This is a continuation of commentary on Design Versus Innovation: The Cranbrook / IIT Debate. See yesterday’s post for Part 1.
Scott insinuates that “innovation” is just design-by-committee, but gives no evidence to back it up. Then he suggests that innovation is to blame for the current state of the design community.
All the hype in the business press about this fascinating thing called innovation has led to an artless design culture here in America when an artful approach may be the most needed. American music, film, and fashion may be considered some of our most important creative exports. American design is not. Is innovation to blame?
How is our design culture artless? I certainly see no evidence of this. The design professions have, in fact, become more apparent in popular culture than ever before. Thanks to the likes of Target, Apple, Oxo, SimpleHuman, Method, and many others, consumers are becoming more conscious of design. As for design as export, Jeremy later states that foreign students are coming to the U.S. to study design and returning home to improve education and practice. I’m sure that isn’t what Scott had in mind, but it does say something about the quality of American design.
I wish Jeremy would have given a definition of Design Thinking, as it would have made it easier to understand where he’s coming from.
I do not want to say that making is not important (it is what generally distinguishes us as designers), but I do believe that design thinking on its own is valuable.
As far as I’m concerned, making is an integral part of Design Thinking. Take away making and all you have is, well, thinking. The making is what makes it Design Thinking. So, while I agree that design training can help a manager know when design should and shouldn’t be used, I’m not so sure that qualifies him or her as a design thinker. Scott points out that a solid design education should be built on foundations of craft and form making. The best graduate programs require this of their students.
Responding to Scott’s remarks about intuition, Jeremy states:
If designers just design for other designers, we will end up with an oversupply of beautiful, expensive, and mostly useless products. Overvaluing intuition leads to the star-designer phenomenon, which is bad for the profession.
He falls into the same trap that Scott was in earlier, insinuating that a designer’s use of intuition only leads to design for other designers. Admittedly, this does happen, but intuition is not the cause. As I stated previously, an experienced designer’s intuition is often as useful as a full-blown usability study. In regards to rock star designers, I would say that we currently have very few. I would argue that some are needed to act as role models for students and linchpins for the industry.
After all of their insinuations and declarations that design and innovation are completely opposing approaches, Scott and Jeremy wrap things up by agreeing that the future of American design is a balanced design process that integrates both designers and innovators. That’s basically what I was screaming at both of them the entire time I was reading the article. Design is one approach that can lead to innovation—the best approach, in my opinion. A design approach incorporates intuition, making, strategy, user research, and a lot of thinking. Taking any of those away will likely result in a less effective solution.
A tempest in a teacup.