Nimble Design Firms should Do Good

By Brian Ling February 6, 2014

So it seems that Frog’s Chief Creative Officer, Mark Rolston, has left to start Argo a “new type” of design firm that is a hybrid mix of design agency, incubator and product development group.

With argo, Rolston is looking to create a nimble design group that can develop independent products in house, as well as work on more traditional design projects with customers, he told me in an interview. When it comes to launching products, argo could help raise funds to get those products to market. The group is already working on a cloud-based piece of software, and another product that’s further down the road that will be a physical product, Rolston said.

Indeed a great idea for a design firm, but this is nothing new. Many design firms, both big and small, are already doing this. I would consider this is a big name validation of a business concept that works.

With Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter moving the economic power from the corporations and/or VCs to the customer, the only missing link is knowledge. The knowledge of how to create stuff. So it’s only natural that the people WITH the knowledge jump on the bandwagon.

However I also am seeing a great opportunity for designers to be finally empowered with the financial means to create both meaningful and sustainable solutions that people want, rather than having to accepting briefs from organisations that are too financially driven.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Victor Papanek’s Design For The Real World to ponder about:

There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. Industrial design, by concocting the tawdry idiocies hawked by advertisers, comes a close second. Never before in history have grown men sat down and seriously designed electric hairbrushes, rhinestone-covered file boxes, and mink carpeting for bathrooms, and then drawn up elaborate plans to make and sell these gadgets to millions of people. Before (in the ‘good old days’), if a person liked killing people, he had to become a general, purchase a coal-mine, or else study nuclear physics. Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed. And the skills needed in these activities are taught carefully to young people.

In an age of mass production when everything must be planned and designed, design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself). This demands high social and moral responsibility from the designer. It also demands greater understanding of the people by those who practise design and more insight into the design process by the public.

Now go be awesome!

Via: Gigaom

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Brian Ling

Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.

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