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  • A lack of design knowledge

    Arts & Culture, Industrial Design

    There is a lot of talk going around concerning a possible backlash against design and innovation.

    And that is very true. I see it all the time in Sweden as well, there is a huge lack of knowledge among Swedish companies (mostly small and mid-size). And it is not because of the lack of clever and talented designers in Sweden. It is the lack of knowledge how to run a design process and how to write a creative design brief. And if we top that with some lack of vision about how design can build strong brands we got the overall picture rather well.

    And when this lack of interest and knowledge is putting a lot of unattractive products on the market it is not strange why people wonder what design is really about. We actually live in a world full of bad products and bad design.

    I was holding a lecture the other day at the Malmö University with a course called Practical Creativity were I tried to work with the students according to my believes. The design process is in some sense a mechanical procedure. You have to make everything in the correct order according to a defined scheme. The true differentiator of the design process is the design brief. You have to solve problems, deliver to a demand or create new possibilities. You have to add magic and relevance. Your products have to have cultural relevance and they have to evoke meaning.

    Bruce Nussbaum from BusinessWeek puts it like this:

    "The truth is that the backlash is against the fad of innovation, not the fact of it. The backlash is against CEOs who get up and shroud their companies and their reputations in the rhetoric of innovation while continuing to sell out-of-date, poorly designed products and services. Consumers know this is fake and realize that the talk about innovation is not authentic."

    It is a very important subject and I will return to it soon with some further thoughts.

  • Faradaychair_177_

    Hello David!

    I completely agree that there's a lot of strange »design« out there. One of the fact is maybe that those who invest in a professional design won't call their products »design whatever«. It's like the waffle iron you mentioned in an earlier post.

    By the way: here in Germany the word for »bath« is »bad« and strangewise some bathroom interior specialist call their shop »Bad Design« which is very stupid design in this case indeed. But back to the subject.

    I only wanted to add to your post that design has to learn not only to solve but also create problems. Dunne & Raby for example call it »Design for Debate« - design that confronts people with strange products that embody future states of society and technology.

    Bringing the design to the world already today opens the possiblity for a broad public to already discuss the problems that lie in new technologies like e. g. nanotechnology. I think this is also a very interesting task for design and for me it's a part of design research.

    Doing research may also strengthen the designers image. Every profession needs an intellectual part so that it can be taken for serious. Otherwise we will still be stuck in the stereotypical stylist area for a long time I think.

    Just some thoughts...

  • I think part of the problem is the amount of people that have the programs that designers use. Unschooled people think that because they have access to the finalizing tools that they too can make a good design. However, design is not about making something "cool" or "pretty." Design is a process; delicate or de(con)structive. Good design is intention. It is not copy and paste. Aiding to the problem... Good Design is expensive. If some silly kid in their room can paste a logo on a business card in 3 seconds then Good Design loses it's appeal, and that kid is now given the title of "graphic designer". In the 21st century the majority of the world is no longer interested in the beauty of reasoning and intellect, it's about how big our pocket books can get. Our societies have run feral, the age of instant gratification is at hand. I believe that one way to reacquaint humanity with Good Design is through more interesting design. Part of what designers do is learn about the audience and then create accordingly. Well, if the people want a bigger "pay off," give it to them. But make them work for it. It is not in the end result that Good Design appears, instead it is in the details, even seemingly insignificant details.

  • Some very good points raised - I'm sure this trend is seen in most western countries, not just Sweden.

    For years I have been aware of how many people making critical strategic decisions about design and it's role in a product or brand, are not people who can see or appreciate the subtle difference between great/good design and average/poor design.

    For most business people, marketing managers, budget holders, CEO's these decisions are based purely on their experiences of products and brands in their life to that point. Their opinions are very rarely the result of analysis and understanding of the subtle levels of communication that take place in all designs good or bad. On the whole they make judgements from the standpoint of someone who will have mostly consumed 'Average Design'.

    The problem with so called 'Average Design' is that it swamps the market place and therefore lowers the bar for what is acceptable. One thing my days in publishing taught me is that for a while at least people will give most products a go no matter how poor the design - how can this be so?? I rationalised that if a product like a magazine makes it to the market place, end users perceive initially that it is good enough to be there, else why would it be there - who would spent all that money to make something that is bad!! With consumer goods this is magnified by demographics and price, the poor need cheap goods and there benchmark for assesment is other cheap goods. It is reasoned that cheap goods can't be as well designed as expensive goods, but that they must still be designed to some standard if they make it to the market place.

    So we have a world that on the whole is swamped by 'Average Design' that is on the whole good enough in the eyes of the 'Average End User'. I call this the 'Democracy of Design'. As with politicians, manufacturers tend to do what they can get away with.

    It is no coincidence that the few well designed brands and products out there, have either hung on to the values and ethics of more competitive times (lest say Apple), or have had owners with an almost philanthropic approach to their goals (lets say Dyson).

    Unfortunately I do not see how things will change till either the consumers exorcise their democratic right and stop accepting 'Average Design' or those making decisions on Design become educated to the same level as the actual design community itself, god forbid they ever take out community so seriously that they actually start to trust our suggestions - now there's a thought!

  • Background_3_132_

    »There is a huge lack of knowledge among Swedish companies (mostly small and mid-size). And it is not because of the lack of clever and talented designers in Sweden...«, as David Carlson writes.

    Hidden qualities of designers

    I think a huge problem in this is the reputation that designers have. It is obvious that mostly designers are seen as the ones that have visual or styling competence. Of course this are the most important skills - but this is not all. Layouts can be done by an illustrator, products can be designed by craftsmen.

    So for me, the hidden quality of the designer is the understanding of processes and strategies in design - or in the words of the starter of this post, David Carlson: »how to write a creative design brief«. I agree with him in this regard.

    Reduced to a be stylist?

    So is there really a »backlash«? Gui Bonsiepe would surely agree. In a lecture called Design & Democracy he held when he was granted of a honorary doctor at the Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana in Santiago de Chile in June 2005, he criticized that design more and more »moved away from the idea of »intelligent problem solving« (James Dyson) and drew nearer to the ephemeral, fashionable and quickly obsolete, to formal-aesthetic play, to the boutiquization of the universe of products of everyday life.«

    Gui Bonsiepe is a scholar of Tomás Maldonado, who was teaching at the Ulm School of Design. And we know, at that school there was a lot of research connecting design with various disciplines as e. g. sociology and psychology. Or in the words of Maldonado »The HfG is not just a school where you are educated in a special subject; the HfG is more like a community whose members share the same intentions: bestowing structure and stability upon the world around us.«

    Trans-, Multi- and Interdisciplinarity

    The designer is a person who works non-disciplinary. He traverses different fields - whether they are of creative or theoretic nature. I think this is one of the qualities a designer has to have. And I'm wondering if this is getting lost in design education - for the sake of quickly educating photoshop or 3D freaks that you can enchain to the computer and tell them what to do.

    I enjoyed the generalistic design studies at KISD. Meanwhile, as studying in Germany is not free of charge anymore, I can see that students start studying design who do not have any prior experience in other fields. Interdisciplinarity that is so essential to a designer's knowledge is suffering within this development.

    Because designing means more than just knowing how to handle specific software... .

  • In every design school I've been to, designers are exhorted as the solution to most of the world's problems. Creativity and innovation is held up as the saviour of humanity. And each student is given to believe that she or he is the chosen one. How can this sustain? How many new ideas would actually succeed? How many unsuccessful ideas would it take for one successful idea? How much junk, clutter and waste do we contribute to creating? No one, bar the odd Victor Papanek, bothers to ask these questions. No one tries to contextualize the world to students in a realistic way, telling them: "Not every one of us is a genius. Designers aren't the only ones with ideas, nor even the best-qualified ones. We all must do what we have to do, but let us keep the greater good of the planet and all its people always in view."


  • 1038

    There's a lot of us out there dabbling with design as a currency for our future[s], indeed some of the us starting out as architects contemplate on designing mere objects as stools and spoons and find greater satsifaction tha if we were designing dull offices for dull people. This is possibly the direction we will all embrace finally, to differentiate our expertise against say town planners or construction managers, for whom many architects prefer to offer themselves as, not denying some level of design flair goes into either one or both of these disciplines.

    Design is so broad its not even worth defining. It is fundamentally a philosophy, to engage in the beautiful and the ephemereal, drawing principally satisfaction and pleasure for life from ordinary things as the bed we lay on and the hat we wear as well as the roads we drive on and the books we read.

    huatlim

  • Tendence erase local act, it´s not possible ! no more !

  • These question will sound silly, but I'm not learning much about design at my university. I'm curious about what was mentioned above:

    What is a creative design brief? How do I create one? What are the factors included in creating it?


  • I could not agree more with Arvind Lodaya's--and in turn Victor Papanek's--viewpoint.

    While it is important to sustain a degree of ego, especially in service to developing a singular style or "design personality" if you will, it is equally important to keep that ego in check.

    My phrase for it: "A good idea doesn't care who has it."


  • In response to I have a question, posted by Catherine Ozols,
    in the thread A lack of design knowledge

    I found this book to be of great help: "Creating the Perfect Design Brief - How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage" by Peter L. Phillips.

    I hope you find it helpful.


  • All our design schools are running by the fingers of designers and according to their thinking, even all design firms are on the parallel mode. So in that manner we are the subset of a main set that has been created long time back. So, sometimes to rewrite or reread or review the same thing gives a new feeling, it changes the whole viewpoint.

                                                                As a designer we have to be thankful to all our elder designers, that we got this opportunity to refine their mistakes.
                                                      .
    

  • In response to I have a question, posted by Catherine Ozols,
    in the thread A lack of design knowledge

    I understand that David Carlson has not had the time yet to answer your question, so let me try Catherine and use the opportunity to make a few comments. Before making it a creative design brief, let’s start with a design brief in general. Design does not always starts with a brief. In many cases the designer initiates a project based on an observation of a particular need and might pursue this project until it has reached a stage where he or she considers it mature enough to present to the market. Design briefs are used when the designer in collaboration with others or sometimes…others without the collaboration a designer put together the information that is needed to design a new product. In most cases it describes the capabilities of the company both in terms of technological capability, quantitative and qualitative and in terms of marketing and merchandising capability. It also describes the anticipated performance of the product and the context, both physical and cultural in which the product will be put to use. Finally a set of financial parameters including expected return on investment etc. These briefs can be very detailed and include such marketing details as preferred packaging size or occupied shelf width and detailed performance criteria like luggage compartment size for a car (in liters) or simple criteria like stacking height etc. For complicated products like cars a design brief is an extensive document with hundreds and hundreds of pages. For simple products it can be a few pages. Most of the time the design brief is a collaborative effort of those people involved in planning, brand management and marketing, design, production and finance. A creative design brief is different in the sense that the traditional brief is more or less a description of what is known about the product and the conditions in which it will be produced, marketed and used. The description is basically a description of the product you want to make. A creative design brief is different in that it may contain a lot of the same information but it is the start of a process and leaves room for un-anticipated elements of the product. In other words, it relies more on the design process and on what will be discovered during that development process. To some extend it is also a greater risk because the results may not fit in the natural or planned development of the company, the development might exceed pre-established budgets etc. On the other hand it might lead to more innovative products and if it is indeed too innovative, it might be used as a beacon-product, in other words a goal that is used internally but that will reach the market over a longer period of time. Apart from being used as a marketing tool, experimental car models are often the result of a more creative design brief. I hope this answers at least part of your question…and to David: Ursäkta om jag tolkade dig fel…

  • Would like to share this article/presentation ( many of you must have read it ) by Anne Galloway and seems to be contextual in the ongoing discussion (which is also to say that i subscribe to the idea presented here ):

    Transit

    Also, as Marco Siebertz had mentioned about Guy Bonsiepe, there's another paper by him titled 'Design as Tool for Cognitive Metabolism: From Knowledge Production to Knowledge Presentation', which i found it really interesting / inspiring too.

  • David, I think its not about talent but certainly it is about mind set. Its about free thinking when it comes to design. Its about communication which is meaning less in certain cases of design product. I mean the product is not able to deliver for what it is been developed.

    We need to look on to control structures in terms of application. We need to talk to people. And certainly a better product will be eveloved through ideas and constant talking to each other, through cultural exchanges and sharing experiances on common grounds of working model.

    -Pradeep

    shm.pradeep@gmail.com

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