From Craft to Strategy: Integrating design and commerce

J. K. O’Grady,
University of Calgary

In the mid-1980s an emphasis in entrepreneurial design management
in the Industrial Design Program in the Faculty of Environmental
Design at the University of Calgary was launched. This paper traces the evolution of that emphasis, concluding with considerations for further development.

The development of any new area of human activity and enquiry is very context sensitive. That is no less so in the emerging conflation of design and management. This paper reports on the development of a design management studies emphasis in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. The discussion begins with program origins and development and concludes with a brief description of the current offerings and considerations for future development.

EVDS, established in 1971 as an independent, non-departmentalized graduate faculty (masters and PhD), at the University of Calgary, prepares students to practice professionally in the fields of architecture, industrial design, urban design, planning, environmental science, and environmental design. The central sustaining premise of the faculty is articulated as follows: “Since no single discipline or profession embodies all the expertise required to deal with the dynamic complexity and holistic nature of environmental design phenomena, the Faculty of Environmental Design [must offer] an interdisciplinary environment in which a synthesis of theory and practice from different fields of study are brought to bear in human-environment problem solving situations.” (Tyler, 2002) That central core of interdisciplinarity is allied with an approach based on outreach, with a strong applications orientation.

Design management emphasis origins
Although the design management emphasis in the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS) at the University of Calgary (U of C) was launched in 1989, the origins can be traced to earlier developments in the Faculty of Management. A concentration dealing with studies in entrepreneurship was established in the MBA-level courses in the Faculty of Management at the U of C in 1975. Although the entrepreneurship concentration began by offering a generalized set of courses, the economic conditions that prevailed at that time and which continue to this day in western Canada—a small industrial market dominated primarily by resource extraction and agriculture—began to dictate that a more specialized approach be developed. In particular, as the number of small-scale entrepreneurs seeking assistance began to increase, it became apparent that the concentration should begin to focus on that area. The new focus had two primary objectives. First, it was intended that the clients would receive the best possible advice in order that their chances of success would be the greatest; second, it was hoped that the students would, through their exposure to the process, develop a positive attitude about entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship and subsequently be prepared to consider launching their own ventures. Of the principles that guided the development of the new program, two were of great importance to the Industrial Design program in EVDS:
1. A practicum (experiential, project-based) approach was believed to be the most appropriate way to fully evaluate and render advice to clients on the complex, ambiguous problems they presented. To handle those problems competently, it was realized that students and instructors representing many disciplines should be engaged.
2. Program leaders observed that the creation of new organizations is the principal task of entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs), and the creation of new services and products—which provide the reason for the creation of new organizations—is the task of designers. Based on that observation, they concluded that entrepreneurship
and design were mutually inclusive.

>>Read the peer-reviewed paper here (PDF)

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