If someone told me to be truly innovative on a project, I would probably apply tried-and-true processes that I know will yield innovative results. That said, one of those processes would probably tweak the process itself, since I rarely do the same thing the same way twice. I’m not sure if that’s because I find it boring, or because I always see opportunity.
You know, this actually taps on something that really bugged me about the latest Wallpaper magazine (the design awards.) Almost every single designer answered the same way to “where do you find inspiration.” None of them said anything about people, watching people use products, or even using products themselves! They all said “from everything around me, from nature.” I’m hoping that’s just because Wallpaper tends to pick stylists.
innovation comes as a result of true experience dealing with uncommon situations where you need to either define a process/processes, a set of ideas, modify it or renew it.
there are of course different degrees of innovative thought or process. on the other hand some designers or critics may see something done as really innovative while others would regard it as minimally innovative or not innovative at all, just a reasonable solution.
new materials always pose a challenge because the manufacturer of the raw material probably is either testing production or has a few utility ideas while designers have a broader range of goals. i would say the process defines the material rather than material solely defining the process. otherwise we would still be lingering in the ironage.
This is a word just as abused as “design” is. It’s lost its true meaning long ago since everyone has laid claim to it in some form or another.
It’s like saying you don’t believe in progress or the need for oxygen.
Most designers worth their salt question pretty much everything about the way something is done and are never content with good enough. And some actually do invent which is, in my experience, a step up from gradual Darwinian adapting of old brews to the flavor of the month.
Process, material, context, culture, function, feel, experience and more, are all user-centered. If you only “innovate” for business differentiation it comes out looking labored, tired and phoney. People see through this and will get turned off.
Forget the buzzwords, there are real problems out there to tackle with very high potential returns, but most designers for one reason or another aren’t home.
So, should we go “with the flow” and call ourselves Innovation Designers instead of Industrial Designers? Would it help people understand what we do? Would it make them stop asking us if we design industrial plants?
I think its use or overuse (innovation) has a lot to do with how business people are trying to redefine their core services. There are a lot of small manufacturers in the United States that are now facing extreme pressure from India and China and as a result they are starting to look at how they might re-tool to become design service providers instead of small manufacturers. This is often coupled with statements the US government has made about how the future of our economy lies in our ingenuity and innovation. How creative and intellectual property related businesses are going to replace tech jobs moving overseas.
Look at any business magazine in recent months and you will see a lot more articles talking about design as some kind of saviour and innovation as the key to keeping the cash rolling in. I think that in many cases it amounts to a kind of nervious laughter where people are playing along with the game but in truth might not really know what the hell innovation really means at all. It is a concept that designers know very well and through process and multiple iterations we are indeed able to innovate and create useful things, the business model I fear still sees it as nothing more than another catch phrase like “thinking outside the box”.
The real key is going to be for designers to step up and help lead through management roles within companies. If what all the economic indicators are saying is true then it will be designers who change the face of business, I think this is something that IDSA has been advocating for some time now and they couldn’t be more right.
John Heskett defined innovation as an invention embraced by the user. He said that enough people invent new things, but unless and until they change the way a person does something or is embraced totally - see the iPod - it is not an innovation.
Therefore innovation would be that that fundamentally changes the way something is done - it could be a product, a service or a process.
“The real key is going to be for designers to step up and help lead through management roles within companies.”
This joins the original question and cannot be emphasized enough in today’s economy. Design education now is too narrow for this to occur overnight but, in time, to save this profession from extinction or total redundance in some parts of the world, it will have to evolve dramatically into several connected branches finally doing the entire concept of “design” true justice.
One such branch will likely be PROCESS DESIGN as understood in the application of design methodology to typical business, manufacturing or logistical scenarios in an infinite range of applications. Management, Marketing, Production and Distribution departments in firms of all sizes desperately require creative people skilled at resolving or implementing complex processes that are the bloodline of any economy. It is always far easier to design the product than efficiently solve the multiple subsequent steps required to make that first design investment pay back.
Another potential design specialization would be something called SITUATIONAL DESIGN. This is based on the daily evidence of seeing so many people willing and capable of MAKING things but such few people willing to question WHY we produce stuff in such desperate hurry and quantities. The obvious consumerist business model aside, the world is also in desperate need of people skilled at creatively and pragmatically resolving CONTEXT, NEED and DESIRE before deciding the only solution is yet another mass-produced gizmo (or house deco item, for most). Understanding the NEED at hand doesn’t always have to translate into a physical product and the resource-depleting energy consumption going with it. If people are still at the center of the industrial design profession (one wonders) we are not serving them well at all, having gotten them addicted to our employers’ wasteful and, in any case, not very original business model. It is time to change things and question more than product innovation per se. A lot of people excel at the latter, but very few are interested in the larger picture, where little changes over decades. Not to mention that anything we do can be done anywhere else in the world, and that … includes innovation.
The future belongs to those willing to transcend the barriers of narcissistic and disconnected product design education and take their skills, talents, vision and experience to the echelons of society where design can have an immediate, positive and especially tangible impact on people’s lives. An impact we, as designers, may even see in our own lifetimes.
This way, when people will ask us whether we “design industries”, instead of apologizing for ourselves, we’ll be able to proudly take credit for it instead.
However, “design” has frequently been defined as the “intersection of culture and commerce.” Rather than taking the “Industrial” out of Design, we need to work more on Designing the Industrial: changing the way that business works.