The Redesign of Design: Computer, Architect, Corporation

Quadrant: Design, Architecture, and Culture

Professor Harwood's project is a broad case study of the IBM Design program during the postwar era. In 1956, IBM hired the Harvard-trained architect and industrial designer Eliot Noyes to institute a comprehensive design program that would cut across the multiple aesthetic scales of the modern corporation: graphics, branding, product design, retailing, exhibitions, and corporate architecture. Professor Harwood argues that Noyes’s design program was one of the first to systematically contribute to the management of the corporation, “rendering [the corporation] material and keeping it coherent.” Professor Harwood specifically examines how Noyes, working with fellow IBM advisors Ray and Charles Eames, naturalized the strange new technology of the computer for human use. The author argues that the development of the human-computer interface, or the “man-machine system” was articulated by these designers in architectural terms, and that this spatial understanding of computers persists to the present day.

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University of Minnesota