Post 9 -by Gautam Shah


Design Vocation : A designer professes a rare skill with sincerity and reliability, and so is appreciated by the society. Such an attitude is individual and professional. Professionals earn their livelihood through creativity and productivity. The professionalism is set by: Person own-self, Professionals themselves (professing similar skills) as a group, Society or by an Authority or Government through law.

Designers Table Image by Pexels

Design Practices : Pure design practices offer design solutions, as advise with or without documents, and as a result requires smaller setups with a very low capital outlay (investment). One can operate even without an office, often with a mobile phone and off a briefcase or a laptop.

Typical office of 1900 with speaking tubes hanging off the desk > Wikipedia image

Design Plus practices offer Design and other ‘services’ such as prototype making, design surveys and assessments, marketing, facilitating purchase-supply-installation of systems, billing and supervision. The capital outlay is higher due to the interim investments and higher engagement of human resource.

Typical Modern Office (SOHO=Small Office + Home Office) but could be for designers or other businesses > en.encyclopedia image by AlainV

Design Plus Build practices require production facilities at home, on-site, owned or hired. The Home production facility requires high investment, space, manpower and carriage of large overhead expenses. On-site facilities save rents, but are temporary, small in scale without heavy equipment owned or rented production setup as a workshop needs large inventory of raw materials and tools. It poses problems of logistics of transporting and installing components on the site.

Gae Aulenti began her career as freelance designer, at Milan 1954 with design work for products for Poltronova, Candle, Ideal Standard, Louis Vuitton and Artemide > Wikipedia image > Gorup de Beanez

Other Design Organizational Engagements : A designer can operate alone as a free lancer without being bothered with the nitty-gritty of an organization. One can get a restricted attachment as an associate designer. The restricted attachment can be for a project-based responsibility with or without liabilities, as a solution provider or as specific field-consultant. At a production level one can offer staff or workers on ‘body-shopping’ basis or equipment capacities as jobbers.

ART by Alexander Roslin (1718-1793) > Double portrait of Architect Jean-Radolphe Perronet with his wife > Wikipedia image

Scale of Design Organizations : Design organizations have inherent size limitations. Design organizations remain creative only if the chief or the partners intensively participate in the process of design. Where work is delegated to large number of subordinates, the conveners would compulsorily remain busy in managing them rather than overseeing a design creation. Some relief can be had by appointing senior persons capable of operating independently, as design associates, and by hiring managers to handle various categories of non design work. All these associates and managers, however, will ultimately report to the partners, off taking their design time. Design organizations, and must remain of a reasonable size.

Taliesin West Drafting Studio > Wikipedia image by Steven C. Price

 Methods of optimizing the scale of Design Organization : One way to optimize the size of a design organization is to specialize or create a core competence. Instead of handling too many projects at a lower (economic) fee, it is better to handle fewer projects with high fees, and deliver excellent professional results. Many organizations, to remain within a manageable size, pass on part of their work to outside agencies. These outsiders could be subsidiary organizations, consultants, or individuals like free lancers. Job components (tasks) that are independent in character are usually handed over to such agencies.

Tailor Shop > Public Domain Image

Layered structure of Simple Design Organizations : Simple organizations have single layer structure, wherein the designer-owner assigns and supervises the work. Such single layer organization work best with 8 to 10 people. Beyond these sizes there are two ways for an organization to grow: Job captains or people with specialized skills are assigned tasks, or Key personnel are recognized as leaders, and assigned whole jobs. Such two layered design organizations can have for 4 to 6 leaders or key persons, and 12 to 16 other personnel.

Water Gropius (in bow tie) (German architect, founder of the Bauhaus) during 2nd Biennial of Art of Sao Paulo in 1953 with Finish architect Alvar Aalto (left, looking at Gropius > Flickr image by Jean-Pierre Dalbera

Layered structure of Complex Design Organizations : Complex organizations have a multi layered structure. In such organizations, the masters or the partners each can handle 6 to 8 person reporting to them. Each of these reporting member can again attend to another 6 to 8 persons. With each layer, the masters or the partners get distanced from the key staff members, ultimately losing their control on creative and personalized aspects of design. The master or the owner may become an administrator when tries to handle too many persons. Organizations with more than 3 tiers become non homogeneous.

Casa Mauricio Cravotto Montevideo > Wikipedia image by Nicolas Barriola

Small Size Design Organizations : Small design organization are single person practices. These may have closely linked (in-house or on-site) production facility. The organizational setup is revamped for new projects, and older staff is fired (rather than being retrained) for fresh talent.

Architect’s office 1940s > Wikipedia Image

Medium Size Design Organizations : Medium size Design organizations have several designers of the same branch or from compatible fields as partners. The organization may additionally retain seniors and experts as associates. In medium organizations partners and associates all share a common pool of design and non design subordinates. In such organizations, characteristically, the hierarchies are formal. Subordinates though serve everyone on demand within the organization, are looked after for other matters (appointments, leave, salaries, promotions etc.) by a formally appointed manager or a designated partner. Such setup work efficiently when limited to 16 to 20 employees. Beyond this size one or many of the partners will have to attend more of management work than design duties.

Gates Iron works Drafting Room 1896 > Wikipedia image by Horace L. Arnold

Large Size Design Organizations : Large Size Design Organizations are never formed a fresh. Small organizations with prestige, goodwill, professionalism and expertise mature into a large setup, but over a period of time. The original team of convening or founding partners is not disturbed. Such a setup with more than 4 partners can have communication problems. Contracted Design associates, if more than 4 to 6 persons, cause problems of their frequent appointments and discharge.

Planning & Supervisory Departments used to maintain work assignment Bulletin boards

Large Size Design Organizations -inequalities : Some of the partners will seem to be contributing more towards, one or more of the following factors: developing new businesses, initializing new designs (ideas, concepts), negotiations, contracting, hiring, execution related matters like site supervision, detailing the jobs (technical input, specification writing), fees collection, client relations, coordination with external experts, presentations, public relations, employee matters, or office resources management (purchase). Such specific contributions may not be perceived equal to their share in the partnership. This is the major cause why partnership concerns reform or break apart.

Skilled machinists and tool makers capable of using precision equipments are inevitable part of very large Design Organizations > Wikipedia image

Corporate Design Organizations : Corporate Design organizations protect the founders from unwanted liabilities. Large design organizations, handle large projects, often at different locations. A parent firm can create a subsidiary organization (proprietary, partnership or franchise) to handle such projects. Subsidiary organization, utilizes the resources, facilities, goodwill, reputation, taxation registration, design, production, marketing, servicing, man power, etc. of the parent organization.




Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer

2 thoughts on “DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS – 03”

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