Design is a profession. Its own profession. With degrees. And professional certifications. Unless you have busted your ass as a designer, you know, designing things you do not get to call yourself a designer.
Knowing CPR does not make me a doctor. Knowing the law does not make me a lawyer. Writing a contract does not make me an MBA. And Dick Cheyney was not an ‘architect‘ of the war in Iraq. He was a corrupt politician.
Excellent interview presented on The Marketing Fresh Peel last week (April 21). In it, Chris Wilson interviews author and thought leader Marty Neumeier on his new book The Designful Company. The author presents great, unapologetic opinions of companies who are “designful” in culture and action (the obvious, like Nike and Apple) and the not-so-designful but still deified (Coke, Microsoft, for instance). One piece of this conversation leaps out at me though. It’s a spot-on definition of design and its role in an organization:
We need to get past our view of the designer as a shaper of objects. The dictionary defines a designer as someone who plans an artifact or system of artifacts—in other words, the “posters and toasters” of the 20th century. This is too narrow. I prefer Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon’s definition: “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” In this definition, design is a way of thinking, and anyone in the company can be a designer, including the CEO.
Design thinking is about refusing to accept the easy answer. It’s about imagining new possibilities that weren’t on the table before, and prototyping those possibilities so they can be tested. It’s the difference between “deciding” the way forward and “designing” the way forward. Deciding only works in a stable market where innovation is a low priority.
Imagine the new company culture, no matter the company, defined around design thinking like this. It’s probably this country’s number one advantage (if our only real advantage) culturally going forward. We should be celebrating this concept in every concept and company.
And we should debate vigorously how we create cultures within companies that allow for this. Equal parts tension and inspiration, freedom and process, democracy and dictatorship. Can they live in harmony? I think so. You just have to have designers who are articulate enough and business savvy enough to have the hard conversations along the way. At the same time, you have to have a management team who understands that design is a process that takes time and space. All families should live together and learn from each other every minute of every day.
The result is a company that evolves in harmony with its market, not the lumbering Frankensteins that so many of us still are today.