Design is a solution through a strategic & creative process.

A "Design is" essay written & designed by Amit Jakhu.

A designer must offer a solution to a specific problem. The end solution however, follows the design process which is both strategic and creative. Design is not simply a solution to a mathematical equation, because although there is one problem, there may be many answers; as such the designers' role as a creative comes into play. Strategy and creativity go hand–in–hand; a sort of yin and yang. There must be a perfect balance between the two otherwise the design will undoubtedly fail at some point.

An introduction: Design in 2012

Design in 2012 is perceived and acted upon differently than it was 20 years ago because of the emerging technology in recent years shifting the way we communicate and interact with one another. Although, this necessarily does not equate for the change in perception alone because technology is merely a tool. As we as humans grow, the tools we use change our mindset and actions. For example, Twitter (Figure 1.1) has not yet entirely replaced traditional forms of receiving news but is now a major player because it is instantaneously updating in front of our eyes by people we choose to follow. In addition to receiving and digesting news by a large news source such as the Toronto Star newspaper, we are consuming a stream of filtered information at unprecedented speeds, anywhere we have internet access. This tool allows designers to keep up with trends and maintain them. We are unconsciously staying relevant whereas before, we would have consciously went out to search for relevant news and trends which would undoubtedly have taken hours; if not days.

Design is headed in a much more social conscious direction because of the tools available today that allows everyone to have their own opinion shared across the globe in an instant.

Relevant figures in design

Ryan Carson

Connecting individuals that share the same passion about web design and then teaching them the skills to advance their knowledge about the web summarizes Ryan Carson (Figure 2.1), the founder of Treehouse (An online learning center for web designers and programmers) and FOWA (Future of Web Apps) conference. He resides in London, England where he runs and manages his business in Orlando, Florida. Carson strives to change the world by offering a quality learning resource for all web designers around the globe who simply cannot afford higher education or wish to continue their education.

Our goal is to teach Web Design
— Ryan Carson (May)

Mark Zuckerberg

Another entrepeneur that made his mark by changing how we as humans communicate with each other is Mark Zuckerberg (Figure 2.2), Founder of Facebook. It is a social networking website allowing you to connect and share with your close friends. Facebook as another tool has altered the way humans share their personal moments and interact with one another. Zuckerberg is known for his relentless push for new ideas and concepts through his popular platform, Facebook. This idea of pushing new ideas forward even though they might not succeed is something missing from the design world, particularly seen in design students. Designers need to take risks and go over the line of uncertainty sometimes in order to be creative, which is truly crucial to the design process and eventually the end solution.


Kevin Systrom

Connecting individuals through networks has become a phenomenon in the last five years. Kevin Systrom (Figure 2.3) is the founder of Instagram (Figure 2.4), a photo sharing app on the iPhone with a userbase of over 15 million. Systrom has created a tool that allows us to communicate and share moments that are happening right now through the visual medium of photography; undoubtedly changing the world of photography and how humans communicate amongst each other.

The problem with using everyday speech to communicate is the language barrier, however Systrom has discovered a way to share what is occurring and communicate it to an audience visually. Photography does not face the same issues as the English language because it is a universally understood medium. All that aside, Systrom, to this day is an inspirational figure to all designers and entrepeneurs. The following is a quote I will always take with me:

Solve problems that people have.
— Kevin Systrom

Although, it seems so obvious, must be said because it is the most fundamental basis to design itself.


Nick La

Humber College graduate in Advertising and Graphic Design, Nick La (Figure 2.5), who is now an illustrator and web designer. He is best known for Web Designer Wall and Themify. Both are very different services because Web Designer Wall is a free online resource for web designers and Themify however is a service selling feature-rich and customizable Wordpress themes. Web Designer Wall is targeting a more professional user willing to learn new concepts and practices whereas Themify is aiming for a simpler and less-savvy user in terms of Wordpress. It is interesting to see an approach which is tackling two very different beasts yet both services are very successful in their solution. This is important to keep in mind because as designers, we will primarily focus on a certain clientelle which will limit our views somewhat. I believe it is not only important to solve one problem but keeping your mind open to many other approaches and answers will allow you to think more critically about the design process.


Steve Kaneko

The design process plays a key role in offering an end solution to a design problem. However, in most cases we do not hear too much of a design philosophy. The occasions we do, usually revolves around branding or identity design because design philosophies tend to be necessities in larger corporations. Microsoft has begun introducing and/or has already introduced a new design style/philosophy throughout all of their services called Metro. Microsoft's design director of Microsoft Office, Steve Kaneko (Figure 2.6), in an interview with The Verge's Joshua Topolsky goes over the details of the company-wide shift towards Metro design (Figure 2.7). Essentially, Metro is not only a UI (User interface) or simply the experience on touch. It is everything mentioned and more because Metro has set design principles which the entire company must adhere to and a focused design philosophy. An example would be the human body, it has layers of skin (Style), a pre-defined bone structure (Principles) and finally the brain (Philosophy) which acts as the reasoning behind the body's (Software/hardware) actions. Designers designing anything should apply a similar structure to maintain focus on solving the problem. One of Microsoft's main aims behind Metro is to remove the "'chrome' (superfluous design elements)" from the software to leave the end-user with a pleasant experience (Sottek).

Your content becomes hero.
— Steve Kaneko

Over the years, design itself has not changed, because essentially design is strategically and creatively solving a problem. However, the tools and technology that we use has changed and fundamentally altered the way we learn, interact, communicate, and share ideas and thoughts. The process in which we create a design has changed forever and is constantly changing as you read this. Take for example, prior to the invention of the internet or the television; it was extremely difficult to reach a wide audience at one instance. If an ad campaign was released exclusively in England, someone living in India could never view it and react to it. Since, the invention/evolution of the internet, that same person living in India can view the campaign live on his computer and respond using social media outlets.

Perspectives of Design

Not only has communication changed but the materials and manufacturing has as well. The evolution of transportation has extremely benefited the design world tremendously; a designer can go through the process of his/her design in New York and have it manufactured and shipped from China within days. This idea would not be a possible option to designers 100 years ago due to their lack of technology; thus they were confined to the materials and manufacturing within their local communities of that time.


Design in the year 2050 will take on new forms and mediums we haven't even conceived of yet. With new display technologies, Microsoft Kinect motion sensors, improved speech–to–text and etc. designers are shifting their mindset and adapting to emerging technology. Keep in mind, these are currently or soon–to–be consumer electronics/software; the adaption rate is much higher. Thus, designers must adapt that much quicker to design for it. Since, these technologies offer a new experience and environment; one must understand how they function before beginning the design process. For example, one must first learn the grid before tackling any editorial design. Design in 2050 will be much more conscious towards the materials (environmentally friendly), cultures and living conditions around the world and politics. This is a necessary step in the design evolution because as technology becomes more social on a global level, so shall the individuals utilizing it. Although, design manifests itself in many forms such as user–interface design, architecture, interior design and more; as designers, our job remains the same throughout time, which is to provide a solution to a problem.

Understand, adapt and apply.
— Amit Jakhu

Influences

We as designers are influenced by a myriad of items such as: world events, disasters, celebrity gossip, new technology and trends. Examples would be; the Super bowl, earthquake in Japan, Kim Kardashian ending her marriage with Kris Humphries, Google Plus and textured patterns used in websites.

One must be more conscious about what they share, who will respond to it and how they will react. Whether it is a message posted on Twitter or a design snippet displayed on Dribbble (Figure 3.1), I strongly believe in staying current to relevant trends in design and new technology, which was true in the past but even more so now because of how quickly everyone is receiving their news. As more tools become readily available to us, we must learn to utilize them and adapt to the technology we hadn't even thought of the day before. Tools are merely here to help us focus on strategically and creatively solving the design problem.

In conclusion, the design process and solution must be strategically thought-out yet at the same time creative; one cannot go without the other. As entrepreneurs and inventors create new tools for designers to utilize, we have no excuse not to be up to date, fully influenced and relevant in today's world. Design as an entity never changes, however, the environment surrounding it is constantly fluctuating.

Sources

References

  • May, T. (2011, November 14). Ryan Carson on Treehouse, FOWA, startups and more! | Interview | .net magazine. .net magazine | The world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers since 1994. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from http://www.netmaga zine.com/interviews/ryan-carson-treehouse-fowa-startups-and-more
  • Sottek, T. (2011, December 16). Microsoft's design lead Steve Kaneko on unification and Metro: 'We're not looking over our shoulders' | The Verge. The Verge. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/16/2640634/steve-kaneko-microsoft-design-metro-office-interview

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