Towner Fellows’ Lounge
Game Plans: Strategic Design and Positioning Methods in Chicago, 1970–
Strategic design—the application of design methods to business planning and analysis—is a design specialization born in Chicago during the 1970s. Pioneered by Jay Doblin at IIT’s School of Design, this mode of evaluation evolved from the unlikely convergence of two developments: design methods being advanced in academies in London and Ulm during the 1960s, and new “positioning strategies” being promoted by North American advertising executives in the early 1970s. By directing the means of one (i.e., methods, which communicated design processes) to serve the ends of another (i.e., positioning, which differentiated design products within a market), Doblin paved the way for design itself to become a kind of business. The result was a theory and practice eschewing the enlightened commerce model previously focused on privileged actors—the designer and businessman—for one centered on the consumer. Drawing from design archives held in Brighton, Chicago, and London, this paper will examine the sources, culmination, and dispersion of Doblin’s game plans within an economic context. It will expose a market-driven legacy of Chicago’s New Bauhaus—a history that has, to date, been largely neglected.
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