Not Another Design Definition

“This is not an article trying to define what is design or who gives the best definition. Is about how to define the role of a designer for themselves and to the world on this new upcoming work dynamic”.

The field of design had shifted to a more intangible outcome bridging the gap between business and creativity. Books such as "Good to Great by James Collins", "Design Thinking edited by Thomas Lockwood", "101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar", "Communicating the New by Kim Erwin" provide tools and case studies on how to design and innovate in business. What's more, the latest Design Management Institute's Design-Centric Index, that measure companies focused on design driven innovations, states that those companies stocks outperformed the S&P Index by 228% over the past 10 years (data from winter 2013).

To design is to have the curiosity to ask the why's and to understand the how's, to co-create with a team in order to transform an idea, improve a business strategy or even bring together different cultures and personalities to get to a holistic solution to a problem given.

On the other hand, people perceive the field of design as being part of a magic trick. However, according to Jon Kolko in his book "Exposing The Magic of Design", there is no magic in the design field. This invisible formula can be translated as a matter of studying tools and knowing how to use your abductive reasoning. in other words, how to develop creativity in an abstract way but be able to demonstrate it in a tangible way. Once you realize how to convey visually, verbally and graphically a message, an idea or a project you are capable to share designed solutions.

Why is it so hard for people to understand what design is? Why do people struggle trying to make associations with other professions? Why design cannot be understood as easy as medicine?

First of all, design has its roots in Arts. Since the beginning the Art field has always been directly related to abstract concepts and complex meanings. Some people accept Art the way it is, some people don't understand it while others have mixed feeling about it.

Secondly based on the principles of semiotics that studies how our brains describe things around us, the Pierce triangle is a good example. This triangle represents the relationship between a signifier that referents an object to a symbol. Taking back to the design origins, it deals with things that doesn't exists and it is a challenge to convince people that by a process of a strategy, an object or an idea, it will succeed. Specially because our brains can’t relate it to anything we have been exposed before. Can you imagine selling it to shareholders? You can be a visionary but if you don't illustrate your idea or prototype with final users there is a remote chance that this vision will actually be understood and adopted to become reality.

Lastly, there is a social stereotype regarding on how designers are seen in the real world. Often times, designers are described as people that are difficult to work with mostly because of their ego. It can be a biased statement but looking back to the beginning of all of this, designers only worked by themselves, it was more about individual work (handmade, craftsman, painters). But with the evolution of the field, designers realized that they are capable of connecting the dots and develop projects, things, strategies that are beyond what one actually sees. In addition to that, there has always been a strong desire, passion to demonstrate what is happening inside their heads. Moreover, designers have the tendency to be emotional driven, after all, to tackle this sensitive thinking there has to be a full immersion of the subject.

The time has come for designers to rethink how they want to be seen in the work environment. This new work dynamic of collaboration is the key ingredient to innovation. Designers, think about your role as a facilitator of creative thinking and act by promoting solutions that bridges the gaps in communication. With that being said, being humble is the new black and designers should become trans-disciplinary drivers of new projects, new ideas in order to promote sustainable business outcomes.

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Carol Massá, Yang He, Isaac Hsu, David London (SCAD Research Group Project - Winter 2015)

Written by Carol Massá (current M.F.A Design Management Candidate at SCAD)

Internet References: (Design Index Information) (Pierce Triangle of Signs)

Books References:

COLLINS, James; "Good to Great"

ERWIN, Kim; "Communicating the New"

KOLKO, Jon; "Exposing the Magic of Design"

KUMAR, Vijay; "101 Design Methods"

LOCKWOOD, Thomas; "Design Thinking"Brown, Tim, Design Thinking (2008) Harvard Business Review

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