It was September, 1981, when design critic Ralph Caplan first unveiled the phrase. He was speaking at a Design Management Institute conference in Martha's Vineyard. His talk was titled "Once You Know Where Management Is Coming From, Where Do You Suggest They Go?"
"I want finally to address in some detail," Caplan said toward the end of this talk, "a role that I call 'the designer as exotic menial.' He is exotic because of the presumed mystery inherent in what he does, and menial because whatever he does is required only for relatively low-level objectives, to be considered only after the real business decisions are made. And although this is a horrendous misuse of the designer and of the design process, it is in my experience always done with the designer's collusion."
It's 25 years later. Has anything really changed?
Continue reading The Persistence of the Exotic Menial.
This napkin sketch by Bruce Mau says it all.
Thanks to Michael Bierut and The Design Observer