Design Manifesto 2012


When Tim Brown said that ”design is getting big again”, he meant that Design is moving (or has moved, in my humble opinion) from a form giving exercise and into the boardroom where is have become a much bigger strategic activity.
I agree. Design is fast becoming a more strategic and holistic consideration in many organizations evident with its application through out many levels of the entire business.
If we use Everett Roger’s theory of “Diffusion of Innovations” to help explain the rate of take up of new ideas, we can see that Design (Thinking) has moved into the “early majority” phase. Many organizations have realized and recognized the power of design through the success of early adopters like P&G and Apple. I believe Design has crossed what Jeffry Moore calls the ”chasm”.

Click for a bigger image. Cartoon by Tom Fishburne.
With every success there are sacrifices. Through my day-to-day activities in Design Strategy and Design Thinking, I’m starting the sense that the tonality of design is changing a great deal.
The type of Design that lives in the boardroom has taken on a very serious tone. It’s all about results, budgets, trade-offs (or not) and getting stuff done. Design activities such as User Centered Design and Services Experiences have become a by-product of this commercial and strategic approach to design.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with being commercially minded in Design. In fact at Design Sojourn, we pride ourselves in taking a very commercial and pragmatic approach towards our client’s projects.
However it is this change in Design’s tonality that worries me. This soul of design seems to be slowly and surely slipping away. So how do we fix this?
Here is part of the answer. If you ask any wide-eyed designer entering design school why they getting into design, the most common answer would probably be a variation of “making people’s live better”.
Unfortunately Design in the boardroom seems to forget that it is all about the people in the first place. How can this be? Is Design not about the people? Are humans not central in User Centered Design and Design Driven Innovation?
Yes they are.
But humans are often now seen as just a means to an end, an end goal that is under-pinned by a commercial consideration. It’s looking more and more about giving people what they want, regardless if it’s good for them or not. The engine of consumerism just goes on and on.
We mentioned earlier that half of the solution is about making people’s lives better. The second half should then be about focusing your design work on making people happy.
When put you combine making lives better with making people happy, it all starts to make sense. Suddenly, the edge gets taken off those tough commercial design decisions. There is now a greater meaning in why you are designing this product or service in the first place. I think this is a much better approach than just focusing on giving people what they want or did not know they wanted.
So I like of offer all you dear readers this industrial design manifesto for 2012 that asks you to put the soul back into design. I hope you will join me, and together we can make the world a better place. If you find this manifesto meaningful, please share it and tell all your friends. Thank you!

2 Comments
  • Jasper

    June 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm Reply

    Interesting post! Maybe it also has to do that design is not really advancing the mission/vision of the company anymore or at least in some firms, thus design as tool is a victim of segmentation and micro segmentation strategies that result in endless incremental category/product extensions (“what people want”). A company and its mission/vison (brand/products etc…) should be meaningful to its stakeholders and be the cornerstone for new product development. (vision=dream of a future). I think design thus needs to advance the mission, fullfil the brand promise etc… rather than just be used to achieve business objective (of course thats important as well).

  • William T. Co

    September 13, 2012 at 11:58 pm Reply

    New gadgets come and ago so fast. Too fast even, before a lot of them can experience time in the limelight. It’s too bad really.

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