I just finished John Harwood’s book The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976 (Minnesota, 2011).
Harwood, who teaches at Oberlin College, does an excellent job of discussing IBM’s design program in an expansive way. Instead of limiting his discussion about what constitutes design, he contends “that the outward appearance of objects is only of secondary importance when considering how these objects (and indeed systems of objects, processes, and concepts) came to be (224).” This perspective allows Harwood to rethink the history of IBM in relation to the interface, or what he defines as the “hinge between the world of things and the world of numbers (9).”Harwood’s study certainly relates to other important books about design, such as Reinhold Martin’s The Organizational Complex and Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, but he extends their arguments. Harwood raises critical questions about the ways in which designed systems affect lived experiences and perception. Moreover, he provides us with details about how designers from the Eameses to Eliot Noyes influenced IBM’s corporate image through a carefully orchestrated design program.
This new book will be of interest to those of us working in design studies, especially since it relates to bridging history, design practice, and notions about a designed future, all of which are themes that will be the focus of our new MA in Design Studies at Parsons.Tags: Books