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NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

SPECIAL

ISSUE

Beautiful Diversion: Response to Nussbaum’s “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?”

Contributors: Fifty Members of the Global Design Community

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Copyright © 2007 NextDesign Leadership Institute. All Rights Reserved. NextD Journal may be quoted freely with proper reference credit. If you wish to repost, reproduce or retransmit any of this text for commercial use please send a copyright permission request to journal@nextd.org


NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Beautiful Diversion

Introduction Super big thanks to everyone who gave up time to participate in this NextD Journal Special Issue. With so much change underway all around us today, many practicing designers do not have the bandwidth to react to every ripple of activity in the press and the blogosphere. Many designers are out there creating the future rather then reacting to it, and that’s the way we think it should be. Once in a while, something comes along in the press or blogosphere that is so compelling (positively or negatively) that it becomes important for the community to engage. We guessed it might be fun to reach out to our global community of readers on short notice and invite comments to Bruce Nussbaum’s recent blog post entitled “Are Designers the Enemy of Design?” We guessed right! It has been fun, but more importantly it has turned out to be a great shareable learning exercise for all. “Beautiful Diversion” has been a bit of temperature check, and it really is quite amazing to see the diversity of points of view in the community. Design is a community of communities in motion, as GK VanPatter likes to say. It is not a singular motion, but rather many motions at various speeds and numerous directions. It is an exciting time as design is emerging into new territories. The process of continuously designing design is complicated and messy, but one that designers must absolutely be involved in. We hope you enjoy “Beautiful Diversion.” The NextD Team

NextD Design is Changing! Are YOU? www.nextd.org

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Contributors Sir George Cox Chairman Design Council United Kingdom www.design-council.org.uk

Gunnar Swanson Founder, CEO Gunnar Swanson Design Office United States www.gunnarswanson.com

Tony Fry Design Consultant Founder, EcoDesign Foundation Director, Team D/E/S Australia www.teamdes.com.au

Paul J. Nini Professor, Visual Communication Design The Ohio State University United States www.design.osu.edu

Tim Brown CEO and President IDEO United States www.ideo.com John Thackara Doors of Perception Netherlands www.thackara.com www.doorsofperception.com GK VanPatter Co-Founder NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder Humantific United States & Spain www.nextd.org www.humantific.com Geoff Crook Sensory Designer Course Director and Founder of MA Design Studies Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design United Kingdom www.csm.arts.ac.uk

Martin Mangold Dipl.-Des. & MBA graduate Zollverein School of Management & Design Germany www.zollverein-school.com Peter Schreck Economist & MBA student Zollverein School of Management & Design Germany www.zollverein-school.com Nate Burgos Principal Nate Burgos, Inc. United States www.designfeast.com Dr. Mark Breitenberg Dean of Undergraduate Education Art Center College of Design United States www.artcenter.edu Jaime Barrett Graduate Design Student Emily Carr Institute Canada www.barrettcollaborative.com

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Birgit H. Jevnaker Associate Professor Norwegian School of Management Department of Innovation and Economic Organization Norway www.bi.no Christopher Vice Chair, Department of Visual Communication Design Herron School of Art and Design Indiana University United States www.herron.iupui.edu www.designleadership.org Jean Schneider Project Manager Agency For The Promotion of Industrial Creation France www.apci.asso.fr/index_uk.php Prof. MP Ranjan Faculty of Design Head, Centre for Bamboo Initiatives National Institute of Design India www.nid.edu/index.htm www.ranjanmp.in Thomas S. Bley Head, Design Studies Division of Sciences University of Otago New Zealand www.design.otago.ac.nz Uday Dandavate Founder and CEO SonicRim Ltd. United States www.sonicrim.com George Kembel Executive Director Stanford d.school United States dschool.stanford.edu

Beautiful Diversion

Michelle Siegel Design Officer Division of Communication, UNICEF United States www.unicef.org Chris Arnold Assistant Professor Department of Industrial Design Auburn University United States www.auburn.edu/ind Dan Roam Founder, CEO Digital Roam Inc. United States www.digitalroam.com Thomas Noller Founder, Interaction Designer Visual Code Germany www.visualcode.de Neal Moore Co-Founder, Senior Associate Jump Associates LLC United States www.jumpassociates.com Adam Kallish Principal Trope: Communication by Design United States designmethods.blogspot.com Stefan Holmlid Associate Professor Interaction & Service Design HumanCentered Systems, Linkรถping University Sweden www.ida.liu.se/~steho/ Dr. Cameron Tonkinwise Course Director, Postgraduate Design Lecturer, School of Design University of Technology, Australia www.dab.uts.edu.au

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Hans Kaspar Hugentobler CEO Chen Hugentobler Associates Switerland www.chenhugentobler.com

Anne-Marie Willis Editor, Design Philosophy Papers Team D/E/S Publications Australia www.desphilosophy.com

Alun Price Project Officer, Design Western Australian Curriculum Council Australia www.curriculum.wa.edu.au

Brett Patching PhD Student Department of Design Aarhus School of Architecture Denmark www.aarch.dk

Ellen Lupton Curator of Contemporary Design Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum www.cooperhewitt.org Director, Graphic Design MFA Program Maryland Institute College of Art www.elupton.com Nicola Morelli Associate Professor School of Architecture and Design Aalborg University Denmark www.aod.aau.dk/staff/nmor Shelley Evenson Associate Professor and Director Of Graduate Studies School Of Design Carnegie Mellon University United States www.design.cmu.edu William Tschumy User Experience Evangelist Microsoft United States www.microsoft.com/design Zachary Jean Paradis Graduate Student Innovation Strategist, Experience Designer IIT Institute of Design United States www.creativeslant.com

Leslie Alfin Adjunct Professor Department of Design & Management Parsons School of Design The New School United States www.parsons.edu Tiiu Poldma, Ph.D. Associate professor Director, GRID (Group for Research in Illumination and Design) Faculty of Environmental Design, University of MontrÊal Canada www.umontreal.ca/english/index.htm Loretta Staples Faculty Department of Design & Management Parsons School of Design United States www.lorettastaples.com Jørgen Rasmussen Head of Department for Design Aarhus School of Architecture Denmark www.aarch.dk Claire Hartten Cross-Disciplinary Designer Co-Founder/Facilitator/Collaborator The Dirt Cafe United States www.dirtcafe.com

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Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff Senior Dean Kรถln International School of Design Germany www.kisd.de Eric Niu Graduate Student IIT Institute of Design United States www.id.iit.edu Alex Cheek Graduate Student IIT Institute of Design United States www.id.iit.edu Gill Wildman Co-Founder Plot United Kingdom www.plotsite.net

Beautiful Diversion

Kristian Bengtsson Creative Director FutureLab Sweden www.futurelab.se www.futuredesigndays.com Dr. Richard Buchanan Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies Carnegie Mellon University United States www.design.cmu.edu Elizabeth Pastor Co-Founder NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder Humantific United States & Spain www.nextd.org www.humantific.com

Prof. David Sless CEO Communication Research Institute Australia www.communication.org.au William Tate Director Umbau School of Architecture United States & Austria www.umbauschoolofarchitecture.org

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Sir George Cox |

Beautiful Diversion

Design Council, United Kingdom

Are designers the enemy of design? I think not, at least not in the past. But that could all be about to change. We live in a world that is being rapidly reshaped: reshaped by technology, by staggering global economic growth, by changed attitudes in society and by globalisation. As this takes place there is a growing awareness that the lifestyle we have enjoyed in the advanced industrialised nations is unsustainable. Our whole economic infrastructure is predicted on growth, which is fine provided that growth is not inextricably linked in the consumption of energy and raw materials and to the generation of pollution. As nation after nation strives to improve its standard of living, we have to recognise that the world simply cannot support hundreds of millions more enjoying the way of life to which we have always assumed everyone should aspire. And much of our way of life has been driven by design. I discard clothes, not because they are worn out, but because I don’t want to be seen in them; I dump my PC, my television, my mobile phone and my home entertainment system (contributing to the horrendous lifetime electrical waste demonstrated by the WEEE man) because the latest products make them obsolete; I replace my car, which performs faultlessly, because I’ve fallen victim to the advertising campaign for the new model. I say this not with a ‘holier than thou’ stance — I’m eagerly awaiting my new car — but to point out that ‘design’ is very much the driver of a way of life that is unsustainable. Moreover, aside from the products themselves, design is also employed in generating a massive amount of waste in the form of packaging. Technology may have miniaturised many things, but tiny packages don’t appeal. Having dutifully re-cycled my bottles, cans, newspapers and organic waste, my sack of rubbish collected for landfill each week is 90% packaging. The skills of our designers — which I admire and endlessly promote — have to be redeployed progressively to solving the problems of society, not exacerbating them. And that is hugely important because all of those problems, whether connected with healthcare, transportation, education, energy or living environment, can only be solved by imaginatively designed, innovative solutions. Innovation is becoming not just the key to commercial success and economic prosperity, but also the key to the quality of life within society. The changing world offers a huge challenge to designers, with more scope than ever before. But they have got to become the heroes of that world before they are widely regards as villains.

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Tony Fry |

Beautiful Diversion

Team D/E/S, Australia

A Talking Bum Nussbaum reminds me of one of my grandmother’s favourite sayings — ‘empty vessels make the most noise.’ The guy sure is a dry pea in a tin can. It’s tempting to throw him back the kind of language he throws around, because he trades more in irritation than provocation. But let’s start on a point of agreement. He says designers are ignorant. They are. Mind you, sticking with my grandmother’s clichéd wisdom, this is a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black.’ He says they know nothing about sustainability, and then demonstrates what he knows would get lost in a matchbox — back to this in a moment. First the accusation of ignorance begs comment. What designs designers’ ignorance? Well in large part, design education and the design press. The former is dominated by instrumental instruction (‘how to’) and by aesthetic seduction (style); the latter by hype and pretty pictures. The market also plays its part — clients mostly want compliant service, be it creative and innovatory, rather than critical insight and rigorous analysis of what needs to be designed and why. Effectively, the most important design decisions are made even before the designer comes on the scene. Ignorance then is not simply a shortcoming of individuals or the profession, but is structural to what and how designers learn and the work they do. Yes there are exceptions, but ignorance rules. Now to spend a little time on Brucy’s ignorance. Mate, ‘Design Democracy’ is not the wave of the future — it’s not even a ripple on the pond. The rhetoric actually has the ring of the 1939 New York World’s Fair about it. Here are four points to chew on. Point one, ‘star designers’ will never rule, and they never have. Most of what was designed in the past was anonymous — Siegfried Giedion made this clear nearly sixty years ago in his Mechanisation Takes Command — as will be most of what will be designed in the future. Designers conceal the omnipresence of designing. Point two, we are not ‘designing more of our lives.’ The reverse, our lives are becoming more designed — children’s fashion, processed and packaged foods, smart cars, oodles of software, electronic gizmos in profusion — come on Brucy, get real! What is not being grasped is that it is things that design. ‘We’ are designed by the designed world, including our designing with design tools. Designers then ‘design things that go on designing.’ Point three, sustainability demands that design follows a specific performative and developmental direction. This is at odds with letting millions of blossoms bloom in the silly land of hyper-pluralism. Point four, what’s needed are well educated designers able to redirect design practice, its products and economies towards sustainment. This means designing away the unsustainable, designing against conflict and for global equity, retrofitting cities rather than creating more ‘green buildings’ or sustaining unsustainable organisations. A last word to the folks at Parsons — don’t bother to ask Brucy back, he’s a bum.

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Tim Brown |

Beautiful Diversion

IDEO, United States

I applaud Bruce Nussbaum’s challenge to think critically about our practice. In a time where almost every activity is being ‘democratized’ by technology, designers cannot expect to be immune. The tools of design thinking will become available to ever more people, just like the tools of music making or image making. As ‘professional designers’ we can respond in two ways. We can attempt to protect our activities like the guilds of the Middle Ages or we can embrace the opportunity to be expansive about Design Thinking and what it can achieve. I have always tried to judge my contribution as a designer, and the contribution of IDEO, by the impact our work has in the world. I believe the motivation to have impact is at the core of why we design which is why we have been active supporters of the idea of Design Thinking. By encouraging as many people as possible to understand and apply Design Thinking we believe that it is possible to massively increase the level of impact. If social entrepreneurs can use Design Thinking to create better solutions for the poor then we are creating positive impact. If business people can use Design Thinking to better understand the needs of their customers and create offerings that are truly valued; that is positive impact. If anyone can use Design Thinking to solve a problem that they face in their lives then the result is positive impact. There is no doubt in my mind that if designers are going to make a positive contribution to a sustainable society we are going to have to leverage every nuance of Design Thinking to the full and that is why I believe there is plenty of opportunity left for professionals. But to fulfill that ambition we are going to have to move beyond our fascination with the surface. This is difficult. I will be the first to admit that I am seduced by beautiful objects and images. I enjoy creating them and I enjoy acquiring them. Business makes a lot of money by providing us with seductive things and we are not going to persuade ourselves, or our clients, to kick the habit just because it is worthy. We have to leverage the same tools of Design Thinking to create functionally, emotionally and economically compelling alternatives. These solutions will be more nuanced than the solutions of today. They will make more of less. In some cases they will require breakthrough innovation in business models, technology and behavior. In all cases they will be the result of talented interdisciplinary teams working across all aspects of the problem and not the product of the lone designer. I am pleased to see that Bruce is already challenging the role of his own profession in the promulgation of outdated ideas about design. While ever the vast majority of journalism is obsessed with the stylish object and the beautiful image we should not be surprised if business people, young designers and the public at large assume that is what design is about. While I applaud his personal efforts to champion Design Thinking perhaps the opening line for his next talk can be “Design journalism sucks.”

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John Thackara |

Beautiful Diversion

Doors of Perception, Netherlands

“Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?” I never thought about that question before, so I went to check out Bruce Nussbaum’s article. In it, there’s a touching story about “venture capitalists at the latest TED conference crying, literally crying onstage, about the planet.” I suspect Bruce may have misread the situation. Those VCs were not crying about the planet, they were crying about the imminent collapse of the money system. But the underlying story stays the same: “The biosphere is in trouble! Let’s all start feeling sorry for ourselves!.” That’s a great idea. Should clear up the problem in no time. It’s true, we designed our way into this mess. We’ve all been in denial for several years. And it’s also true, as Bruce complains, that most designers are ill-informed about sustainability. But so is pretty much everyone else on the planet. And with good reason. “Climate pornography” — the promotion of apocalyptic climate change scenarios — is counter-productive. As one British think tank put it, climate porn “offers a thrilling spectacle, but ultimately distances people from the problem.” Let alone the answer. Most of us suspect something unpleasant is about to happen, but we are confused over what to do about it. So — surprise surprise — we go into denial. But beating up on designers — or blubbing on a stage in Monterrey — is not going to move things forward one inch. So what to do? It’s simple: get out there and help the people who are already active. Paul Hawken reckons that over one million organizations, populated by 100 million people, are engaged in grass roots activity designed to address climate and other environmental issues. “This worldwide movement of movements flies under the radar,” he believes, but “collectively, this constitutes the single biggest movement on earth.” It’s a big movement, but it lacks design skills. You can make a big difference in no time. If grass roots activism is too much to contemplate, go and get a job with Unilever. Patrick Cescau, Unilever’s Group Chief Executive, said recently that “by applying new design principles, we can progressively drive down our usage of resources and move towards ever more sustainable consumption.” Stirring stuff. But I’d be surprised if all of Paul’s 234,000 colleagues are 100% up-to-speed on these “new design principles” — if, indeed, they have even heard of them. I’m sure they could use some help. if corporate life is even less enticing to you than hugging trees, go and work in Switzerland. Switzerland has set a target of becoming a “2000-Watt society.” That’s one third of the 6000 Watts of energy consumed by each of its citizens today on food, goods, heating and cooling buildings, mobility and so on. An added benefit of this move is that even if the worst case sea level rises come to pass, all of Switzerland will remain above water. Even I am following my advice: I’m busy at dott07.com. We would love to see you at our Festival in October. So long as you walk.

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GK VanPatter |

Beautiful Diversion

NextDesign Leadership Institute, United States

Trilogy of Illusions 1. Since we have been teaching whole-brain cross-disciplinary innovation co-creation skills to organizations of all kinds, including design companies, for many years, reading BusinessWeek is always a little mind-bending. BusinessWeek has become masterful at consistently depicting a future of design and innovation that is ten years behind what is already going on in the marketplace. The truth is that a lot of what is going on today does not exactly fit the natural inclinations or strategic needs of BusinessWeek and its primary readers. Design companies have already transformed themselves and are directly competing in the innovation space with Nussbaum’s core readership: business school-educated consultants. Nussbaum seems to have a different, more constrained, future in mind for design, and it is consistently subservient and blue collar (i.e. MBAs frame the product challenges that designers should carry out, preferably with a smile). That’s no big news. The bigger story is, or should be (if we had a design press), why has it taken the design education community so long to wake up to the Nussbaum charade. The Nussbaum era, now passed, has been a wonderful advocate of change in the business community and a huge blockage of change in the design education community. Nussbaum worked the design education crowd masterfully for quite a while, but the “Enemies” piece surely shows that the “Power of Design” game is over. Let’s get that burning platform dusted off, folks. Reality just re-set in. 2. Today, “the big ego” charge is a strategic playing card more than it is a proportional statement of the primary problem that exists in the context of cross-disciplinary innovation. When you see that card being played in the direction of designers, you can almost be certain that there are folks around driving who never set foot in a design school. They are driving a strategic agenda that includes “everyone is a designer.” Their numbers are huge, and their impact is gigantic. Proportionally, those numbers are now greater than design school-educated designers. I’m guessing that this red flag connects to Nussbaum’s staff, lead collaborators at Core 77, and his advisors. He should know better. He seems to be unaware that there is a strategic space race going on out there. Here, he was used as a pawn. In the context of organizational innovation, there are big egos and other kinds of inappropriate behaviors around, but this exists in Business 1.0, 2.0, Technology 1.0, 2.0, as well as Design 1.0, 2.0. No discipline has been historically focused on teaching people how to work across tribes. What he missed by focusing on product-centric Design 2.0 all these months is that design firms practicing in the innovation-enabling space are already out there participating in the retraining of the adult population, none of whom had cross-disciplinary innovation behavioral skill building in school. Bruce, get yourself into a workshop asap! 3. BusinessWeek framing sustainability as a challenge is like George Bush seeking to take the strategic reigns on education. American business is playing catch up on sustainability with the help of some very smart folks in the design business. Besides that, the future of design is about HOW not WHAT. Sustainability is a WHAT. It is the next WHAT, now that the eBusiness WHAT wave has collapsed. WHATs come and go. WHATs are pre-framed challenges. Let’s get smarter. HOW skills are much more sustainable than WHAT skills. Design 3.0 is adaptable to all kinds of challenges, not just sustainability. In Design 3.0, the many challenges we face are framed, not by business magazine editors, but rather in co-creation.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Geoff Crook |

Beautiful Diversion

Central Saint Martins, United Kingdom

Sleeping with the Enemy: Are Designers The Enemy Of Design? Back around 400 BC Sun-tzu advised that you should ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.’ In an age of ubiquitous design it has become all too easy to cosy up to designers, and for Nussbaum, even easier to blame them. So lets look at the list of charges: • Designers suck • Designer’s big egos prevent design from becoming a philosophy of life • Designers are undemocratic because they resist conversations with users. • Designers design clothes that only last one season • Designers make organic bamboo and cotton, expensive His upside: ‘Design’s focus on observing…human behavior…emphasis on…speed, ability to construct, not destruct, search for new options and opportunities, ability to connect to powerful emotions, optimism, (makes) converts out of tough CEOs.’ As a designer who educates by design, I am more worried by the ‘compliments’ than the familiar put-downs. My response addresses ‘observing,’ ‘speed,’ ‘construct not destruct,’ connecting ‘to powerful emotions’ and ‘tough CEOs.’ Who’s Sleeping with Whom? Design is a process, typically involving commissions led by the motive of capital accumulation. While designers have enabled conspicuous consumption on a scale that super-sizes the human capacity for excess they are responding to briefs from business, or other sources. Observation The relationship between design and business has encouraged a dependency on visual appraisal. This has effectively disembodying the intellect. The obscuration of the evaluation potential of touch, taste, smell and sound has reduced commodity and experience relationships to a style exercise with a built in sell-by-date. Speed Max Webber noticed that the rational obsessions of corporate management brought efficiency at the expense of disenchantment, a high price to pay. While designers contributed to the invention of the aesthetics of modernity it was business that pressed the fast-forward accelerator that turned all of us into efficiency junkies. Construction not Destruction Make less-Think More is one way of getting off the conveyor belt of conspicuous styleled consumption for long enough to adopt John Dewey’s clarion call for reflection. Reflection deconstructs our experiences so that we consider motive and value rather than accumulate dross. Connecting to Powerful Emotions Peter Whybrow neatly explained the relationship between the instinctual and the rational mind. “Like all species we crave sugar, salt and novelty, it’s the rational mind that

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Beautiful Diversion

balances this instinct but it needs to learn to do so” (Whybrow 2005) Seductive visual emphasis targets the conditioned ‘I want more and I want it now’ instinct and limits our opportunities to form a full sensory gestalt that could balance perceived need with sense. Tough CEOs John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Markets, reputedly has ethical values: ‘Management has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value; therefore any activities that don’t maximize shareholder value are violations of that duty.’ (Mackey 2005) Need I say more? Conclusions ‘Organic’ is supposed to cost more, it takes longer and/or costs more to produce but that’s a ‘slow’ approach to business. Like Woodrow Wilson said: ‘If you want to make enemies, try to change something.’

Gunnar Swanson |

Gunnar Swanson Design Office, United States

Bruce Nussbaum tells us that “blogs and websites are full of designers shouting how awful it is that now, thanks to Macs, Web 2.0, even YouTube, EVERYONE is a designer” but Macs (or PCs, or, for that matter, typewriters) didn’t make everyone writers. Nussbaum is right about how silly and obnoxious that is, and he’s right on a few other points but his references to designers are about as targeted as if he’d used the phrase “writers and editors.” And writers and editors do suck: They don’t understand this and they don’t do that. The one thing you might expect them to do is to use words well. If Nussbaum thinks that innovation, design, eco-imagination, vision, and banana are pretty much interchangeable and that everyone called “designer” does essentially the same thing then we can only hope that the DYI spirit in design will extend to business writing. He may have something important to tell us. Maybe he should hire a writer so we can figure out just what it is.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Paul J. Nini |

Beautiful Diversion

The Ohio State University, United States

I personally agree with most of the points Bruce makes in his “Are Designers the Enemy of Design?” article. 1) User-centered research, 2) open-ended/user-controlled/usercontent-supplied systems, and 3) sustainable design approaches are all incredibly important directions for the future of or field, and we would be foolish to ignore them. Of course other writers have been addressing most of these topics for years, but the fact that they’re being championed by an ally of Design in Business is for the most part very positive. The big problem that I do have is how Design is often portrayed in the Business press, of which Bruce is a significant contributor. Namely, I object to the term “Innovation” as a stand-in for “Design.” As Bruce says, it may be a more comfortable word for Business to use, but to my mind it shortchanges the much greater potential that Design can bring to the table. We should not underestimate the value of true “visual quality” that Design, at its best, provides as an added value. MySpace and YouTube are incredibly cool Web 2.0 success stories — but let’s be honest, they’re both uglier than sin and not particularly easy to use. They would be significantly better if even basic design principles were at work. In both cases we’re assaulted with a barrage of competing messages all crammed into the available space — visual “chaos,” if you will. Providing some “whitespace” (please!) would not only result in a more aesthetic experience, but would also help focus the eye on what’s truly important on the screen. The visual form would better support the intended use; form and function would actually complement each other. Unfortunately, that basic point seems lost on Business. Instead of truly embracing “Design,” there’s now a championing of “Design Thinking” — which seems to me like a “Lite” version of Design. Again, the fact that Design is entering into the equation is positive, but something’s getting lost in the translation. It’s not enough just to think like a designer — one has to be able to synthesize those thoughts into tangible results, which is what Design has always done. Unfortunately, gaining the skills to create those results takes much study and hard work, and there’s no short-cut available. Dan Saffer, a senior interaction designer for Adaptive Path, recently posted to his firm’s web-log a piece tilted “Design Schools: Please Start Teaching Design Again,” (http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/2007/03/06/design-schools-please-startteaching-design-again/) where he challenges those of us in Design Education to not lose touch with teaching students how to function in “the messy world of prototyping, development, and manufacturing” — where ideas become reality. We in Design instinctively know that Dan’s correct, but who in Business truly understands this point? It’s important for us to not reinvent ourselves (or let others reinvent us) in a manner that causes us to forget what Design’s unique contribution has always been. Clearly change is on the horizon, but how we proceed from here must be carefully considered.

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Martin Mangold & Peter Schreck |

Zollverein School, Germany

After having participated in one of this new D-School programs at a newly founded BSchool in Germany (Zollverein School of Management & Design, Essen, Germany) we would like to contribute to this issue: From our point of view it is very important to set up an educational context, where people with different backgrounds come together and learn to speak the same language. In the case of the programme at Zollverein School, the concept of “business model innovation” provided this specific educational context and was the key topic for developing new approaches and a new way of thinking. Throughout the entire programme, it was our passion to find out what the customers desire and to design an economically feasible business model that helps them solve their unsolved and often latent needs. In this programme, we didn’t learn much about shaping stylish products. Instead, we learned how to take on a challenge holistically and how to collaborate with people from different backgrounds to find viable and sustainable solutions. We experienced first hand that the handling of complexity and the change of perspectives are the strongest skills of a Designer, no matter whether he crafts a good product or a new strategy for a company. For that reason, we strongly believe that the education of a designer as well as the education of the classic business student has to change. Future leaders need to be prepared to cross borders, to be able to design together, in an interdisciplinary team, meaningful and sustainable solutions for the customer. To make this happen, we need to stop discussing if designers should be educated in “designing products” or educated in “Design thinking.” They simply must be able to do both at the same time, if they want to have a competitive advantage in this globalized world. It is more important to discuss how we can help companies to really understand the value that design thinking has to offer for them and how companies can be helped to set up a context where design thinking is welcomed and not rejected. No matter if the company thinks about a new product or a new corporate strategy. If the companies’ culture is not prepared to challenge their way of doing things, and if companies aren’t ready to take on a designer or a business graduate that has focused on design thinking in his or her education, then you will have a lot of well prepared people to take on the challenges that lay in front of us, but no context where they can operate in.

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Nate Burgos |

Beautiful Diversion

Nate Burgos, Inc., United States

Rage of Change: Writing Design Up or Down Having read and reread Nussbaum’s take, I’m reminded of persistent refrains I glean, whether at a design conference or in the media: “These are interesting times for design” and “It’s an interesting time to be a designer.” What makes the times worth our interest is its constant flux. It's easy to proclaim “sea change” and make, even ride, waves in many domains of disciplines, especially design. Amidst heated language, Nussbaum points to the current state of how designers identify and engage opportunities for not only positive outcomes but also enduring ones. How designers engage change is a part of the refrains. Whenever there is talk about “changes” accompanied by coined concepts and terminology and marked as impact on design disciplines, I’m reinforced with lessons I still hold and hone, such as Design is an intense investigation; Never work in a vacuum; and Iterate, iterate, iterate. Aim here is to inform decision-making. This sounds simple but is always challenging. What these lessons keep hammering are that designers are never the sole sources of meaning, that there is an ever-changing world adjacent to our work. In striving for meaning in both work and world, design can be described as a sign of the times and Nussbaum presents another rhetorical mirror to design practice and education. As change rages on, design remains a choice: Engage the new or Stick with one’s limited definition of versatility. If the former is chosen, then there is genuine interest invested in making design as relevant as possible. If the latter is picked, then the times, and the world for that matter, are kept flat. I would like to think Nussbaum’s article was a consistent reminder (write-up) of opportunities, small and large, local and global, for designers to help lead and contribute in partnership, rather than a broad-brush reprimand (write-down) sweeping all designers into a heap of indictment.

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Dr. Mark Breitenberg |

Beautiful Diversion

Art Center College of Design, United States

Bruce’s argument that in our “design democracy” we “are all designing more of our lives” is beyond dispute. The same democratization of design allows lower end retailers like Target sell the work of brand-name designers. So what’s going on is that design is losing its elitism, and that makes it a “debased” form, at least according to “real” designers, as Bruce writes. The issue in this debate is professional legitimacy, and the credentials that support it. And I think it’s interesting to remember that design as a discipline, with all the trappings of legitimacy, is a fairly recent development. Historically, professional design was always driven by the success of its practice, not by the certification or academic degrees that are required in law, medicine or academia. At Art Center as late as the early ‘80’s, many students didn’t stick around to complete their degree—they came for the training and when that was deemed complete, they left for the professions. So it’s revealing that design credentials and legitimacy have become important just as the democratization of design rises. The design disciplines are young and relatively insecure, so it’s easy to understand the threat posed by design “done by everyone.” That doesn’t mean that design schools should throw in the towel, but rather that a design education won’t guarantee success in professions driven by the marketplace. A second issue involves our ability to evaluate design objectively. Maybe ten or twenty years ago, there was general agreement on what could be called “good design.” This allowed us to maintain a hierarchy of design that kept the pretenders from the throne. But now both the availability of technology and a growing relativism of style have made such an evaluation more difficult. In almost every area of cultural production—fashion, music, architecture, television—any sense of a dominant style has given way to pluralism and individuality. The mass market is a tapestry of niche markets. Bloggers have as much clout as network news anchors. America chooses its next pop idol, not the music industry moguls. So we’re living in Democracy 3.0 (2.0 was complete enfranchisement), where the people decide and the former elite try to resurrect legitimacy and objective evaluation. Whatever side of this version of the culture wars you’re on, there can’t be much dispute about where we’re going. As nothing could be more American, I’ll leave the last word to our national poet, Walt Whitman: Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between [people], and their beliefs — democracy in all public and private life . . . .

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Jaime Barrett |

Beautiful Diversion

Graduate Student, Emily Carr Institute, Canada

Even though part of me wants to climb through my wireless connection and strangle Nussbaum, I can see his point. Designers are working inside little bubbles; oftentimes ignorant of the world we are designing for. I am not one to point fingers, but I don’t think it’s really our fault. First of all, many designers are caught between a rock and hard place. By this I mean we have no choice and have to shelve our pride everyday. Generally speaking, designers do not have enough authority to sway the clients’ decisions regarding the use of materials, as in Nussbaum’s cradle-to-cradle reference. Designers, inevitably and even secretly wish they could have more authority regarding the decisions their clients make regarding sustainability (among other things). The only issue I have, as a designer, is that I haven’t been invited to that part of the conception process. I’ve only been told that I need to design this product, nothing more. I can’t ask if this product is something the public really needs. I can’t say back to my client, let’s do some anthropological analysis first. That’s laughable. Why? Because designers have not been considered adequately as thinkers. This is changing, as you touched on. I would like to deepen this argument. The masses and their tastes have changed. By the extensive interactions with designed objects in the world, society is growing an eye for design. In doing so, society is opening up ways for designers to be active participants within these cultural spheres. Maybe our public rants about losing our territory, thanks to web 2.0, is not properly understood— maybe we’re just fighting for a little bit of respect. This however, is based out of fear— completely unfounded fear. People are interacting with design in never-seen-before ways. Our design literacy rate is rising. We don’t have to look at this movement with fear that our jobs will disappear. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Everyone knows good design when they see it (thanks to design’s ubiquity), and designers are benefiting from this culture. It’s one thing to scrapbook—it’s another to ask for thoughtful, well-designed objects that require a sensitive, well-versed, refined practitioner. If designers were able to partake in more of the front-end discussions, instead of being called upon to do our clients’ biddings after all the “left-brain” research work has been done, then perhaps we would begin to see a new world. A world where designers could offer input that involves a particular designed/finished artefact but also involves a lot more thinking and conceptualizing/problem solving—perhaps only the designer would have the tools to foresee and know. Sustainability would become a greater word incorporating many meanings, not just environmentally, but socially and economically. It’s a good time for design. The clients and the projects are in fact getting juicier, more creative and often confuse the definition of art and design. This is both an exhilarating and exciting time—to think that designers can discuss and co-create with others. People are ready for it, nay, even as asking for it. I say bring it on.

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Birgit H. Jevnaker |

Beautiful Diversion

Norwegian School of Management, Norway

To provoke can be highly useful for many reasons. One is to shake up the audience to get vivid reactions. Even better is to evoke new thinking and reflections. Let’s face it; a good provocation can break down established categories and lead to new, unconventional thinking. Less good ones may lead to all kinds of responses incl. much noise and prejudice-raising. Among the bad aspects of a trivial provocation is perhaps reinforcing rigid polar views, encompassing biased perceptions about the Others. Stating that “designers suck,” or for that matter, evoking responses that managers suck more, may build up a dualistic rift rather than a creative one. This may circulate old stereotyping views (designers as arty, lonely riders, big Egos, etc) that many have touched upon before. As GK VanPatter reflects, “been there.” Reflecting critically on the portrayal of designers is already old starting points of design and design management research (cf. Walker, Dumas and others). Stop a moment. Why not attend more carefully to the context and framing of how this particular debate started. A dose of (preferably positive) provocation when speaking orally to an audience about the challenges of design management, can be interesting, especially if the audience and the provoking speaker engage in a reflexive dialogue so that learning lessons are also reflected upon explicitly. Who’s afraid of a provocative rhetor …if s/he is self-reflective and making us see basic issues in new ways? The speech entails many triggering issues, though young students may not have the experiential background to sort out what is good, bad, or ugly — in terms of labeling. Another point to take into consideration is the step from talking loud to publishing provocative speeches: this means a step from a flexible live language to a more fixed written one, which is a transition from an incorporating to an inscribing practice, as understood by the anthropologist Connerton. This is perhaps a small step for a writing/editing man, but what step is it in invoking a wider debate on design developments? Again, it is useful to think of the context and format of this activity, which is personalized blogging — an unfolding somewhere in between the formalwritten/informal-thinking-loud in a hybrid private/public form, yet translations of fragments may become endemic. Hence, second thoughts when reading the “Are Designers the Enemy of Design”piece over again is not only about the potentials/pitfalls of provocation, but rather the conspicuous curation of conversations to make a twist of one of Veblen’s concepts. The blogger is stressing that “we all live life in beta now” — this is illuminating language but reminds me a bit of We all live in a yellow submarine — now one with multiple media, people, tools & much ado for everyone in design. Curating the discussion by pointing to the shift from Authority to Participation is only scratching the surface of a much more layered, complex design situation (cf. also Heskett) and enmeshed organizing of specialists, even influencing open source design (and networks, tribes, or specialists’ interactions are of course no idyll). While shooting the pianist in a creating ensemble, let the horses bite, or arrest WHATEVER SUCKS will probably not help much either… Still, provocations can make us rethink. What I enjoy in this text is the call for exploring new paradigms with particular eco-cultures and own action regarding fundamental

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issues, e.g. sustainability ones not sufficiently attended to in the mainstream. Here it is rewarding as hinted to in the piece to explore the how’s of design approaches in a variety of societies. In doing this, it may be wise to delay judgment and naming of what can be the problem prematurely. Finally, because seeing and also innovating comes from believing rather than skepticism, I wish to point to the real-world designer/business relationships that can unfold even in schisms (of arty ego’s or other personas). I came to appreciate the complexity of these relationships gradually when exploring actual design-making in a variety of settings. Having learned about the complex quality issues in design, it is a challenge to open up rather than narrow down what can become of interest. As illuminated in our recent MOD (management of design) project in Oslo this winter, with the Design Faculty students and BI culture & leadership students, living in beta seldom seems to be a simple question of fit in — or fuck off!

Christopher Vice |

Herron School of Art and Design, United States

When I encounter arguments about the relative merits of design making versus design thinking or about who will be leading design in the 21st century, I am reminded of a lesson from Dr. Min Basadur, President and Founder of Basadur Applied Creativity. In Issue 1, Conversation 1.1 of NextD Journal, “Innovation: Teaching HOW Now,” Basadur wrote, “One important process skill that I like to share with others is the ability to adapt these ideas from one area to another. If keeping things simple is the most important process skill, perhaps the second most important is the ability to adapt. The worst way to learn is to confront every new idea with the words ‘I’m different, that won’t work for me.’ The best way to learn is to say, ‘I’m different but so is everyone else. How might I adapt this information so it will work for me? Adaptation is the secret of learning.” In Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of six levels within the cognitive domain of learning, SYNTHESIS is the second highest order. SYNTHESIS is where adaptation takes place. I have always believed that the willing capacity to adapt ideas (and objects) to contexts is essential for designers. Design without synthesis and adaptation is stuck in application. Evaluation of ideas without synthesis is just a knee-jerk reaction.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Jean Schneider |

Beautiful Diversion

Agency For The Promotion of Industrial Creation, France

Why a war? Once the rhetoric of the speech are left aside, what remains? Not much, and if some interesting points are raised, they fall a bit short in terms of food for thought. So let me expand on them. Design democracy? Examples seem misplaced, unless the iconic experience of democracy is the freedom of choice in a supermarket: « Think different », buy a computer (rather than be different and reshape your job life). Certainly, all these tools empower us to do the job(and even pay for it) of a wanabee graphic designer or musician… and, for those of us who deal with industry, witness the repetitive clichés used in sales forces and BU managers power-points. The issue of democracy is important enough to deserve also a bitter shot of reality: 90% of what comes out of these tools is replication, 10% is revolution. But what is the value of an experience you can’t share? The heavyweight arena is not design, it is the control of the output, and the dissemination of it. See the pressure to kill Peer-to-Peer exchange, see the IP enforcement that takes place on the most common expressions. We might live in beta, but ordinary life is becoming a trademark. Sustainability? Apart from the fact that (trained) design teams can propose ideas, the issue is societal, and suggesting that the model would lie in any reservation is counter productive ideology. Let’s ride horses to the yearly pow-wow in Davos? You’re unhappy with the waste in China and India… production goes there because companies wouldn’t make such profits if they had to comply with US or European environmental regulations. And I wouldn’t leave the planet to any venture capitalist in tears. Regulation (how unpleasant!) is one of the most effective way out: get the government of the country that is wrecking down resources to sign Kyoto’s protocol, and things will significantly improve. It might help to know that a survey in Europe suggested that 50% of new product development is done to anticipate changes in regulation: sounds like a win-win game for some. Of course, some designers might be irritating… so what? The system needs them, they are the ultimate design object. Design deserves more. If it has enemies, I’ll name three that I know well: an oversimplified history of design, teaching limited to the reproduction of current practice, the lack of culture and the low interest in creation of most of those who buy design services. Inclusive design, sustainability, design for all, all these add-ons suggest that it could be time to change paradigms, as it happened from Ptolemeus to Newton. A last word about democracy: I feel partly responsible — and I am proud of it — of having the former mayor of Eindhoven publicly declare: “design is the shortest route to direct democracy.”

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Prof. MP Ranjan |

Beautiful Diversion

National Institute of Design, India

Bruce Nussbaum has touched a chord, and all designers will react since he has exposed a raw nerve, and it stings. However if you continue to look at designers as handmaidens for business there is not much else that can come out of that approach but what Nussbaum has suggested, but nay, there is another frontier that I believe is yet to be explored fully. Design is a basic human activity and it is moving away from being seen as a profession for a few able individuals and it can become a way of life for most of us if it is promoted and adopted more widely by society. In India some of us are advocating the use of design across as many as 230 sectors of our economy and in the social and political levels. It is a broad field of application and in this form it would not be restricted to designers alone, although I do hope that it includes designers. It can be seen as the process that would help manifest the form of our culture and help build the future by unfolding opportunities through the imaginative reshaping of our resources and constraints, most of which are products of our perception, using all the tools and processes of design as we know it today, along with the new ones that we will adopt tomorrow. Putting design inside each and every such offering would require a huge social transformation from a science and technology centric approach of seeking truth and specifications to a shift from looking at products and objects of design to the objectives and goals that are set to be resolved by design. Imagination is the key and value creation the focus, be it sustainability or social equity, it is an activity that needs to be driven by social objectives for the greater good of society and the environment, rather than the limited view of the “market knows best� approach of growth and profits unlimited, quite unsustainable. Design at this level is a political activity and is being recognized as such by the thought leadership within the design community, a small beginning, but present all the same within the design research community and its partners across the world. Political and business leadership is yet to fathom the power of design when it is used as a tool for social and political change besides the obvious economic roles that it is known for today, and here it is not so much about the making of sustainable objects but about fostering sustainable behavior in the human race as a whole. A tall order, but one that is achievable, if we can shift our gaze from globalization and megalomanic obsessions to local opportunities and the creation of diversity that can match the variety of the socio-cultural landscape that we have all but abandoned in an increasingly homogenized world order. Design can be the next big thing and here designers need to don the mantle of leadership for which design schools must change and so must the design community, otherwise Nussbaum will have his day, and designers will indeed suck.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Thomas S. Bley |

Beautiful Diversion

University of Otago, New Zealand

Bruce Nussbaum deserves a lot of credit for promoting the subject and the issues of design to the business world. So it is most appropriate that he also addresses the designers. In his statement: “designers suck — being ignorant and arrogant,” he scratches on some fundamental issues with respect to the members of a discipline, which struggle for recognition. To a large part the self-promoting designers have to blame themselves. With every little challenge they create a new specialty-field offering their services, instead of communicating design as an all encompassing way of life or as I like to call it: ‘a navigational tool around the reefs of facts.’ Here are a few comments on some of the issues Bruce Nussbaum raised in his article: “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?” Everything man- and machine-made is designed. It doesn’t matter, if someone called a ‘designer’ has been involved — disregarding the movement of ‘Intelligent Design’ in this context. Everyone is a ‘designer’ — fortunately, design is not a licensed profession. One may compare it to cycling, which most people may claim they know how to do. However, if they want to win the ‘Tour de France,’ it becomes a different kind of a challenge. The differentiator is the competency level on which they are able to perform. Design is mostly invisible, as it is a process. Only the results become obvious, like the tip of an iceberg. Few would judge the quality of a surgeon by the way the patient has been stitched up. It is all about innovation, as the human mind is never satisfied with the status quo. However, this endeavor doesn’t solely produce superior results, but creates crap as well. We belong to a family of crabs, moving in all kind of directions. Sustainability has to be understood not solely in an ecological context, but as an economical issue as well. Unless the stakeholder value of an organization is satisfied, environmental aspects are not of the highest priority. Fortunately that is changing, as protecting the environment becomes a business in itself. ‘Design Thinking’ — as the new thing — tries to describe that design isn’t about pills, but diagnosis — that’s why design starts with a ‘D.’ It is not about fulfilling some needs, but the effort to solve problems, identify opportunities, provide solutions and create meaning. Both sides of the brain are required, the analytical and strategic, as well as the intuitive and creative side. And, since individuals are rarely equipped with both sides comparably, design development has become a team-oriented process to deal with the complexity of the tasks. And at last, I do believe that we will be able to overcome our dilemma in design, when we don’t consider us artists. It is not about self-expressionism, but the effort to bring a vast amount of expertise to the task. As such, design offers itself as a meta-discipline to overcome artificial boundaries.

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Uday Dandavate |

Beautiful Diversion

SonicRim, United States

A more appropriate title for Bruce Nussbaum’s presentation would have been, “Are designers on the way to becoming extinct?” Let me explain. We are in the midst of an evolutionary process. As Richard Dawkins proposed in his book, The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976), meme — the smallest unit of culture — survives through replication. Memes, like genes, choose machines (bodies) that are best suited to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, the design meme has found new machines to survive. My spin on Bruce’s comment is that the carrier of the design meme is not limited to designers; it’s spreading like a virus and is well entrenched in the bodies of everyday people. In his book, Tools for Conviviality, Ivan Illich made a prophetic reference to people’s desires to participate in the design process. He suggested, “People need not only to obtain things, they need above all, the freedom to make things among which they can live, to give shape to them according to their own tastes, and to put them to use in caring for and about others.” (Illich 1973) Designers have a vested interest in making people the slaves of the tools they design so that they can pretend to be indispensable. The design profession has borrowed a lot from the architectural field, foremost of all, the ego. Like architects, we aspire to build monuments to ourselves through our design. We’re desperate to see creation of the likes of Frank Gehrys in our midst. We feel rewarded when our designs land in the MOMA as opposed to blending into the lives of people. Bruce mentions at the end of his presentation, “Design thing is a glorious thing that has the potential of changing our lives in a myriad of ways in a myriad of places.” He’s not challenging the value of design; he’s suggesting we relieve ourselves of the arrogance in believing that what designers do is design. Instead, if we allow ourselves the opportunity to separate the meme of design from the carriers of that meme (the designers), it would be easier to appreciate that the culture of design will survive through the best carriers for that meme. Our challenge is to open our minds to the possibility that it will no longer be possible for us to control design. We may escape extinction if we align ourselves with other stakeholders of design who collectively are going to shape the discourse of design and, thereby, the practice of design. When I started visiting homes around the world as a design researcher, I saw what people’s homes really looked like and what they possessed. I recognized my limitations to visualize what drives people to the objects and images of everyday use, especially in unfamiliar cultures. As I gained humility about my shortcomings, I realized that I know very little about how my own people perceive their world. As a result, my concept of design changed. I recognized the need to co-create with people. That is why we do not call SonicRim a design company, but a company that inspires design through collaboration with the stakeholders.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

George Kembel |

Beautiful Diversion

Stanford d.school, United States

There are really two things we’re talking about here related to design and, in our case, design education. The first is that the world will always need great designers, who are experts at authoring new-to-the-world experiences for all of us. The second is that we have the opportunity to use design principles to help others think differently when they tackle problems out in the world. We need both. That’s why we have both a design program and a design thinking program at Stanford. Our product design program helps shape students to be better designers. Our d.school takes design principles and enables business students, engineers, psychologists, educators, doctors, and designers to be more innovative when working on projects that require the combination of their points of view. We believe design principles can make a difference in helping teams be more innovative. How do we give students the experiences they need to be confident working this way regardless of their background or endeavor? First, we make sure there is a designer on every multidisciplinary team. This is true in our teaching teams and our student teams. Every class is team-taught. Students work on project teams that include business, engineering, social sciences, and design students. Our designers join these teams as experts in process and facilitate a more human centered, prototype driven approach. There is no single voice of authority, but rather, multiple perspectives, styles, expertise, and personalities, all of which add value. Second, we ensure the “customer” is always involved in the innovation process. True design thinking is human-centered; the user is the expert. Students spend time with users, observe and interview them to determine their needs and desires. We even do this in the way we teach our classes — we run them in constant beta, debriefing with students after every class session and adjusting the class in real time based on their feedback. Finally, we instill a bias towards action. We encourage students to just get out and try it, to prototype various alternatives in a quick, iterative, low-resolution sort of way, to determine what works and what doesn’t. For our multidisciplinary teams, this extends beyond products and services. How do you prototype a business model? How do you prototype an organization? This involves a lot of failing, but in the end, failing through prototyping is what eventually leads to breakthrough innovations. One thing we do find common across our best designers and design thinkers is what Bob Sutton, one of our faculty members, describes as an attitude of wisdom. This means having enough confidence in what they know to take a step and try something, yet enough humility to constantly question what they know as they move through the creative process. So, in this new world of great designers AND more design thinkers, where are we headed? That’s a future to be designed. For us, the d.school is our prototype to help get us there.

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Michelle Siegel |

Beautiful Diversion

UNICEF, United States

The article covers many points; the one that emerges as most important is the potential that the design profession holds for sustainability. Those who are blessed with creative jobs, such as designers, can find opportunity in sustainability. This call to action is a positive message. However, the author’s use of language is unnecessarily insulting, in the aggressive style of Fox News. He is attempting to be provocative, but it distracts the reader from the message. The author’s topics are paraphrased in italics below. “Designing for instead of designing with?” When clients purchase design services, they expect quality. They want designers that have a good reputation and a proven record of accomplishment. Designers deserve acknowledgement for their unique visions. That does not preclude them from working in a participatory way, since design by its very nature is participatory. If the designer does not take into account the client’s needs, they won’t be paid. Both clients and designers will have to change their mindsets in purchasing and providing design services in order to develop a more participatory process. Advocates for the design profession and design managers should demonstrate that participation in design processes and methods could lead a client to find opportunity. “Designers design crap that hurts the planet.” Designers have a professional context. Don’t remove the design profession from the economic system in which it exists. Capitalism is our dominant economic model, and it is dependant upon industrial production to create goods and services out of resources. As a consequence of developing knowledge, social, political and economic priorities change. Designers respond to social and economic pressures of the day. “The paradigm for design is sustainability.” I’m a graduate of Pratt’s design management program, in which sustainability was the heart of its curriculum. Design is about creating good and services, and design management is about taking the goals of the organization, including competitive factors into perspective when producing design. Managing design for sustainability results will keep a company relevant in the coming era. “The mink coat is sustainable.” I assume the author states that a mink coat can be sustainable because it is biodegradable. Mink coats are products of systematic industrial farming. Large-scale production of most things we consume is based upon industrialized farming. As developing countries systematize for capitalism they consume their natural resources, like Uganda, for instance, which has approved a plan to cut down a forest reserve for a sugar cane plantation. We need better definitions of sustainability, and to be clear whether we are referring to environmental or economic sustainability. If we use design in the widest sense of the word it is not the exclusive domain of designers. Everyone should be responsible for sustainability. We have to analyze, rethink and redesign industrial systems. I think that the most productive advances for designers will come from the development of new materials by chemical engineers across industries.

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“Innovation or design” People in high-level organizational positions do not choose to refer to themselves as designers, because that label is already assigned as a mid-level human resource function. Innovator doesn’t work either because commoditizing innovation is oxymoronic. What’s new is relative to what’s old. We need new human resource labels for jobs and to stop using design as a catchall expression for various design disciplines. Conclusion Why say that designers suck? We all need to change; we all need to work together. Human beings are creative and clever, and people with the power to create can lead the way to change. Design managers are the middle ground linking the makers of things with organizational management, uniquely positioned to advocate for a strategic vision of sustainability.

Chris Arnold |

Auburn University, United States

Bruce Nussbaum’s post “Are Designers the Enemy of Design?” probably accomplished exactly what he hoped. People are talking. He’s called us out based on the idea that we don’t realize the depth and impact of what we are capable of. I think we do. Recently I had the opportunity to observe a group of K-12 educators as they explored ways in which design could be used to enrich the learning experience. Over several days the group heard from a distinguished panel of designers and educators, and took part in a series of carefully crafted projects aimed at sharing what it means to think like a designer. There was one problem; they didn’t really get it. What didn’t translate was that the act of design is not just about the end result; but that it is the purpose, intent, and spirit of the process itself that makes what we do so unique. Subsequent discussion brought forth a poignant question; “If everyone is doing design what’s left for designers to do?” Aren’t we all designers? Our culture on the whole doesn’t understand design any more than it understands art. The business community has trouble relating to the open ended nature of design inquiry, and certainly doesn’t appreciate the personality quirks of the stereotypical designer. Is it our fault that we are misunderstood? There is good work being done, and the next generation of pioneers are in place. They may not end up as household names, touted in the design media, or splashed across the pages of popular magazines, but they will change the way we live. Those who facilitate sustainable lifestyles for the masses will ultimately define our future. Superstar work will probably still end up being highlighted in the popular press, but they still won’t be any closer to being understood.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Dan Roam |

Beautiful Diversion

Digital Roam, Inc., United States

From lower case d to upper case D, and back again:

Act. I (1945 – 1987) In the beginning, there was one kind of designer: the ego-centric. He (always a “he”) was most likely a graphic designer, and his name was Herb, Fred, Neville, or Roger. If he were an industrial designer, his name was Raymond, Nathan, or Michael. If he ever thought that he was designing “experiences” (which he never did, since nobody considered reading a magazine or buying a teapot to be an “experience”), he would have said that the experiences he designed were one-way: namely, from him to us. He designed the books that we read, the magazines that we leafed through, the cars and watches that we couldn’t buy, and the teapots that we could. He didn’t ask us what we liked about his designs, and he didn’t need to: he was arrogant. He knew what worked and what didn’t and he developed a distinctive style around what did. He knew everybody in design and everybody in design knew him. For forty years he was the King, and he wore a big “D” as his crown. Act II. (1987 – 97) In 1987, Apple and Aldus made desktop publishing real and for a moment it looked like the king might be dethroned. With easy design tools available to anyone who could afford a Mac, the king had to find a way to stay on top. So he grabbed the first Mac IIcx, learned Postscript and found ways to make PageMaker scream. Regular people had the same tools now and could call themselves “designers”, but the king still ruled over what worked and what didn’t. But now there were two kinds of designers: the ego-centric and the digital-centric — desktop explorers who discovered the brave new world of electronic publishing, interactive CDs, and home-baked movie-titles. From their ranks a few new names like David, Rudy, Clement and Bob ascended to join the elders, and for ten years big D’s and the little d’s lived in harmony.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Beautiful Diversion

Act III (1997 – 2007) When the Internet arrived at the gates of the D/design kingdom, it brought with it an entirely new revolution. With computing and communications and connectivity tools now available, people who had never conceived of writing code found themselves thinking about how information should be structured, how humans and computer interacted, and how people naturally thought about and did things. “Experience” became a business term, and “d” again became “D.” Instead of knowing in advance what “worked,” these designers would find out what worked by first asking questions. A third kind of designer had entered the kingdom: the user-centric designer, and for the first time designers thought that they might have something to learn from their “users.” The kings were beside themselves. Designers who aren’t arrogant? Designers who didn’t already know what worked and what the people wanted? How could a great design be created that wasn’t based on expert knowledge and experience? “Ah,” replied the newly branded UE, UI and IA designers, “our designs are based on expert knowledge and experience… only it isn’t ours, it’s the knowledge and experience of our users.” Act IV (2007 – ? ) With Web 2.0, yet another kind of designer has arrived: the social-centric. Less concerned with typefaces than the kings, less enamored with technology than the digerati, less concerned with user-needs than the UI’s, this new breed believes that she can change the world with a wiki or blow away the establishment with a blog. Perhaps she is right. Only time will tell… at least until the next revolution.

The moral of the story: design comes and Design goes, but people’s desire to share grows. Sometimes we share because we know we’re right, sometimes we share because (OMG) we can, sometimes we share because that’s what our users demand, and sometimes we share because everybody is now listening. How will we share next? A whole new breed of designer is waiting in the wings, and we can’t even imagine the tools, the voice, and the stage she will have.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Thomas Noller |

Beautiful Diversion

Visual Code, Germany

Design to me is first and foremost a profession like any other. We are hired to sell goods or services and we get paid for it. In that we don’t differ much from any other profession out there and I never really understood all that talk about our special “responsibility.” It is interesting that Nussbaum both criticizes the “celebrity designer’s” quest for fame, money and acknowledgement, yet at the same time tries to call upon the entire profession to transform into a do-gooder community whose mission ought to be saving the world, or at least make it a better place. To be frank: I don’t even want to be a part of this. I cannot set out and change the world. What I can change are things on my personal scale: create goods and services that look and function well and work for myself and my clients. Furthermore, making the quality of design subject to sustainability alone seems like a rather PC approach, which goes along well with the current mood of anxiety that mankind is rapidly approaching its final demise and needs to radically change its ways in order to save itself and the planet. Not only does this reflect the questionable image of romanticizing and personalizing “mother nature,” it is also a call to return to a simpler and more “thoughtful” lifestyle — in which we as designers in particular, and humans in general, can only reach redemption through penitence, abdication and humility. I am not supporting the old model of mass consumption and mindless depletion of our planet’s resources, but I think that, in more than one way, sustainability is the opposite of innovation, as it focuses on the durable and tries to use overcome products and processes to solve new problems. The picture of Indians living in harmony with their surrounding is a very romantic one — but it is also utterly naïve, and it does not give us a model for how to act and live within our much more complex societies. It was, after all, innovation and progress that, in the end, brought out more sustainable products and processes, not the decision to turn back the clock by 400 years and live a life of hardship and privations. Design is also a vast field. To generalize it in a way Nussbaum does in his article is, in my opinion, wrong. Someone who designs a signage system for an airport does have more responsibility (for example, in making sure that people find the emergency exits in case of a fire) than someone who designs the label for a soup can. However, I am not the one to decide which of these designs is the more “valuable” one. Both can be executed equally good or bad within the special framework of their assignment. It’s a job. Nothing more. When we look back to some of the hallmark pieces in design — take for instance Alexander Rodchenko’s candy wrappers or movie posters, Raymond Loewy’s Exxon mark, the magazine designs of Alexey Brodovich or David Carson, or Paul Rand’s manual for the Next computer — only Rodchenko’s designs somewhat claimed to be devices for changing society. Yet, we all know what came of it in the end. Within their own much smaller scope, however, they were all masterpieces — innovative, progressive and timeless (which is not the same as sustainable). It might be, indeed, that if we designers stick to what we can do best, and do it to the best of our knowledge and conscience, we might change the world more than by canonizing our entire profession and making more of it than there is.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Neal Moore |

Beautiful Diversion

Jump Associates, United States

Designers are the Facilitators of Design. Bruce Nussbaum is excited about the future of design, and so are we. In his wide travels and research, Bruce Nussbaum seems to have picked up signs that some designers (or perhaps the whole lot of them) feel threatened by the growing democratization of design. He speculates that we might grow agitated that ordinary folks all over the world are starting to impinge on our territory. I’m not sure what to make of this finding — perhaps there are some designers who are shaking in their boots now that MySpace and Threadless have gained traction. But I do know that any designer feeling threatened by Jane and John Q. Public operating design tools is worried about the wrong things. And I believe such designers are in the minority. The rest of us are celebrating. The role of designers isn’t going away. It’s way bigger than that. The reason we should celebrate is that designers care about impact. And the individual finish of one widget at one company rarely changes the world. Designing good systems for individuals to use and build from, on the other hand, has the potential to reach millions of people in a meaningful way. It requires a different set of skills than just tailoring a product or service for your own tastes and needs. The role of today’s designers should shift to something greater. People need designers to craft elegant systems that enable their participation in design. The United States of America is a wonderfully designed democracy. We have individual civil liberties and protections that allow the person on the street to own land, to invent anything and profit from their labor, and to run for president. The USA became a world power in less than 200 years. That’s pretty impressive, right? Did this situation occur at random? Absolutely not. We have the United States we have today because a small group of determined visionaries designed our democracy. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were designers of the first order. They envisioned what our nation could be and then created the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to take us there. These beautiful frameworks have enabled millions of arguably less visionary Americans to contribute their designs of enterprise, community, home life, and yes, products that improved their own lives. Does that make our nation’s founders enemies of design? Democratizing design empowers us to make more profound changes. In the same way, we’re excited about the potential for civic engagement with the practice of design. The opportunity for designers today is to conceive systems that allow people to contribute. As the general population’s design abilities become increasingly sophisticated, the demand for more powerful tools will grow, and designers will need to meet that need. Designing a great design democracy will be no easy task. Nor will it be easy to keep people involved. But the outcome, a society capable of envisioning its own greatness, is one worth fighting for. Count us in.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Adam Kallish |

Beautiful Diversion

Trope: Communication by Design, United States

A Rap Against All Caps Bruce Nussbaum’s online article “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?” is a polemical drubbing of the design community and prodding it to recognize that “design” is both a framework and an artifact. Unfortunately, he uses INFLAMMATORY language as linguistic shock and awe to make this fairly simple point. Bruce asks a core question to the design community “. . . how do you switch gears from designing for to designing with?” If the design community has stated that design is everywhere and that both expressive and production tools have become available to lay people, what is the role of the designer? He rightly recognizes that design is “. . . not a finished product but a set of tools . . . from a simple practice to a powerful methodology.” Design’s psychology was deeply rooted in the craft tradition of making beautiful and functional artifacts. It transformed into a mass produced profession that specialized in a number of design disciplines linking larger economic and production issues. It is transforming once again, due to technology and globalization, into a framework and series of methods that lead to better specifications for better experiences through integrated artifacts. By being an interloper to clients and industries, designers have borrowed from a number of disciplines to hobble together intellectual underpinnings for a synthetic discipline. William Morris, Walter Gropius, and Charles Eames expanded design by linking activities and artifacts to larger social, political and economic models of their time. Today, Bruce Mau, John Maeda, and Hani Rasid are shedding historic titles such as graphic design and product design and are reorganizing design disciplines along new skills as ethnographic designers and information architects. This leads to Bruce’s second key question “But how do people who’ve spent a lifetime using their left-brain, suddenly shift to using both their left and their right?” He answers this new landscape by stating design is a formalized method of solving problems that has utility in economic and social terms. Contemporary designers are problem seekers who are bright, nimble, fluid and innovative collaborating with business and technology professionals. They are not problem solvers who are expressive producers of artifacts. Bruce does differentiate between these two trends. Everyone is a problem solver and therefore is a designer. Problem seekers can become exceptional designers who may eventually become star designers. The question that this raises is if we are still differentiating between “common” design and “unique” design, then there still is a difference between the two activities. Victor Margolin, in his book “Politics of the Artificial” summarizes design as a contemporary activity that is resource intensive and supports the global expansionist model of capitalism. This model, if unchecked will just transfer traditional design activities to frameworks and models that support the consumption of more resources. Bruce, the design community, and consumers support this model, no matter how much individuals try to rationalize their work as “sustainable.”

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Stefan Holmlid |

Beautiful Diversion

Linköping University, Sweden

B (Bruce): “So one Big Design Management Challenge is how do you switch gears fromdesigning for to designing with?” S (Stefan): Even though it is a question, it is comforting that Bruce believes that weare still the drivers of the conversation. Or is it not? I wonder, what would it be like if someone else was the driver of the conversation and designers were allowed to participate. There would be User Thinking, Consumer Methodology and a Conversation Piece as the primary tool to involve the designer. That would be wonderful! One step away from the traditional model is, e.g., Bosieboo, where parents’ ideas for products get produced and sold to other parents. (http://www.bosieboo.com/page/home&setlocn=restofworld&setlang=en) B: “Designers suck because they are also IGNORANT, especially about sustainability.” S: Actually any focus is a sign of ignorance. Such as going green when you wanted sustainability. The S word has, as has design, innovation, and a bunch of other words that aspire for driving the development, been idealized as a single focus. Sustainability is more than green, it is social sustainability, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability. At least. So, one could easily focus on Fair Made as well as Fair Trade. One example of this is the Haute Couture exhibition Fair Made that focus partly on the eco aspects partly on social aspects of sustainability. (http://davidreport.com/blog/200702/fair-made-exhibition/), or get down to Ekovaruhuset in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. B: “Because your design thing is a glorious thing that has the potential of changing our lives in a myriad of ways in a myriad of places.” S: Did you see Dan Saffer’s comment on Design Thinking vs Design Doing? (http://www.core77.com/blog/education/design_schools_please_start_teaching_d esign_again_5799.asp) B: “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?” S: I remember the 80’s when it was thought that synthesizers and samplers and MIDI would turn whatever we thought was music on its head. In one way it did of course, just think of Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and the like. But it still was music and not anyone could become a superstar. The hinge was actually the means for production and distribution. There are always a set of means for institutionalization that is feeding business as usual, which all will be challenged in due time. For now, I would say that designers have not yet become the enemy of design.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Dr. Cameron Tonkinwise |

Beautiful Diversion

University of Technology, Australia

1. We do not live life in beta, because we live with material products, so any mistakes we make have — unlike recallable, patchable, software — material consequences. In situations of accelerating unsustainability we need to get better at making judgements about appropriate futures without the luxury of trying them out first; we need to get better at anticipating consequences, at taking responsibility for our decisions. We need to get better at designing. 2. We do not live life in beta, because we mostly live habitually, with products that can open wholly new ways of living but only by those products becoming ‘taken-for-granted.’ We can only test products in ‘real-life’ by using them to habitual levels, to the extent that they have — unlike delete-able, undoable, software — started to redesign irreversibly how we live. In situations of accelerating unsustainability, where there is no such thing as ‘a sustainable X’ — a sustainable coat, building, or cleaning device — but only ever ‘a more sustainable way of using X within wider less unsustainable lifestyles,’ we need to get much at discerning to what types of lifestyles products are habituating us. And we need to get better at consciously choosing lifestyles and their consequences, rather than just the products that support them. We need to get better at understanding design. 3. If Web 2.0 is the democratising of design, remember that democracy is, by pragmatic necessity, a representational and not a participatory system. We elect people, who are not qualitatively different from us, but who are prepared to spend more time thinking about us and our lifestyles than we who prefer to mostly live habitually. Perhaps everybody can design, but that is not a reason not to ‘elect’ expert designers who are, by dint of focusing their lives on this, better at ‘being us’ than we are, better at empathising with us so that they can understand what it is that we want without yet knowing it, what it is that we want given all the material and societal constraints on what is currently possible, and given all the material and social consequences of those wants. 4. Unfortunately, at the moment Web 2.0 is just a difference resonating machine, the media at its worst, in which glib pronouncements made with too little analysis get passed around if they manage to reduce complexity to distinctively repeatable slogans. The sort of Web 2.0 in which you can say that ‘Designers suck’ means ‘Designers are the saviours of the world’ is not the space for fostering understandings of design adequate to making responsible decisions about the lifestyles we wish to live, rather than just try out. Nussbaum’s too hasty post (no need to proof beta provocations that you are only trying out) is a clear brief for design education: designers need to be trained to be not only better at designing than the rest of us, in order to be entrusted with designing the habits that will sustain us — which means they need to be designed to be careful, insightful listeners — but they also need to be trained to be better at explaining design, and the lifestyles their designs are designing, to the rest us — which means they need to be designed to be thorough, persuasive talkers. Design education needs to be graduating designers who are also the sort of design educators capable of marginalising unsustainable media misconceptions about design.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Hans Kaspar Hugentobler |

Beautiful Diversion

Chen Hugentobler Associates, Switerland

It’s time for designers to move their AASS. Writing from a central European and German language based perspective, where design education is traditionally resided in art and craft based schools and where the design professions have established themselves around specialized disciplines, Bruce´s provocative article might get misunderstood or — most likely — might not reach the educational and professional design audience. Because here: Design is about aesthetics Design is about artifacts Design is about stars Design is about style (list in alphabetic order) Just have a look at the design press, mass media, or special interest magazines, in order to find proof of this situation. The situation does not get better when scanning the business press and listening to the discourse of civil society: the idea of design beyond styling is rather absent. A discourse about design, however, does exist within the design schools. It is still confined to the paradigm as mentioned above, but recently extended into the realm of design research. As a national research network residing within the Universities of Applied Sciences’ design schools, the Swiss Design Network is recognized and funded by the Swiss Innovation Promotion Agency. And it launched a fruitful discourse about design, research and science. As good as that might be, educators, design promoters and design professionals still regard design as a discipline primarily concerned with aesthetics, artifacts, stars and style. Therefore Bruce’s comment is not so much a provocation, but rather an accurate description of a dominant mental reality. Designers are ignorant. But then there are SOME fresh young people out here — such as the one German designer I mentored during his thesis work — who open up the minds or the professionals they are working with and even impress top management with views on design beyond operational effectiveness. Designers are arrogant. But then there are SOME fresh young people out here — such as the one Swiss designer involved with a design management program — who see design as a methodological tool for problem solving and a way of thinking to be applied to various problem areas not necessarily associated with design, which one could never do with the AASS approach (Aesthetics, Artifacts, Stars and Style). This is encouraging. Like little seeds that move ignorance and arrogance towards empowerment. In a nutshell: Designers may think they are cool, and doing so within the borders drawn by their AASS approach programmed educational and professional idols. But given the

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Beautiful Diversion

increasing empowerment of EVERYBODY to become a “designer,” traditional designers may turn out to become either narrow specialists in their own right, or increasingly irrelevant and dissolve into the masses of EVERYBODYs. Unless — and this is my hope as well as my professional and educational objective and mission — they become knowledgeable and normal (vs. ignorant and arrogant). In order to attack the increasing problems we are facing as a society. Which will be the new Cool. It’s time for designers to move their AASS.

Alun Price |

Western Australian Curriculum Council, Australia

My comment on the question: ‘Are Designers the enemy of design?’ is a very short one. I would like to draw a parallel between design and another creative industry that has experienced a similar democratisation of its processes. Photography used to be the preserve of experts and the gap between expert knowledge and common knowledge was vast. The Box Brownie revolution changed that and led to the current situation where nearly everyone in the developed (no pun intended) world has the ability to take photographs and many of them are keen amateur photographers. Maybe this points to a stage in development of a discipline. Design is going through a stage where issues such as who owns design and who should produce design are being worked through. It seems that photography has got beyond that stage to a point where we appreciate that anyone can do it, but professional photographers are still recognised as bringing extra value to the process. At one time photographers may have been the ‘voice of authority’ on capturing images, now they perform different functions. Similarly designers may have been voices of authority in the design of artefacts. Designers in their reinvention have the ability to extend their range of activities; perhaps the current debate is a healthy and necessary stage in the evolution of design into a stable form with well-understood functions.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Ellen Lupton |

Beautiful Diversion

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, United States

Design was once something that only designers knew about—an elite, insiders’ discourse. Today, design is more widely understood by the general public than ever before in history. We owe this turn of events to three main developments: the digital revolution, which has put industry-standard tools in the hands of kids and amateurs of every stripe; the retail revolution, which has put innovative, design-conscious products within the grasp of ordinary consumers; and the D.I.Y. movement, whose stream of informational tools spans from Martha Stewart’s media empire to countless independent self-education efforts on the ground. Growing alongside this celebratory awareness of design has been the anti-consumerist discourse exemplified by the Canadian magazine Ad Busters and the book No Logo, written by the Canadian critic Naomi Klein. Raging against the corporate machine, these publications have given voice to communities of citizens disgusted by the exploitation of workers and the destruction of the planet represented by the endless onslaught of branding and advertising. The broader green movement also pits itself against environmental destruction, calling upon manufacturers and designers to reform the fundamental tenets of business as usual. We have thus arrived at a compelling turn in the evolution of design consciousness. The general public is more aware than ever before of the values and languages of design, from graphics to architecture to automobiles. At the same time, many consumers, especially younger ones, distrust the global corporate economy upon which mass production relies. The public—at once skeptical and enthusiastic— wants a way in. Some designers equate the rising public understanding of design with a dumbing down of our tools, methodologies, aesthetic principles, and so on. Instead of ignoring the public, designers should reach out and invite people in to what we do. Instead of an us/them mentality, we should engage in peer-to-peer conversations with users, critics, makers, pedestrians, and other civilians. What could a high school student, a housewife, a carpenter, or a poet do with our tools? What tools could we create to help them make a better life or a better community at the individual and local level? What can we learn back from them? Design practice has always involved education. Designers educate their clients and the public to embrace new ideas. The funny thing is that IKEA, through the selfdemonstrating humanity of its environments and its endlessly self-explanatory signage, has become a more influential design educator than the design profession.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Nicola Morelli |

Beautiful Diversion

Aalborg University, Denmark

Bruce Nussbaum is taking a picture in movement: he is trying to get designers in the picture of the contemporary world, but designers are in another picture. Designers could have a critical role in enhancing a widespread tendency to create personal and individualised solutions. Unlike “normal people,” they have been trained for many years to think and represent interesting scenarios, behaviors, interactions. In the scenario outlined by Nussbaum, these are the competences designers could offer. It is not about products, nor services, not about finished solutions, they should just provide powerful suggestions that enhance people capabilities to create their own solutions. But this picture is not in the logical framework of many designers, it is not what we teach in design schools and it is not what people expect from designers. Designers have been trapped in the picture of an industrial world in which companies have a dominating role; the rules of this world were based on corporate profits; more and more products must be proposed to the market, in order to increase companies’ profits. More and more services are sold, which relieve us from physical work as well as social and environmental responsibilities. The outcome of industrial production in this world is taking over our everyday function and depriving us from the capability to find our own solutions. In this logic, designers are a powerful tool in the hand of corporate interests. Although this may not sound very nice, it is quite a comfortable position for designers: they have one point of reference, a company, and a target group, consumers. Take the scenario proposed by Nussbaum, instead: everyone is supposed to be able to design his/her own solutions, companies are losing their dominant position, people are no longer supposed to “buy” value embedded in a product or service, in order to “consume” this value. People are supposed to co-produce value for their own life. Designer is supposed to provide tools to enhance customers’ ability to find their own solution: who is the designer working for (i.e. who will pay the designer for this job)? Who is the target group (i.e. does it still make sense to talk about a target group)? That’s possibly why designers are not in the right picture. In this context Nussbaum propose a further level of complexity: not only should designer work for enhancing people’s creativity, but also for directing it towards sustainability. Here, I should say, I’m not sure that Nussbaum approach could work. It is true that Navajo know a lot about sustainability, but we do no longer live in anything similar to the Navajo village. We may find interesting insights in those villages, but it probably not the same thing as changing direction to the social and economic system we have now. In order to change this, designers should probably focus even more into it, looking at its intrinsic and positive values. Separating such values from any futile and material fragment and proposing a way to get the same values with lower material input.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Shelley Evenson |

Beautiful Diversion

Carnegie Mellon University, United States

Bruce Nussbaum puts forth several excellent ideas in “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?,” and is provocative and suggestive of at least two big and clear opportunities for design breakthroughs. One that stands out is the suggestion that we need to “switch gears from designing for to designing with.” It’s a great point, but could use some elaboration. The design of tools that enable others to design for themselves is an instance of both designing for and with. However, Bruce’s suggestion that design thinking is a solution or method for this challenge could lead to confusion, since the phrase design thinking is becoming as overused as the word innovation. If the business world doesn’t like the word design as Bruce also suggests—does adding thinking make it better? As a community we haven’t done a great job at defining what we mean by design thinking let alone what it means to practice it. Yet, even without a proper definition, the activity of designing for and with points to an opportunity to skill people in facilitating and practicing meta-design. It suggests a broad territory to explore in designing for living or adaptive systems. Bruce also talks about the new way he is working—more collaboratively and with no real editions anymore. It is a model that many organizations (beyond conventional publishing) will be transitioning to sooner than they think. It also suggests another point. Often the opportunity in design lies in managing expectations. For example, readers (or participants) come to the BusinessWeek site with certain expectations they associate with the brand and about how the content displayed was gathered, organized, and edited. There are also expectations associated with the person whose name is on the top of column. All these expectations are magically and instantly brought to the reading/participating activity. But clearly a disconnect can happen when the expectations don’t map to the new reality that Bruce describes, particularly when there are few designed elements on the screen page to help the participant know the game has changed. Try this: multiply this phenomenon across nearly every aspect of our current daily lives, and extrapolate it into the near future when our world is transformed by sensor networks. There will be endless opportunities for designers designing appropriate resources for supporting the construction of new expectations—for helping people cope with the reality that the game has really changed. That’s exciting. So here’s the thing. This post was originally designed to be something else—it was transformed from a speech (as a talk at Parsons) to text on screen. Banana must have sounded much better live. Perhaps a bit of the nuance was lost in the switch? I hope that’s the case. I’m not a designer worried about everyone designing. But just breezing through this piece, most of us can see that there’s more than enough work to keep us all busy for a while.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

William Tschumy |

Beautiful Diversion

Microsoft, United States

I love this article — it says exactly what we in the community need to embrace, and the mainstream needs to understand. While provocative, it’s necessary — the current understanding of “design” needs to be taken apart. In my professional and personal lives, I’ve been blessed to interact with many extremely talented creatives, not the least of which are my parents: an artist and an architect. For me, the fundamental change Nussbaum is calling for is the shift of design from artist to architect. The commonly understood meaning of design, and designers is Genius design (Nussbaum’s people who “suck”). Nussbaum is right — they do suck to work with. Ever try to collaborate with a Diva? This kind of design is art. It, like art, is about making a statement, sending an idea, letting the artist/designer impose a message on you (Ray Gun, anyone?). Here’s the trouble: It doesn’t work in design, or art for that matter (that’s another conversation involving Roland Barthes, among others). Designers, like artists or any other creative professional, have been raised and trained to believe they’re ‘special.’ Part of being ‘special’ is that you’re undoubtedly a genius. We all want to be Michelangelo, after all. Any disagreement (suggestion, tweak, criticism, usability testing, or just plain use) is a criticism of the genius of the designer (Can you imagine Michelangelo collaborating on the Sistine Chapel?). It’s not — It’s an indication of the artist solving the problem s/he wants to, not the problem that’s there. For me, true Designers aren’t artists, they’re problem solvers. This puts us squarely in the realm of architecture. An architect doesn’t tell you how to live your life; instead, he/she works with you to design a space for you to live. We balance constraints to craft solutions that solve the needs of people. The most powerful framework I’ve ever come across is the Doblin Trinity (“What’s Viable?” “What’s Desirable?” and “What’s Possible?”). Why? Because it sets the ground rules for the interaction between the perspectives you need to balance in business. It is this role of problem solver that allows we Designers to lay claim to the word innovation. Innovation doesn’t magically appear as voice booming out of the sky — instead, it’s the process of balancing multiple sets of constraints into a solution that satisfies or obsoletes as many of them as possible. Design helps deal with externalities. Sustainability isn’t burden; it’s another constraint to work into the mix. These constraints make the game of problem solving more fun. It’s like getting to the next level in your favorite game — the more complex, the more fun! Oh, and it just might save the world. Design is redefining itself — Nussbaum is bringing that definition to the mainstream. We don’t make things pretty, we discover extra dimensions of needs and the systems of their interaction. We facilitate collaboration to balance those needs and craft solutions. Aesthetics is a tool to serve this balancing, not an end in itself. I, for one, am really excited to play the next level of this game!

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Zachary Jean Paradis |

Beautiful Diversion

Graduate Student, IIT, United States

Why Design Deserves Less Blame and Less Credit For this past century, design has been mostly a small cog in the ever more optimized engine that powered business. Frankly, even the most powerful designers had a relatively minor influence when compared to leaders in business and technology. Bruce’s piece reflects a revisionist history (also recently in blog entries by Dan Saffer and Marian Bantjes) that isn’t doing the discipline any good. There has yet to be a “golden age” in design where our practitioners led mass opinion with a common, agreed on platform for our work. For this reason, it is simply unfair that Bruce implies design practitioners hurt the planet through the “crap” they create. Come on Bruce, let’s be honest: the reason the planet is being hurt is because people consume and businesses foster consumption. This is the story told day in and day out in BusinessWeek and has little to do with designers. I would bet designers are, on average, far more knowledgeable about issues of sustainability than most. Take a look at the work of any design school and you will be sure to find a lot of work focused on sustainable products and services. The problem comes when those leaving school enter the business world and come to grips with reality–design with sustainable goals is both more expensive to produce and harder to sell to our colleagues from other disciplines. Where Bruce lays too much blame on design for Earth’s woes, he also puts too much credit in it as a solution for all of our problems. Design as a notion is coming to the fore now because the purpose of business isn’t just about efficiently selling large numbers of products anymore–products are commodities and there can be only one Walmart. The goal of business today is Distinctive Value. Thus, our current business revolution is that of Continuous Innovation. But the notion of design may be more important than the discipline itself as the solution to the real problem–an inability to meaningfully work together. We need to integrate our thinking so that the divergence and specialization of disciplines that mirrored optimization over the past 100 years is brought full circle. That is not to say specialization isn’t important, just that something shared is important as well. Can there be a shared practice of Innovation which many disciplines share but none own? I suggest there can. When disciplines and companies finally get this, perhaps we could enter a golden era for Design. That said, it very well may not be led by those who call themselves designers. I agree with Bruce that sustainability is an emerging paradigm but disagree that it is Design’s responsibility. If we’re going to throw the gauntlet down, let’s throw it down at all of our feet: businessmen, engineers, social scientists, policy makers, and designers alike. Let’s please stop the posturing and recognize that Sustainability is a vast issue requiring systemic and integrated thinking. It is no one disciplines issue to solve. For that reason, I see the current era of Continuous Innovation leading into our next big business revolution: Sustainable Enterprise. Trends are forcing companies to be more innovative. They will soon force them to be more responsible.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Anne-Marie Willis |

Beautiful Diversion

Design Philosophy Papers, Australia

Climbing out of the sandbox Not long ago, social workers, educationists, spokespeople for the rights of children, etc used to claim that anti-social behaviour could be explained by lack of self-esteem and traced back to childhoods in which nobody had bothered to instill a sense of self worth in the little darlings. Thus was born the affirmation movement, in which every squiggle of little Johnny’s was praised and all kiddies were told ten times a day just how special and creative they were. Later, the life-management gurus looked around and were horrified to discover a new breed of highly confident and self-regarding schoolyard slayers, serial killers and other nasty types with not an ounce of regret about their heinous crimes, in fact often puzzled as to why their self-affirming actions were not being universally praised. So the gurus decided they’d gone too far and maybe it was better to be upfront with youngsters about their limitations. While this world of pop psychology is all pretty silly, it’s only a part of the problem of the production of the mass delusions of self-aggrandising nobodies. Design’s in there too and will become a bigger player if Bruce Nussbaum wins out. His ‘design democracy’ is not the opposite of the designer-as-big-ego, but its multiplication. Look here! This gizmo/software/outfit/car can make you creative. You can play around with colours and palettes and bits and bytes and express yourself. After all, it’s MY computer, MY space, MY life. People designing their own lives? Hardly. It’s just menu-driven, colouring book creativity. Everyone wants to get into the sandbox and play designer, says Nussbaum. His ‘design’ is just infantalised busy-work, diminishing lifeworlds as it dazzles. Hard slog? The acquisition of skills? Maybe even some sacrifice? Need-to-know knowledge and just-in-time learning undermine the possibility of acquiring self-discipline needed for sustained creative effort and overcoming complex problems. Of course Nussbaum’s not alone — just one symptomatic blip on the wide screen of mainstream culture, where everything’s gotta be entertainment and seriousness is a crime. Nussbaum comes unstuck when his design democracy collides with sustainability. He enthuses, ‘sustainability is hot, hot, hot,’ and in the same breath claims it is ‘the paradigm you will all work within for the rest of your lives’ — saying this to an audience of would-be designers who know what’s hot today was cool last week, and sure as eggs, will be stone cold dead next month. It’s absolutely counter-productive to induct sustainability into market(ing) logic. You wanna reduce greenhouse emissions and encourage designers to prompt people to live more sustainably? You won’t do this by nice chit-chats (‘design conversations’). Like so much user-centred design, this’ll just end up nurturing incompetence, stupidity, laziness.

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So what’s this mean for designers? It means forgetting about messing around with cute ways to play creative director. It means confronting hard truths, being serious, having the courage to solve really big problems — and discovering what it actually means to be creative. Nussbaum’s playschool design for the masses takes us nowhere. The message to aspiring designers has to be more like — ‘guys and gals, deepening unsustainability presents us with challenges like never before: the problems we face are absolutely massive, but so are the opportunities. It’s down to you. You can be defeated by what you’ve had dumped on you or you can be part of taking design to where it’s never been before and where it urgently needs to go now.’

Brett Patching |

PhD Student, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark

There are a number of issues under the umbrella of Nussbaum’s “Design Democracy.” One is the shifting role of designers from the centre of their own creative process to members of transdisciplinary teams. This forces us to take a hard look at how we can contribute individually as creative designers in these teams. Just what exactly are we good at and what new skills should we learn? Another is the “democratisation” of design thinking and methods and its potential role at the centre of transdisciplinary teamwork. Why have creative designers only had limited success articulating the strengths and weaknesses of design thinking to a wider audience? And are we afraid of the evolution of design thinking once other disciplines analyse and use it with us? The third is the implications of co-creation. The shift from “designing for to designing with” is not (only) a design management challenge. When Nussbaum writes that people, “want to participate in the design of their lives”, this also means their work. People both inside and outside organisations will actively influence their strategies more and more in future — and this is a challenge for management. Strategies have to be made tangible for this to happen. The strengths of the creative designer to explore and manifest possible futures, and of design thinking’s people-centered learning process have a central role to play. I do think that Nussbaum is correct in criticizing the design disciplines with regard to sustainability. Environmental issues are the biggest wicked problems around and, in theory at least, design thinking should provide a key to tackling them. Design schools in particular should play a more active role in increasing awareness and promoting change. The fact that Bruce Nussbaum is talking about the shifting role of design and designers is important. It is a sign that this relatively accepted position (at least from my Danish perspective) is starting to reach broader audiences.

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Leslie Alfin |

Beautiful Diversion

Parsons School of Design, United States

I feel a little like the caveman in the Geico commercials — but OK — I’ll take the bait. Are Designers the Enemy of Design? What a bizarre question. Although Bruce Nussbaum made many astute and, in my humble opinion, accurate observations regarding the state of design, the expansion of its reach, and the evolution of its very definition, his admission to provocation by telling us we suck, are arrogant, ignorant and are somehow ruining design due to our unmanageable egos, needs to be placed in a more “sustainable” context. Yes — there are arrogant designers and there are bad designers — always have been and always will be. There are also designers who are determined not to let go of the “way it has always been” or the role of designer deity — those who are uncomfortable with the notion that their chosen specialty is on the verge of becoming a commodity. Just like physicians who are questioned daily and intelligently by patients who are more informed then ever. Just like corporate giants who are laid low by tiny upstarts with new business models and yes — just like professors who are challenged in their fields and in their classrooms by students who have access to virtually unlimited sources of information. So what makes Mr. Nussbaum think that all designers are somehow oblivious to the influences of this, by now thoroughly entrenched and clearly sustainable, brave new information world? Yes, we harbor our share of dinosaurs as does every field. Sometimes our dinosaurs are noisy. However, thanks to the innovative thinkers (designers included) at organizations such as Target, K-Mart, our very own Project Runway and it’s innumerable spin-offs (with more than a passing nod to the UK’s unconditional devotion to and promotion of all things design) who have taken design figuratively and literally to the streets — America and the world at large enjoys unprecedented access to the concepts, processes and business of design as well as a starring role in its impact on the customer experience. (In terms of awareness-building, a phenomenon potentially as powerful as cell phones for remote African grass hut communities — but that’s another conversation.) The good news is consumers love design and want it all, from Gucci to Google to Green! And the corporate-world — duh — is finally grasping its strategic merit. All the more exciting for us — the design educators, design school administrators and — oh by the way — the designers, who are developing curriculum that embraces, explores and encourages the convergence of what was, not so long ago, considered an oxymoron — Design Management (yes we teach here too, there are more of us than you think, and we also get it). Hooray for us! Hooray for the consumer and, most importantly, hooray for the new breed of internet literate, 1:1 marketing savvy, design-centric thinkers and practitioners of all stripes who will carry the torch called design integrity and never have to justify their relevance in a stimulating business environment.

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Tiiu Poldma Ph.D. |

Beautiful Diversion

University of Montréal, Canada

I think it depends on who you consider a “Designer” and what you consider “design.” If the Designer considers the ethical and social impact of decisions made with a critical and humble mind, uses their skills and knowledge to generate designs that have value in society, understand who they are designing for and why, and can park their egos at the door, then I might say no, Designers are not the enemy of design. Unfortunately, increasingly in North American society, the opposite is true. There are two issues here. One is the perception of who designers are and what they do, and how this has been negatively perpetuated by media. On one hand, media portrayals of design (in particular interior design and architecture, the disciplines where I practice and teach) tend to the elitist, transmitting concepts embedded in beauty, taste and high budgets. Television and other media perpetuate ideas about design that glorify innovation at the expense of other roles designers play in society, especially those dealing with complex social and ethical issues. I am frustrated with how the media plays up the idea that design is immediate and easy, then blames designers for the world’s problems. I find myself explaining what I do and how I do it constantly. On the other hand, we face complex issues that demand the collaboration of many stakeholders. Many designers build things from recycled remnants of other designers’ mistakes, recycle buildings and spaces to solve critical problems in institutions and society, troubleshoot for functional and productive work environments, and help people realize their dreams, whether they are company executives or single mothers. There are designers out there helping to improve the human condition in an ethical and sustainable manner, and we do not hear enough about this aspect of design. As a university professor who still practices, I show my students the complex nature of designing in the global society through examples of the work of designers and architects who make a difference. I challenge my students with conversation, discussion and designing. I ask them to challenge society’s “false gods” This is not easy. I see students who see media images of instant solutions and beautifully-built empty spaces and do not understand that people live and work in these spaces, and that good design takes a considerable amount of work and effort, coupled with creative ideas along the way. One recent problem is that now everyone thinks they can “design” their way out of anything. Witness Nussbaum’s idea that “design emphasis on iteration and speed, its ability to construct, not destruct, its search for new options and opportunities, its ability to connect to powerful emotions, its optimism.” I do not deny that design has the capacity to do all of these things, but not at the expense of believing designers are the enemy. Good designers are broad thinkers as well as problem-solvers, and can have conversations with people to make things work better and integrate holistically, if these qualities are sustained by ethics and values that underlie what we do and how we do it. True designers can make a difference. They are not the enemies of design. False gods are, and create the poor images design deals with daily. Confusion about what design represents is what destroys design. Design is about building, about changing the status quo, and about people making the world a better place. Design is everything and everything is design. I think that the day we all realize this, we hopefully will stop debating about designers and get on with designing for a better Earth. The time is now.

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Loretta Staples |

Beautiful Diversion

Parsons School of Design, United States

Design as Professional Practice vs. Design as Everyday Practice In “Are Designers the Enemy of Design?” Bruce Nussbaum rightly challenges the legitimacy of (capital D) Designers, given the democratization of design that’s resulted from the rise of digital media. While he applauds the efforts of amateur everyday practitioners, he fails to define exactly who these—pardon the expression—“sucky,” Designers are. While his lack of precision isn’t surprising, given the digital blurriness he champions, the definitional absence doesn’t help the discourse much. I’ll fill in the blanks by offering this: he means the professionally-trained designers produced by institutions like Parsons. Ouch. While this might sting a little, Nussbaum’s question is a good one, and one that I presume every student and teacher at Parsons has asked. I can’t think of a better question to engage, as individuals, and as an institution. My own answer goes something like this: Yes, everyone is a designer these days, and design is indeed a ubiquitous practice. The more, the merrier, I say. But while it’s easy to suggest that “professionalism” is less relevant in light of these developments, this assumption fails to acknowledge the content, culture, and legacy of design education—the very things that make a design education both worthwhile and valuable to those who decide to pursue it. The more design becomes everyone’s “thing” the more diluted its perceived (and actual, I would argue) value. Within the context of formal design education, design isn’t everything, it’s something in particular—a very particular cultural practice with its own history, codes, and conduct. Design education imparts this very particular legacy, and those schooled in it are equipped not just with some random array of tools, techniques, and methods, but with a heritage of practice that is truly unique to it, and unlike any other. This is the value of disciplinary study. This is why disciplines exist in the first place—so that we can tell this from that instead of muddling around in sloppy ideas and actions. Design’s ubiquity demands professionally-trained designers now more than ever, not only because of the unique perspective afforded, but because design decisionmaking has become that much more confounding, given everyone’s claim on design. Design education trains students discern, defend, and articulate design values in the business environment, and to facilitate design decision-making itself. Apart from the critical insights design education cultivates, this more pragmatic contribution extends design’s lessons through middle-management, the board room, and out into the marketplace. So, yes. Design’s (capital D) public image suffers from its very real and unfortunate preoccupation with self-absorbed style and superstardom, and design’s (small d) ubiquity offers a refreshing and liberating counterpoint. But somewhere in between the two is the design that interests me: an earnest, educated, professional practice sincere in its efforts to make this world a better place.

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Jørgen Rasmussen |

Beautiful Diversion

Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark

Bruce Nussbaum has some very relevant, but not exactly new points in his article on Designers as Enemies Of Design. Especially if you read between the lines you can detect Mr. Nussbaum’s (hopefully deliberately) shallow understanding of design. (A designer is a designer, right?) From were he stands Designers Sucks, but “designing” is “a tremendous tool” and “a powerful methodology” that “can transform society.” In his argumentation he randomly throws in cases from fashion design, the iPot, Carbonfootprint and “Navajo Hogan.” This is followed by a suggestion that designers should give up their professional authority and becomes design-democrats and start blocking. We as designers are obviously not fit to handle this powerful tool that is destined to save the world. It is with some discomfort I read yet another business view on how the designers not yet have understood what design is and how the business community should be allowed to take over, if only they knew how. It is with the strangest feeling I [again] meet the very accepted point of view, that everyone can do design; designers are just a little better, but they need help to perform design in a proper way. I feel compelled to make a few points on this. First I would like to reverse the Nussbaum environmental thinking. Business management tools are quite powerful tools, if only business managers knew how to use them. If these tools were used, as one would conduct a design process, in a responsible way, it could actually solve many of the e.g. environmental problems we are facing today. As a result of his focus on profit-making, the business manager fail to see or accept the real issues of a globalized world and thereby becoming part of the problem. This actually makes sense, in a “one liner” way of thinking! Business Managers are largely responsible for what is produced and how it is produced. One business trend after another sweeps the country and Business Managers follow the call. For obvious reasons, design (or innovation) has become one of the more persistent ones. Only this time Business Managers do not fully understand what it is and they are not in control, and that scares the s… out of them. All they understand is; design is good business! They also understand that designers rarely are driven by profit and that scares the s… out of them to. Designers are from the Business Managers point of view loose cannons; you never know what to expect. Exactly reframing problems is an important quality in design thinking, so — live with it, or evaporate! Like Higgens says. This absence of understanding is in many ways excusable. It takes five years to obtain a Master’s degree in Design and to understand and perform the complex cross-disciplinary and open end, unframed problem solving within the iterative design process (plus 5-10 years of professional practice to learn how to do it well). Because of the complexity of the process some students never learn (just like in any other education e.g. Business Management, Engineering etc). What is difficult for me to understand is the lack of acceptance of the professional design competences. The exact competences that over time has developed the concept of design thinking and produced the qualities also recognised by Mr. Nussbaum.

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Only a few designers fully understand how Business Managers work, but still we accept the competences as an important part of the complex development processes. Occasionally we even let ourselves be inspired by the never-ending flow of business theories like e.g. Blue Ocean Strategy. I believe this openness and lack of fear of the unknown is a good thing and maybe this is why Mr. Nussbaum never will fully understand design thinking. Good old Bob Dylan had the same problem back in 1964 with a different group of people. Please Bob, take it from here: Come gather ‘round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you Is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin.’ Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticize What you can’t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is Rapidly agin.’ Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin.’

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Claire Hartten |

Beautiful Diversion

The Dirt Cafe Project, United States

Generating Relevant Design Bruce Nussbaum posted a piece titled ‘Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?’ on BusinessWeek’s blog on March 18th, 2007. He declares (humorously?), “I’ve redesigned my job at BusinessWeek from the Voice Of Authority to the Curator of the Conversation on Innovation.” He tends to raise points that already have been articulated elsewhere, but he reiterates one of the most pressing dilemmas facing designers (and really everyone on the planet): integrating cradle-to-cradle thinking and doing in place of the dominant Western-born cycles of manufacturing, using and disposing of objects. In part, I agree with him that “the process of design, the management of the design process, is changing radically...participation is expanding, tools are widespread and everyone wants to play...This is a huge challenge.” I would change that last part to an open-ended question, such as “digital tools are spreading but how do we enable more sustainable, meaningful and inclusive participation to happen?” At the moment, designers are rarely educated to be creative research methodologists, nor systemic assessment consultants, nor facilitators, nor collaboration builders, nor bio-behavioral specialists, nor many other cross-disciplinary roles; that is where design education could play a larger role. Nussbaum discusses the comfort of business people with the term “innovation” rather than “design.” Designers who do cross-disciplinary projects seem unconcerned with that semantic argument. Is it not easier to explain design as a creative process in the service of other things rather than ask what design is as a stand-alone discipline? Cross-disciplinary designers also look beyond navel-gazing design journalism to find stimulation elsewhere. For example, we might review the very recent 2007 award winners of the Skoll World Forum at Oxford University's Said Business School, an event enabled and supported by Jeff Skoll, the social entrepreneur/designer who led eBay to great success. Each winner’s story illustrates effective engagement in humanising systems, experience, services or tangible products, all things relevant to designers. Or interview a team at Nokia about how they are researching ways to eliminate electronic waste and how they strive to humanise their company’s culture. Or borrow the philosophical stance put forward by Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, for “good, clean and fair” products and ask how that might be applied to products other than Slow foods, too? Or learn from Aid to Artisans, an organisation encouraging entrepreneurial behaviors and ethical production of objects through international collaborations of designers with traditional craft artisans. When BusinessWeek covered IDEO as a story several years ago, I, like many peers, was happy to find a mainstream business magazine trying to cover design in

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terms of methods for R&D, rather than the predictable coverage of designers as celebrity geniuses creating luxury goods. I encourage Nussbaum and the other design journalists of BusinessWeek to reveal and contextualise cross-disciplinary evidence, form persuasive case studies and describe strategies, R&D methodologies, and emerging models for business, market building and trend forecasting: stories in essence that are food for thought about how design can become more relevant and evolve in practical terms.

Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff |

Köln International School of Design, Germany

Just Misunderstanding, No Provocation No doubt: I love provocations, but Mr. Nussbaum shot into some old-fashioned clouds, only. Okay, he is completely right concerning some or, maybe, the majority of designers who traditionally lack of self-consciousness and self-critique. But to fight them has become boring. The real problem is that he does ignore all the advanced design concepts and activities as Uta Brandes’ book on “Non-Intentional Design,” qualifying the use of design as radically creative, or that “Design Noir” by Dunne and Raby, or James Auger, Stefan Sagmeister etc. Indeed, there just has happened a huge shift from banal and abstract construction to empirical research. An even greater problem is Mr. Nussbaum’s concept of democracy, as this falls back behind J. J. Rousseau and just emphazises the “volonté de tous” — as if the majority means truth. No, poor boy: Start to think, to read and to be aware of what is happening.

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Eric Niu & Alex Cheek |

Beautiful Diversion

Graduate Students, IIT, United States

As design thinkers, we think we know everything. But what are we doing about it? “Design” is now called on to create so much stuff that designers have been forced to specialize. Instead of design being the task of a single person, the profession has split. Design thinkers have tasked themselves to develop understanding, leaving designers to the the act of implementation. And we’ve already forgotten how to communicate with each other. Designers are told that they suck; design thinkers are told that they don’t know how to make anything. Each of us just keeps doing what we want to do. But Design is not just what “design thinkers” think or what “designers” do. It’s both. In class on Monday, Larry Keeley talked about the “rhythm of planning.” By the halfway point of a project, you need to have decided what to do. If by then, you don’t stop planning and start doing, then you’ll run out of time. Rushed, you will likely end up accomplishing something trivial and unsatisfying. In essence, we think his point is that the doing requires just as much time and effort as the thinking that precedes it. Design thinking is not very valuable without an equal measure of designing. Aren’t we supposed to be having a conversation? The “discussion” between design thinkers and designers has devolved, and now we don't understand each other anymore. People who choose to become design thinkers are typically less interested in how things are made. People who choose to become designers are typically less interested in thinking about why something should be made. And that's not such a bad thing. Our differences force us to challenge our preconceptions. But each of us thinks our way is better, and our egos are preventing us from working together. So we just keep calling each other names, and the conversation we're supposed to be having goes nowhere. It’s silly for either side to think that they own Design. As design thinkers, we need to engage designers and learn to communicate our value in a more meaningful way.

Gill Wildman |

Plot, United Kingdom

I appreciate a lot of what Bruce is saying. However, I find myself shaking my head at how. It would be great to read a mainstream media business column that talked about important emergent patterns in innovation and design that didn’t involve the author’s ego or position of power. I don’t see many designers, (democratized or celebrity) or even design managers, who really get much of choice between making landfill or cradle-tocradle products. It’s a board level decision. Most designers aren’t invited. But I am being deliberately naïve here — the point of mainstream media articles is to create a stir and to get to know the author a bit more. Expecting the column to inform us more about, say, amazing feats of sustainable development; or services that encourage participation in change; or prototypes that shape transport policies; is perhaps a tall order, but it’s the sort of thing I like to read. Bring on more tales of modest, enabling, and highconsequence design thinking. Lose the dumb attempts to be controversial.

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Prof. David Sless |

Beautiful Diversion

Communication Research Institute, Australia

Some designers are the enemy of design, but not all. Like Tom Wolfe before him in the early 1980s, Bruce Nussbaum is correct in claiming that some designers are both arrogant and ignorant. Tom Wolfe’s target was similar: the group of émigré architects from the Bauhaus that came to the USA in the 1930s and created the International Style in architecture. Nussbaum is far less acerbic than Wolfe in his attack, and his target is much less specific. So let’s be specific. There is a tradition of design education, largely in graphic design and architecture, that traces its thinking back to the Bauhaus, a school of design which flourished briefly in Germany between 1919 and 1933. Its founders had big and sometimes worthy ambitions, but they were predominantly arrogant, ignorant and in some cases wacky. The tradition they established produced generations of arrogant and ignorant designers from design schools throughout the world. But it is a tradition on the wane. We are seeing some design schools taking a much broader range of ideas and thinking to guide their teaching. The designers emerging from these schools are neither arrogant nor ignorant. Indeed they are highly-skilled, innovative, well-informed, and thoughtful people who work in teams and punch way above their weight when it comes to business ROI. I know these people exist because I work with them and employ some of them. They are responsible for highly successful design projects, and they lead the way in advanced research into design that an Institute like ours undertakes. They are usually trained as information designers but not necessarily called that. Sadly, there are still many designers locked in the Bauhaus tradition of designers as heroes: individuals endowed with unique aesthetic sensibility that transcends mere mortal sensibility and creates objects of lasting value, beyond criticism. Graphis Press has been celebrating these ‘heroes’ for decades. Not surprisingly, to the rest of us, they seem arrogant. And the relatively hermetic way in which they are trained — with a predominant emphasis on studio work — leaves them ignorant of the wider world in which they look for work. All this backward-looking commentary and criticism in the press and blogosphere misses what designers at the leading edge of the profession are achieving, what the research on design methods and practices has achieved, and what it may lead to in the future. For example, at the Vision+ conference in July 2007 business, government, and designers will see what is happening at the leading edge: designers not only make measurable improvements in an organisation’s performance and ROI, but are now at the point where they can specify and achieve measurable minimum performance standards for new designs. This will have a significant effect on professional design practice and on the expectations of business practice regulators, who will start to require these high standards from business. If I were in business or the business press I would stop whining about the inadequacy of the previous generation and look at what is happening now.

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William Tate |

Beautiful Diversion

Umbau School of Architecture, United States & Austria

There is a difference between setting up and enabling. To do design is to set up, to make happen. To make happen allows the event to unfold. It is false to equate the unfolding with the set up. The set-up requires SEEING. The unfolding requires using. Read consuming. The two cannot be confused. To learn to see and to make happen is not a natural gift. People are not walking with an inherent inclination for ambiguous thought. One must shed many a societal encumbrance to enter the realm of savored uncertainty. It requires immersion into the elements of discovery. Design is a heuristic experience. Discovery can be accidental, rarely popular. Design has no room for arrogance. Arrogance answers, it does not inquire. Quality of design is based upon quality of inquiry. In design, the stars are not the source. This is a false stance, and a false target. Stars range from the truly authentic to degrees of stylized success. Where real, there lies the good. They can pave the way. The lessers will obstruct via egocentric dissipation. The crux of the Good comes from liberal doses of the next generation questioning, testing, breaking, and Louis Kahn's seeing the Baths of Caracalla at the age of 50. THEN ONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. As to the healing of the environment, it is a thing that must run deep. LEEDS speaks of testing, but not of knowing. LEEDS is the gamesmanship of continuing education. LEEDS has not the faintest notion of microclimate or longevity. The superficiality is lamentable, but societally acceptable. Real healing requires grounding, not buzz words. Nor can Real Healing be a certifiable good. We truly are in the midst of a paradigm shift. It will require the entire resourcefulness of the design community. Such is not a democratic endeavor. All are not equally called. To design well is an act of persevered seeing and improvisation. The word perseverance denies populist movements. Improvisation is a learned art. It would be ideal to have a flotilla of design allies. To rely on everyone everywhere being able to KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. But such is not the case. It is not real. Nor feasible. Just ask the prophet Isaiah. Birth requires time, cultivation, daring, and a willingness to sacrifice. Design excellence is rare. Excellence is not a thing to which we are readily susceptible. It must be acquired. And thus pursued with all due rigour. “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.” General George S. Patton

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Kristian Bengtsson |

Beautiful Diversion

FutureLab, Sweden

HATS OFF FOR RENAISSANCE PUNKS I was asked to comment on Bruce Nussbaum’s article ‘Are designers the enemy of design?’, and from reading it upside down, inside out, between and in between the lines, discussing and arguing with friends about it. I cannot get my head around it. It left me with feelings of ambivalence, tiredness and inspiration. It was supposed to be 500 words and it is not. These are my thoughts and ramblings regarding Bruce’s article and design. THE ARTICLE It functions as a great basis for discussion and dialogue. It has some valuable insights, as well as some strange and naïve accusations. It is too much of a rhetorical and dissecting game. It seems to have the ability of creating confusion and feelings to appear. It is dissecting and sometimes pointless in its nature. It tires me as well as inspires me. THE THIN RED LINE OF SUCKINESS The American language is sophisticated; it is a language that, mastered and used in the right way, can turn the combination of many ones into a single powerful whole. American English is also confusing in its ability-through-usage to confuse and trick people into (false) belief. It is about material and once you know the material you are working with, you will become friends with it, you will hate it and love it, you will be able to do things with it that other people cannot. Bruce’s material is words and through that material his intentions take shape. Sometimes shapes suck. An interesting perspective with knowing your material is that you are now capable of getting it to do things that are amazing (and sometimes misleading). When it comes to working with words as your material and knowing it, you now have the power to assign qualities to things that they possibly cannot or should not have. A misleading shift of focus happens... we focus on things instead of actions, on nouns instead of verbs. We lose original meaning and project (formerly only human) abilities onto dead things, as if they were able to take action themselves. And it is also the way I consciously chose to describe the article in the paragraph above this one: I simply gave the article qualities it cannot possibly have. There is no danger in that action by default, as long as we remember that it is Bruce’s intentions and expressions that take shape through the article. It is when we lose track of that and mix things up, when verbs become nouns. This is happening with design. PEOPLE CAN SUCK I know a bunch of people. I have known more and met many over the years. Some of them do and some did suck. But most people I have met or that I know are truly engaging and inspiring. All of them are human beings, some of them are designers. DESIGNERS DO NOT SUCK In the context of me being asked to comment on Bruce’s article, I have picked up on and read both interesting, very interesting and just plain angry articles and thoughts about design. In hardly any of these expressions have I read about what it actually is that makes a person a designer. What kind of human capabilities and qualities are needed?

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Beautiful Diversion

Nor have I read something about why suddenly everyone is the designer (because it can not simply be accessibility, can it?). For me, being a designer means having certain abilities, call them design abilities if you wish. It means knowing process, it means knowing myself in a situation as well as losing myself within the same. It means that I as a person have a certain mindset towards life, problems and solutions. It means taking on a holistic approach in one breath, and in the next pay mad attention to details. It means taking conscious decisions within a process and it means taking on responsibility and being optimistic. It demands of me that I know my material. I’m not sure I can follow through on all of these in any given project or situation. But can anyone tell me that I am wrong in my beliefs? EVERYBODY IS NOT THE DESIGNER I believe that anyone can have design abilities, but that person is still not a designer. I believe that anyone can participate in and benefit from the design process, but they are still not designers. Being a designer is something else. You would not call yourself a carpenter because you do some renovating at home with hammer and nails would you? It’s just not carpentering, but still you are part of the process of building your home. AS DESIGN BECOMES ACCESSIBLE, DESIGN IS EVOLVING As we are ‘living our lives in beta’ (as Bruce would put it) and constant change is around us, evolution is expected of design as well as of us. But it will not just happen, it is we that make design evolve. The option of a non-participatory design process is soon a non-option. And why should not people be invited in the process anyway? The option for survival in evolution is adaptation, we have to accept and adapt to the surrounding contexts. For me, design is about context and the adaptability. CONSTANT CHANGE, ONGOING PROCESS Evolution and constant change calls for new results, new options and new constellations with old friends (some might call it innovation or design). How do we adapt to the fact that ‘living in beta’ actually means ‘not a finished result’ or ‘still in progress’? End results and products have been part of design as we know it since a bunch of years ago. For me, it comes naturally that the new result of a design process may well be another design process. One that is specifically designed to deal with and adapt to a situation’s or client’s changing context, a process that integrates the client and the client’s customers in the creation of the ‘final’ result. We are at a point in time where not only the end result of a design process needs to be accessible, but also the process itself. People want in on it! In an engaged and participatory world, design will be about creating arenas for action, contextual action spaces that allow and encourage people to be part of the creation of things and meaning. We will still have to be concrete, but it will be an unfinished result consisting of tools and platforms that inspirits design action and result. This is not mere mental models or imaginary arenas, I mean actual solutions to problems and brands that can interact and change depending on context. An adaptive and contextual design approach will not involve a cut’n’paste process or boxed solution. It will though demand some basic human design abilities, knowledge of material and process as well as the tools to guide us. Design will be about designing design processes that generates adaptive and results. FINALLY, FINALLY, OR THE END OF RAMBLINGS In a way what I am writing here makes everybody the designer, but the designer is still the designer. Page 55 of 58


NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Dr. Richard Buchanan |

Beautiful Diversion

Carnegie Mellon University, United States

Bruce Nussbaum is a good friend of design. As a journalist, he has helped to raise consciousness in the business community about the value of design for enterprise. Now, he is performing another act of friendship, turning toward the design community and asking designers and design educators to think harder about what they are doing. To be honest, there is nothing new in his latest piece, “Are Designers the Enemy of Design?” That is, nothing new unless his readers haven’t been paying attention to the development of design over the past decade. All of the ideas about design democracy, sustainability, conversation as content, the ignorance of some designers about important issues in their own and other fields, the sometimes-arrogant behavior of some designers, and so forth — all of these are already known to thoughtful people in the design community. And Bruce knows this. What he is saying, however, is that not all is well in the house of design. The community needs to move forward in its understanding and attitude. Many of us would agree with him. Our criticisms of the field may be different than his, but we agree that the field can and has to do better. Designers should not take for granted that their continued influence and impact in business and society at large is assured. It is not. Already we see the dilution of design coming in various ways: vague uses of the word, weak substitutes for its meaning. We even see the move among some — not all — business schools to introduce design into their curricula by cherry-picking some of the important methods and tools of design such as prototyping and user research bundled in the theme of innovation. Never mind the ideas and the foundations that in the long run are necessary for successful design. And design schools? They have been slow to recognize the value of research and writing about design — the very activities that have elevated other fields and made their professions sustainable through ongoing conversation. American pragmatism is a wonderful thing, but as in many areas of our national life it seems to work on behalf of ignorance and against sustained conversation. How many articles by designers and design educators display awareness of earlier discussions of their subjects in the literature of the field? How many articles give the impression that their authors are the first to think of an idea, with no reference to significant work by others? Caught up in the hypertrophic enthusiasm of self-promotion and media hunger, there seems to be too little effort to put the story of design together into a coherent narrative for ourselves and for others. Bruce Nussbaum is a good friend of design. But it will take more than journalism and blogs to strengthen the house of design. We have the tools — serious design journals, intelligent and committed professionals, and a new generation of better-educated designers. Now we need the vision and commitment of sustained conversation. Like it or not, Bruce has a point.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Elizabeth Pastor |

Beautiful Diversion

Humantific, United States & Spain

Being part of the NextD team, I have had the advantage of reading many people’s responses to Nussbaum’s post. The diversity of thoughts and ideas is fascinating and makes one’s mind flex in meaningful ways. There are so many things to talk about in what Nussbaum wrote that it’s difficult to know what to choose. I have focused my attention on a small observation, which I have not seen reflected in others’ comments. What does it mean when someone from the outside comes and looks inside your space? Do they understand what is really going on there? How it works? Its history? Let’s take a personal context: Family. We can criticize a brother, sister, or parent, but when someone from outside the family criticizes them, we tend to jump at them. It’s an immediate reaction of protecting our family. It’s also a reaction to an external force intruding, who may interpret things without knowing the context and without having all the facts. This intrusion is a difficult one. Sometimes it can be enlightening, sometimes it can be misconstrued, and often times it can be painful. If we get past the painful part, the great thing is that it can lead to self-reflection, and hey… that’s not a bad thing. Now let’s consider this dynamic in the context at hand. I appreciate BusinessWeek’s and Nussbaum’s dedication to bringing attention to the contribution of design to the table, from an outside perspective. It’s bringing more focus on design to other disciplines. However, I also can’t help but question: Who has given Nussbaum the authority to have such a strong voice about design? He has little connection to design in his education or career path. To my knowledge, none of the people he cites as being part of his team have a design background. It is hard to know what you don’t know. Many comments on this special issue by veteran designers, academics and design thinkers point to the fact that most of the things stated by Nussbaum are not new. He, as many others, including designers young and old, simply have not been part of the design conversation that has been ongoing for decades. When was the last time you saw an economist blog of a major publication run by a designer? BusinessWeek’s “Economics Unbound” blog, for example, is written by a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. Nussbaum holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Political Science. The three fundamental questions that Nussbaum’s post points to for BusinessWeek are: Why not be consistent? Why not get smarter? Why not create a more meaningful and accurate discourse on design that brings the knowledge of both sides? Wouldn’t it make sense to have several editors, side-by-side, who represent the inside and outside perspectives of design? A more balanced representation of design by a design-educated professional in a blog about design seems… basic! Wow, what a concept… Please take it and run with it, BusinessWeek... Your readers deserve it.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Special Issue, April 2007

Beautiful Diversion

NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Questions: Please direct all questions to journal@nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd

Page 58 of 58


Beautiful Diversion: Response to Nussbaum’s “Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?”