What Zaha Knows That You Don't
Design is: Seeing
In the early pages of The Redheaded League Holmes and Watson receive a very distressed man at Baker Street. As a greeting, Holmes, with characteristic bravado, rattles off a list of intimate details describing the stranger. Both the man, and Watson are shocked that he could have known so much, but Holmes announces out that it was "Quite elementary, my dear Watson", and proceeds to explain the intricacies of his deduction, and later chides Watson good naturedly on his lack of vision -- "You look, but you do not see". As designers, the skill that sets us apart from other builders, sculptors, businesspeople, and engineers, is that we see the connections that make magical deductions like Holmes's possible. Cultivating this skill of looking for real understanding should be at the top of your list.
Design is: Adaptation
Humans aren't particularly adaptive animals. We vary a bit in hair type, skin color, and subtle physiology based on our native climates, but we don't really get a lot of mileage out of these adaptations. Where we really shine is in our ability to take existing objects or ideas and adapt them for new uses. Splintered rocks became axes. Church bells became cannon. A communication system meant for nuclear war became the most successful library, mail network, encyclopedia, and so much more, that the world has ever known. This propensity for adaptation of things lives on in the choices product designers make daily. And, its successes are powerful.
Design is: A Paycheck On Your Terms
Yesterday, we talked about, and pointed out some designers and other people who might not fall exactly into design, who were able to develop "jobs" which allowed them to pursue their passions, and make a living. As you know, we're big fans of passion, and we want to see more of this sort of rule-bending and interest-mixing -- especially in light of the developing world design environment. However, we understand that many of you have passions which might not fit perfectly with some ancient Irish legend, or venture capitalist's funding ideal. So, today, we want to talk about three examples of passionate people who developed radical new ways to make money off of their products, in order to keep doing what they loved.
Design is: Your Vehicle
What do you really want to do? Oh, yeah, yeah, design, right. But what's really driving you? Religious outreach? Fun? Environmentalism? Political Activism? Teaching? Have you put these other goals aside in favor of having a stable wage? Or a corner office? Is this sacrifice really necessary? Consider this: A designer is someone who finds new ways to solve problems using the materials, processes, and understanding that we have now. Is there any reason that the problem has to be "What should next year's toaster be?" Why not ask a question with your goals in it? Why not design a vehicle which allows your goals to be reached, and your living to be made as well?
Design is: The Need Through The Noise
Every once in a while, don't you wish the world would just sit still for one flipping second? Technology changes. Social norms change. Our environment changes. And on top of that, the needs we're trying to fill change. Designers need to be like highly tuned antennae; Able to cut through the current crop of products, or the past tradition of products to get at the question "What is the real need here?". In many cases, a change in the need or technology is what makes old designs irrelevant and new designs successful.
Design is: Identifying Gateways
Often, it's convenient to talk about the evolution of products and technologies in terms of linear, constant change. Blunt rocks became stone knives, became arrows, became crossbow bolts, became bullets. But this is never really the case. In the above example, for instance, thousands, or tens of thousands of years elapsed between each stage. And when a new age began, the technology was adopted rapidly and completely. These gateways where new technologies allow for massive growth of new product varieties occur all the time. A designer's art is in noticing and capitalizing on these chances.
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Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team