Where the Things Have No Names

If you are reading the AC4D blog, you have probably encountered the single most excruciating side effect of being a designer. It can attack anywhere. It strikes when you’re with grandparents, at cocktail parties, chatting with a well-meaning clerk while you wait for a price check.

You, too, may have been asked to explain what the hell design thinking is. You, too, may have walked away from an encounter knowing full well the person you were just with is convinced you are a semi-delusional interior designer.

The latest batch of readings doesn’t cure the dilemma, but they did offer me a bit of palliative care. Nigel Cross (citing one J. Daley) provides a comforting insight:

“The way designers work may be inexplicable, not for some romantic or mystical reason, but because these processes literally lie outside the bounds of verbal discourse: they are literally indescribable in linguistic terms.”

Well, mazel tov to you, J. Daley! We’re supposed to be hard to explain.

In creating my diagrammatic salute to this thought, I aimed to incorporate other findings that seemed key to me.

1)    Riffing on Cross / Daley, I’d go so far as to say that the better a designer is, the more innately incomprehensible they are. However, the readings are incontrovertibly stern on one point. The burden of communicating all the goodies from the great nonverbal beyond rests squarely on the designer. Design involves drawing, making, iterating, drawing, making.

Yes. I know, that is officially not a newsflash. But what I hadn’t considered is that all that drawing, iterating, making is a very specific sort of contribution to the world. If designers are better able than most to dive into the realm where certain forms of wisdom reside, then there’s a certain moral requirement to do our best to make the insights broadly accessible.

What’s juicy here is that we not only iterate on what we-the-designers learn from our insights, we also iterate on designing the methods of unearthing them. I am slightly wonderstruck at the thought of a world in which designers keep creating better and better methods of subverting the thought ruts into which the brain naturally falls. I started thinking of designers / artists as the early adopters of generative lateral thinking. And of course, designers are also the group who have the tools to make things irresistible, attractive, easy to use and inspiring. Chocolate, peanut butter, world change. With innate skills and ever-more sophisticated tools of unearthing, translation and attraction, we may well be able to topple the cognitive patterns of the world.

2)    In homage to the concepts above, I went through a ton of iterations and also started building in Flash, which is a new tool to me.