Question of the Week: What are the Responsibilities of Designers Today?

Kenny, a clever chap who is also a chair of his local IDSA student chapter, asked me “What do you think are the responsibilities of designers today?”
I was just about to rattle off the usual expected blurbs, sustainable design, user friendly design, ergonomics etc. But I stopped my self there.
Designers have the power to convince and communicate if they know how. So why not do much more?
Why can’t designers focus on high level product strategies that encourages consumers to reduce consumption? Why must a new product be launched every 6-8 months? Why even have the need for an “Apple Tax“? Why can’t designers work on product ideas that reduce, reuse and recycle? Why can’t designers focus on making products that fit the needs of users so well that none other can better it or consumers don’t see the need to change or upgrade? Why can’t these products be so well designed that it lasts for years? Why can’t designers focus on using unusual and innovative materials that have low carbon footprints? Why cant we just slow down design?
It’s not so much about the best recycling, cradle to cradle strategies etc. we can find, these strategies are getting its day in the sun through great, abet slow, government legislations.
No, at the end of the day it comes back to the consumer, something we can draw similarities to the poaching of endangered animals. Even if the consumer uses exclusively recycled products but does not reduce his/her consumption, the carbon footprint could be far worst that a consumer that has very Zen like habits.
I’m not a dreamer, but a pragmatic dreamer. The business or economics of product development and selling pretty much cancels out a lot of initiatives and efforts by designers looking to make a difference. Fortunately I believe it can be very profitable if only the business leaders knew how or are willing to rethink their strategies, which unfortunately could be worst than moving mountains.
I really look forward to the day we get a Designer as a CEO. I believe it will happen, as it is only a matter of time. Hey, if no body wants the job I don’t mind doing it!
If you are further interested in my thoughts on Sustainable Behaviors, do check out this interview.

  • DT

    August 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm Reply

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for sharing, great thoughts as usual. Please keep in touch!

  • JIm Rait

    August 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm Reply

    Some provocations that have stimulated me to think ‘sustainably’
    Vision Needs a Design
    Every idea, every vision can only
    Be experienced when it is expressed
    In form, picture, object, colour, sound,
    Word and more.
    Design is the coordination of this all
    Design is communication in itself
    Design is orientation in an increasingly complex world
    Design is part of the power to change the world
    Design needs a vision
    From another perspective
    Design is part of the power to change the world
    Change gets faster, Design too
    Is fast design wasteful
    Our fast world desperately needs a vision of what design can do.
    Jorg Zintzmeyer.
    St Moritz Design Summit
    Dec, 2001
    and Gerhard Heufler’s thoughts in his book ‘Design Basics’

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