "The days of the celebrity solo designer are over." While those who are familiar with names including Gehry and Graves, Mays and Bangle might take some exception to that, what he means is that the world has gotten so complex that there isn't a singular person who can have the right sort of effects on the requirement that he believes are required. Yet he knows that designers are vital in this context, as he follows that quoted sentence with: "Complex systems are shaped by all the people who use them, and in this new era of collaborative innovation, designers are having to evolve from being the individual authors of objects, or buildings, to being the facilitators of change among large groups of people." In a world of complexity, Thackara calls for designers to bring some clarity. To be sure, much of his book deals with issues related to information and system design, this need for a greater involvement by all participants in design is similarly important, especially as concerns relating to the environment (e.g., not just emissions, but end-of-life recycling and in-use congestion, as well). The effects of what is designed—say, an object—has ramifications that far exceed the thing in itself. "We are all designers now," Thackara concludes. But that doesn't mean we all know what we're doing or what the consequence of our actions may be.—GSV