Published November 11th, 2014
Often, we misinterpret the power and purpose of design. Design is not about attention for attention’s sake. It is not just about the beauty of the outside, or making something new or different. It may not even be three-dimensional.
Design is about the impact it makes, and the usefulness it accomplishes.
As a marketer and communication specialist, I appreciate talented design as a critical piece of effective communication. But, creative directors and graphic designers are not the only skin in the game! Engineers, scientists, chefs – even communication strategists – are all designers. We may work in different mediums, but it is still all about the design.
“Better” design is an integral part of solutions, and innovation. That may not be different design, it may be different use of an existing design (usefulness is beautiful!) Re-purposed, expanded, or new: Excellent design is about the effect. This can be an incredible perspective on how to solve problems of all types.
Communication is core to this in and of itself, as you seek an outcome; however, that doesn’t mean everyone will be happy! (Sometimes you just have to say “no capes!“) Good communication and information gathering doesn’t mean everyone will “feel” heard, and it doesn’t mean everyone gets equal decision making power. It does mean that the designer has listened well, and has considered input, calculated the realities of use, the perceptions of users, and the objectives of the designed solution pursued toward the best outcome. Architect, Alejandro Araveno, provides a great statement related to this in a talk he gives surrounding a massive project in city planning – “..design’s power of synthesis is trying to make a more efficient use of the scarcest resource in cities, which is not money but coordination…”
To apply a design “onto” a challenge or a problem, without first acquiring an ample depth of understanding and building to it, will rarely produce a successful result. However, to apply design INTO a challenge or a problem, beyond the surface observations and beyond your knowledge and expertise alone, often produces a lasting solution. The time you put into understanding the real pain points and needs of the users is the most critical phase of your design. As you read that, you may have been able to picture several real life scenarios you’ve been through at work. But, this actually applies to all areas of life. You may be trying to find a way to balance your work/personal life in your family, you may be trying to figure out how to get a long with an ornery teenager, or you may be re-designing the transportation system of a major metro.
Whatever the problem(s) you are in the midst of solving, take a step back and think about your problem in terms of design from every perspective, and ask yourself if you truly understand it from the other parties’ point of use. See if it re-frames your recommendation on the approach to the best solution.
“…with the right design, sustainability is nothing but the rigorous use of common sense.” – Alejandro Aravena TED talk