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News

News, the occasional rant and maybe even something smart to say. If I'm going to write it down for posterity, it's going to be here.

 

Explaining design to non-designers. S12E01

"Design"

That's a big word these days. Simply using it in a business statement is meant to promote reverence. Here's an example: "We use design thinking to really approach our users' needs."

I should hope your company does indeed use design thinking. Chances are you do, whether you knew it or not, but every once in a while we have to force the palm of our hand to our collective faces when a company really gets it wrong. What were they thinking? They weren't, at least not as far as the end user. Everything we do, ultimately, is about people. If you don't start there, you're not starting with design. While books could be written about what design thinking is and isn't or what design is and isn't, you can't ignore the fact that it's one poor, insufficiently English word encompassing a myriad of human activities. The Germans have, like, ten of their uniquely German conjugate words to describe more specifically what design does or is. But for us in the English speaking world it's a tough thing to explain as so often our language fails us. I can't even explain it to my own mother. You do what? Well how?! But your father is the engineer! Every once in a while, though, someone tries to explain the intangible - in video no less!  With that, I'm really looking forward to checking this series on Netflix out...

Side note: I have a friend (from grade 1!), Rob Weston, who writes great novels for kids. He and his wife Machiko, live in London where Machiko works for one of the people featured in this series, Es Devlin, designing sets. They do really amazing stuff, like designing for the floating stage in the annual opera festival in Bregenz, and, oh, the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics. So that will be cool to see.

Every once in a while we get a glimpse of what people who call themselves designers do. Chances are they're doing something really different and it looks really amazing, striding and leaping over the cracks and crevices that divide human disciplines. At least it certainly looks amazing from where you're sitting in that boring old office chair that Mike from Health & Safety set up for you so you could reach that keyboard, mostly injury free, and stare at that computer screen in that windowless beige office for the entirety of your 8.5 hour work day. The fact they don't seem to work like that doesn't, in itself, make them designers. They're just getting paid to do something that a lot of us can do and, albeit in a slightly untrained and kind of unfocused sort of way, already do in our daily lives. We are all designers, it's fundamentally human. That's what's amazing. The trick is to step back and take a broad look at things, make connections between them, ask some really naive questions and throw up some new idea. Some people say that's what "art" is.