Design worth doing

I’m in a hotel room with half a bottle of zinfandel and a packet of mini eggs and I’m considering what design means to me which is surely a place that should be populated with mental road signs that only say STOP but curiously say GO like some alternate roadwork universe wherein the boards are all in my favour but I don’t believe them so I immediately inadvertently drive into a ditch which coincidentally was signposted WAKE UP.

Which is by way of unconnected allegory some reference to a dichotomous puzzlement that’s poked my cheek with wet finger pulling a face that says ‘what is design worth if it’s not design worth doing?’ which is some curious garlandian manifestation that has brushed my conscience and ultimately led me to question the thing that I do. Or, at least, the way that I do it. Or maybe it’s why. I’m not entirely sure.

I like designing. I’m quite good at it. I’m lucky enough to do it as the job I get paid for that supports me and my family and my dog and my craving for mini eggs. I don’t change the world with it, but I think, and I create, and I make, and I use unnecessary commas, and everything is quite good with the world. But it’s not a world I’m changing through design. I don’t subscribe to a manifesto that I may have written, consumed, co-opted or saved in google reader, that states that the reason I design the things I design is somehow for the betterment of design as a whole and some better world for the future. I design because I’m a designer. I’m fine with that.

That’s not to say there might be a better way for me to design. That might even mean there’s a better me by design. There are plenty of ways that I, my team, my company, my profession can be better, braver, different in the way design gets realised. And I think that’s something I can try and do something about. I’ve been inspired with that wet-fingered conscience-brushing episode to consider that better way. I’m acknowledging that my hypothesis hasn’t necessarily tested well and I can learn from that and iterate and test. I’m allowing myself to fail in pursuit of a better design me. And I believe that probably is a thing worth doing by design.

But there are others out there for whom that isn’t enough. There is more to design than simply design itself and that more is what can really change the world. That truly is design worth doing and it requires the breath of dreams to power the wings of angels and you know those angels exist but they look just like you and me or maybe in my case about 20 years younger and they actually don’t have a funny noise coming from the exhaust of their Vauxhall Zafira but you know I digress the point is THOSE ANGELS NEED TO FLY.

Design worth doing is a reflection of the change you want to make. Do what it takes to make the change happen. Maybe start with designing a bigger bag of mini eggs or something. OH YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING.

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2 Responses

  1. Yeah, but.

    There are people who want to change the world. And there are design people. When the people who want to change the world are also the design people – THEY ALWAYS THINK IT IS DESIGN THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.

    I'd guess if you had an accountant who wanted to change the world she would think: It's accountancy which can change the world.

    Or if you had a milkman who wanted to change the world he would think: if we all had milk delivered every morning it would change the world.

    Which is to say it's conceited to think that we are uniquely appointed and equipped to change the world. If we want to change things we should join a team (aka a community aka society) and humbly offer our skills in its service. Which, if you'll forgive me, sounds a bit more like the bloke you describe in paragraph 3.

  2. Yup. Too many mini eggs and I get quite lyrical.

    I have a romantic admiration for those that sincerely believe that they can affect change. They probably can, but you're right to point out that change is mostly constrained by context. Making the world a better place because what you do will make the world a better place might be a truism if what you're doing is specifically trying to make the world a better place. Saying that you're making the world a better place through being better at. for example, design, is rather more contentious. Mind you, don't let that stop you being the best you can.

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