Sometime around 1996 I found myself standing in the upstairs library of a drafty, suburban Chicago Victorian owned by a mentor, marveling at what seemed to be a neurotic collection of books. He had volumes on cooking, social science, biology, business, systems engineering, anthropology, architecture, comics, painting, science fiction, classic literature, graphic design, and a batch of academic papers, among others. When we went book shopping together, I often left with a stack in hand similar to what was on his shelves, despite other intentions.
“I stereotype,” George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air remarks. “It’s faster.” Perhaps it sounds unfair, but he was on to something. You could use the more highfalutin language of design conferences and say something like “Framing is how we create meaning,” but the essence would be the same. In order to make sense of the world, we put things into categories. However you describe your mental machinery, there’s a good chance that the Occupy Wall Street movement has strained its gears.
It is tempting for an outside observer to conclude that people with extremely limited means are unable to plan ahead or to make sound financial decisions. When we first arrived in Cairo on a design research trip this year and talked to members of disenfranchised classes, we found ourselves precariously close to making such a mistake. We noticed puzzling behaviors that challenged our Western perspective and initially encouraged us to draw the wrong conclusion.
Instead of searching for creativity, we should be fostering it in people we already work with—and redefining what it is.
Design can exist without "the research." But if we don't study the world, we don't always know how or what to create.
Design, like the world as a whole, is unpredictable and messy. If you think it boils down to "research," you're mistaken.
A job interview can be a pretty dry affair, but a few years ago, I had one that I'll never forget. I was talking to an advertising executive about one of his clients, a major telecommunications company that had recently renamed itself. At the end of the interview, he asked if I had any questions for him. "What do you think about your client's decision to change names?" I asked. It seemed to me that discussing the pros and cons of a decision like this would be one of the more interesting aspects of a job in advertising. But his response didn't inspire much of a dialogue.
A trip to Zambia reminds a designer that the best solutions don't come from good tools. They come from good teams.
Where do we start?
As I mentioned in my previous post, we can learn a lot in the design process by looking at ways we change behavior in human relationships. In human relationships persuasion, influence, power, and necessity are the implements of change.
What lessons can we learn from “changing others” in human relationships to aid us in the design process?
As someone who has tried to change my spouse, I can tell you that I have learned the hard way. “People don’t change, they grow” as my friends say. “You can only create the right conditions to engender a response.” So what does this mean for design? If we can’t change people, how can we change behavior?
Now that I’ve presented a review of the Design Research Conference 2010 (DRC) to our internal creative team, I’m feeling energized. There are many changes happening right now in the field of Design Research and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve made my presentation available on Slide Share.