Buchanan’s Matrix: A Framework for Strategic Alliance between design and business management



Media & Communications Design


  • business skills, value of design


The relationship between design and business management becomes critical when contexts change and new problems emerge. Some new problems in the design industry are a redefinition of disciplinary boundaries, new technologies and shifts in business thinking and client expectations. Design educators need to understand current demands and anticipate the future requirements of design clients when devising courses and content. This requires conceptual flexibility and continued scenario planning.

In this paper a matrix formulated by design theorist and educator, Richard Buchanan, is explored as a functional framework to assist design educators align design and management thinking. Buchanan describes the matrix as the history of the “character and disciplines of design thinking as they are formed through encounters with new problems”. In the matrix designer ability and design thinking intersect, moving design through four orders. An expansion of the orders allows for the simultaneous historical and theoretical comparison of design and management. Three critical aspects that penetrate both management and design are detailed so that the alignment between the two disciplines is made apparent, providing a useful model for decision making and planning in design education.

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