by New Idiom


Welcome back, reader. The semester has barely begun, and  we are already in existential mode here at the New Idiom.

Last year, two colleagues of mine and I participated in an online conversation that questioned the trend in design education towards “design thinking” and away from finish level design. Recently this conversation has resurfaced on  designobserver.com, where Michael Beirut asks designers, and I paraphrase, “Do we [designers] have to choose between being smart and pretty?”

Coming  from outside of design to ID, I saw immediate value in the combination of my previous field of anthropology and design. What I didn’t really understand at the time is how much more complicated that step makes the design process as a whole. To translate one’s own understanding of a situation into a real thing (a.k.a. do design) is difficult enough, but to try to understand the perspective of a whole lot of other people, be they users, company stakeholders or other, and translate that into something pretty is infinitely more challenging. I wonder if these modes of work are really the same thing, to be done by the same person, and  if “smart” and “pretty” are the right words to describe the difference.

I would love to continue the conversation here in the newly enabled comments section. The upcoming Design Research Conference would also be ideal.

To get things rolling, this response to Beirut’s post by blinkr really struck a chord with me:

Making = ideating, creating, planning, managing, inspiring, inventing, compiling, generating, conceptualizing…

Things = products, services, communications, projects, events, processes, goals…

Pretty = technologically viable, culturally acceptable, usable, sellable, profitable, answer needs, solve problems…

*(pick one of each group to build your own definition of design)

Therefore, I bid thee go forth and Make Things Pretty, however you see fit. Have a nice weekend.

One of your editors,

Alex Cheek