I recently came across a fascinating TED Talk given by designer Tom Hulme which asks “What can we learn from shortcuts?”. At first glance, many of us would probably be skeptical of the shortcut – after all, we’re conditioned to do due diligence, examine a problem from several angles, and then create a strategy for building a solution. Innovators should create the shortcut but not necessarily take it, right?
But Hulme is interested in learning from the shortcuts that we take in our daily lives. As a designer, his eye is attuned to patterns and deviations from those patterns. Examining the shortcuts that appeal to us as human beings, he proposes, is a powerful way to learn what drives us, what we want, and how we move through our world.
It’s always nice to hear from followers of this blog. We are lucky to have thoughtful, engaged readers who take the time to reflect and share their feedback and ideas. After our recent post, Design Mindset: Bridging the Gap Between Product Design and Systems Thinking, we received a thought-provoking comment that deepened the conversation.
Our Design Mindset series has attempted to define some of the many abstractions around “good” design – what is it, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved? It’s easy to understand the importance of design in creating new products, both to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and to develop a user experience that resonates with consumers. It’s more difficult to implement design in other aspects of business, but the rewards are significant for those that do.
In an article published by McKinsey & Company, designer John Maeda remembers a client who had a realization about the importance of design, saying “Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking… it isn’t just about the appearance.” Good design values aesthetics, but perhaps even more so it values the integrity and functionality of systems. Let’s explore how successful companies bridge the gap between product design and systems thinking.
We recently explored the business value of the design mindset – an approach that prioritizes holistic design that encompasses not only product design but process design and more. Companies that treat design as an ongoing creative process spanning the entire organization see tremendous benefits. In fact, a recent study by the Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies found that an initial $10,000 investment in design ultimately created nearly $40,000 in value over the following decade.
How exactly does design deliver this value? For consumers, it’s obvious – good design enables a seamless user experience, which makes products both effective and easy to use. For businesses, there are larger questions. What exactly is “good” design, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved?
There’s a quote by Jules Feiffer, the acclaimed American cartoonist and author, asserting that “Design is important because chaos is so hard.” To my mind, this may be the quote of the century. Design is an integral part of our lives. It shapes the way we move through public and private spaces, how we interact with each other, and (more and more importantly) how we interact with technology. Yet design is often taken for granted by the user.
Those of us who are not designers ourselves sometimes think of design as ornamentation – a purely visual pursuit that may or may not impact our lived experience. However, design is more often an invisible force that guides and impacts us without calling attention to its presence. From clothing design to urban design to user experience, unseen designers bring order to the chaos of living in almost every aspect of our lives.