Faculty Fellow Lecture Series: Penelope Dean, Architecture, “Thinking Like a Customer”

Date / Time

March 12, 2024

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Institute for the Humanities presents the Faculty Fellow Lecture Series with Penelope Dean, professor of architecture, who will present on “Thinking Like a Customer.”

Why have design and business cultures co-evolved to such an extent that today it is often impossible to determine when one ends and the other begins? This lecture considers how designers came to speak the marketing language of business executives, and business executives came to frame design thinking as a key to innovation. Focusing on the period between 1955-80, when designers moved away from a traditional art training to “become one-third sociologist,” and when those in business similarly benefited from a detour through the behavioral sciences, the talk unfolds how design, previously understood as the production of consumer goods and packaging, was reimagined as a form of business planning and analysis; that is, as a “information-handling process.” Through a complex and often contradictory narrative, the presentation argues that the seemingly antagonistic values of visual literacy and marketplace determinacy came together in surprising ways when executives and designers alike, began thinking like a customer.

Dean’s research focuses on how a design-business complex has reshaped the priorities of architectural practice and discourse from the mid-20th century onward. Dean is the founding editor of Flat Out.


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