Design for Life

Ten years ago, I watched a mini TV series on BBC called  Design for Life. Several young designers were competing against each other to win an internship at famous designer Philippe Starck’s headquarters in Paris. I remember being so fascinated by the show and I literally couldn’t wait for the next week’s episode! Yep, shows were run weekly at some point.

The program introduced me to design thinking and it was one of these things that stayed with me.

What fascinated me the most? The idea that design should serve people. Stark was a very firm believer when it came to his core philosophy and each week terminated a hope of yet another young designer who failed to adopt it well enough.

I loved the show and I am not surprised that after ten years, I am coming back to this idea and that I need to apply design thinking in my future work. 


What is Design and Design Thinking? Design as a Mindset

Tom Kelly from IDEO in this brilliant episode of High Resolution Podcast went straight to the core of the problem saying that many people do not realize design is a mindset, hence, design thinking.

To paraphrase him, if you think about the design as a mindset as opposed to tool, the whole new world opens to design solutions.

Design becomes lot more than making nice coffee cups.

In simplistic terms, design thinking is making well designed products that people need. Human need is crucial in this equation because without it, things become just pretty without necessarily being practical for use. If you need half an hour for figuring out, how to use your new hipster knife sharpener or learning an app for your shopping lists,  those who made these products might have been rather designers than design thinkers, they didn’t think how the design will be actually used.

Don Norman’s tea pot from the cover of his book The Design of Everyday Things became a symbol of the impracticality that many products suffer.

So how do we create products that people want and need? A UX designer-thinker replies with the simple: ‘We ask people’.

Once I heard Daniel Burka, a UX designer, director and Vital Strategies, formerly worked for Google, paraphrasing a quote that expresses the whole idea super simply, it was something like:

Do not make anything unless it is necessary but if it is necessary, do not hesitate to make it beautiful.

Design as Relationships

Phil Gilbert from IBM retold a story about Paul Rand, a famous designer for IBM and one of his colleagues, designer Gordon. When Paul Rand asked Gordon ‘What is design?’ Gordon froze. After Gordon’s attempt to answer, Paul Rand said: ‘You got it all wrong, design is about relationships’. As Phil explains in the episode, these relationships are not only between different people but between information too. We create relationship between the user and product, relationships with our competition (differentiation), relationship between different stakeholders, etc.

Black and white drawing of a woman (centre), waves in background

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