Time for Designers to get Back to Basics!

Tools for Sketching
Image by Plindberg
I would like to take a moment from my daily grind to share something that I have been considering for a long time now. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately eh?
Fellow designers, we need to start getting back to basics. Forget the all that design thinking fluffy mumbo jumbo and embrace the fundamentals of designing; in particular, elements that give rise to good design or clever products.
This call to action is, in part, a reaction to the recent backlash that design thinking is not doing what it supposed to do. However I think it is more accurate to say this call was instead due to a number of life changing events. Events that gave me a lot of clarity on what design should be and what it meant to me. It is not quite the time to reveal the details of these events, but do stay tuned to Design Sojourn as I will get into the gory details in time to come.
Disillusioned with design? No. Focused and reinvigorated, hell yeah!
After spending a number of years circulating through the different levels of the design process (from execution activities to management and strategy), I find it almost always boils down to one thing: good design trumps everything else.
And how do we go about creating these good designs? Making sure that we are armed with a solid foundation of strong design skills and fundamentals.
In the beginning, more accurately Nov 2005, Design Sojourn was about “How to do Good Design and Create Clever Products”. This site contained, and still does, tons of tips and tricks on how a designer can do his/her job better.
In 2007, I added a third focus called “Mastering the Business of Design” to the end of this original blog description. The description now reads “How to do Good Design, Create Clever Products and Master the Business of Design”. Even though it’s pretty wordy, this new description reflected my personal focus on entrepreneurship, as well as a reflection of the commercial aspects of my design job.
In early 2009, my blog evolved in conjunction with my passion and career move into strategic design. The blog’s Version 4 description became “How to master the business of strategic industrial design.” It made a lot of sense as I have always been a very strategic thinker, and this description brought a lot of clarity to this site and also a reflection to what I do in real life.
By middle 2009, I decided to refine the description to a more succinct and simpler: “The Business of Strategic Industrial Design”. Also at this time, I reformatted all the blog’s categories and made it easier and more logical for readers to find things.
So its now early 2010 and I’m putting myself out there to tell all of you that we have made the discipline of design overly complicated. As a result, I often feel designers get detached from design doing when they get caught up too much in the design process.
To live out this call to action, Design Sojourn goes back to its roots by bringing back its original description and blog theme with a little twist: “Creating Good Designs and Clever Products”!
The reality is that designers with commercial sensitivity, a multi-disciplinary approach and a strategic design process are well equipped with the tools to create what we would call Good Design. As they say, a good strategy is all about getting out there and just doing.
I hope what I’m saying makes sense, and if it does not please do let me know? Regardless, I really hope you have been enjoying my journey in design as much as I have sharing it with you. Looking forward to an awesome golden decade of design with you, dear reader!

  • min

    May 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm Reply

    hahahahah totally agree..!!! heheh
    Let’s just design!!! Simply just be a doer right! hehe
    But i think who you are as a person matters though, especially in creating new products..coz “why the product” matters….no?

  • DT

    May 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm Reply

    Alex, Emmanuel and Stafan, Thanks a lot for your kind feedback and words of encouragement. I appreciate your constant support.
    Fred, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Back to Basics mean different things to different designers. So your thoughts are all relevant!

  • Stefan R

    May 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm Reply

    I fully agree with the thoughts shared by DT.
    As in the design field a constant progress and rethinking of old approaches is vital, I find “Design Sojourn” had a good impact on me, during the last years.
    We all know, a good designer has multidisciplinary skills and knows how to employ them in the right sense. Each of us has specific strenghts (ideation,strategic thinking or a technical expertise). Design Sojourn has covered the almost all of them by now and I wish for the future that such a versatile “thought process” on “Creating Good Designs and Clever Products” will be seen in these articles.
    Thank you once again, DT!

  • fred mendes

    April 29, 2010 at 9:26 am Reply

    Hmmm I gotta say I don’t really get what you mean by “getting back to basics”.
    And I have been reading and keeping up with designsojourn.com for a few months now, so let me just take a few lines to explain what I feel.
    As I’ve mentioned in other forums, and it just might be applicable to this discussion, I feel that us designers have given in to technologies, softwares and our client’s deadlines! I mean, we have to, of course, but it does take a little effort to try and use good old tools that just make our work not only more creative, but a lot more fun and with better results!
    I see colleagues and sometimes even myself rushing to the computer to get solutions and we almost always forget how important it is to use pen and paper and try to get a good number of ideas and possibilities before reaching the quickest solution. I believe we often do so (reaching for the quickest solution) because there is a deadline, and our clients have great expectations. But maybe we’ve been trying to surprise them in “real time design”, when we should surprise them with “thought through design”.
    I have been stimulating designers in my office to use more information, not focusing so much on the products we’re designing, but rather on the benefits we’re offering people. A couple of weeks ago I visited a client who was really keen on hiring a design team for his products, but I had to turn down the demand – in a very polite, delicate and smart way – because his company just wasn’t ready for it! And I don’t mean to brag about it, but I think it takes guts to do that! I see designers who simply “don’t care” and just want to sell projects, careless of their clients and the impact their products will have on their production line and their strategic plans.
    So what I understand by “getting back to basics” would be really taking some time to knowing our clients better, knowing consumers better and trying to offer them great ideas, not only solutions. I hardly see designers who draw or use other means of communicating their ideas such as paper crafts, painting, clay modeling… Many designers may want to kill me for saying this, but I do believe there is some art in what we do! Just as there has to be an ability to talk to people, socialise and knowing these are the moments we get to know people better. And that’s a way to become better designers and offer better products.
    I guess it took me more than a few lines, but this topic is definately worth some careful thinking! Thanks for that once again!

  • Emmanuel

    April 29, 2010 at 3:53 am Reply

    Oh yeah !
    Since I pursuing my studies in industrial design, and seeing so much useless stuff on the market, I feel the same sort of “need to get back to basics”.
    Therefore I’m looking forward too, for the next decade, your inspiring posts coming, and to design some good things 🙂

  • Alex

    April 29, 2010 at 1:41 am Reply

    Nice post! And I agree with everything you wrote. Some designers have lost the essence of what makes this profession unique. We aren’t lawyers.

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