I’d like to write today about something that has been gnawing at me since I started AC4D last week. I, like the rest of my colleagues, joined this school because in some way, we were smitten with design—or at least our ideas of what we perceived design to be.
In our theory class, we have been learning what some prominent designers think the role of design is in our current consumerist culture. The gist of these readings and what most of the authors seem to agree on is that design is far more than the artifacts (or “stuff”) it produces; it is the process of holistic research and critical thinking and synthesis, as well as the creation of artifacts along the way.
Unfortunately, when you are talking about design, many people see only the artifacts that you create, and assume that the “process” that you refer to in coming up with these artifacts is couched solely in aesthetics. Not to say that aesthetics is not a part of the design process—it is. But it seems that design is consistently reduced by outsiders to, “Designers make pretty things.”
I did not come here to make pretty things. I came here to solve wicked problems.
So it’s insulting when I mention design, and this is the reaction:
My knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Yes, I design. No, not like posters. No, I will not make you a poster,” which is an unproductive conversation. They will walk away from the conversation miffed. I’ve cut off their attempts to connect with me in the way they know how—through the thought that “designers make pretty things.”
I, on the other hand, am irritated because the entirety of my work cannot be boiled down to posters. I am currently breathing, eating, and dreaming design, and 0.0005% of that contains thoughts about posters. It is this attachment to what I create, and not what I do that frustrates me so.
So, how do we change the conversation? How do we make a connection with someone who doesn’t understand design in a productive and meaningful way? What if we brought up an aspect about design that not a lot of people considered design?
This is by no means the answer to everything—just the one that I’ve come up with recently. I’ve tested it with a few family members, and, after the initial period of confusion, they seem to understand that design includes lateral thinking and critical problem solving rather than just making things pretty.
My intent behind this is to empower ourselves and others to govern what we see as design, and not fall prey to allowing a common misconception to define what design is.
What about you? Do you know of any other ways to change the conversation of design?No Comments »