Just as “design anthropologists” are busy wringing their hands over who is or is not in the club, a recent post on Bruce Nussbaum’s blog shows that the arguments for the purity of the art are not limited to anthropology, design is engaged in its own angst. While some are lamenting that design schools are no longer teaching the basic skills of design, Bruce argues that students need classic design training, putting form and function to thought, in addition to sharper skills in design thinking.
I tend to gravitate to his point of view because it mirrors my own thoughts about anthropologists working on design and strategy issues. I think where Bruce and I agree is that while is it not an either/or argument, you need the skills to think and do, both design and design anthropology are not rare skills to find these days. When something is no longer rare, it is headed the way of the commodity. Anthropologists that cannot put their work into the larger context of strategy are like designers that refuse to look past form to see how design fits into the larger context of the organization. If anthropologists that are in industry think they are going to thrive with little or no understanding of business or business strategy, I suggest watching the current design debate with interest.