Why is everyone a designer? What can/should be done?

This issue returned to my brain as I just read an online article about design that was written by someone with strictly business/marketing backgrounds. It covered all the cliches - Apple, simplicity, concept cars, the ability of design to generate emotional responses - along with some opinions about other products and trendy materials. The words “sleek” and “seksy” were used. Painful.

My first thought was “what gives this person the ‘right’ to publish this?” Beyond my initial bias, I found it to be incredibly basic in most areas, poorly organized, and downright inconsistent or incorrect in others. (But it probably sounded good to fellow marketers, accountants, or 12 year old newspaper readers.)

Is it wrong of me to expect some kind of certification, background check or disclaimer on those providing design advice, medical opinions, structural integrity assurances, investment recommendations? Why is design the odd-man-out in this list? Can/should anything be done about this? (and please, do not mention IDSA or DMI membership - almost anyone paying and breathing can belong to those)

PS. Thanks to some enjoyable and related posts like the one discussing “why marketing chooses the colors?” or “should I teach ethnography to market researchers?”

All humans design, invent, and build but to different ablites hell all higher primates create “art” when you get right down to it. Design is after all a matter of opinion, and that opinion is from a market, be it one (the creator) to 10’s of millions (apple) in commerce that big acceptance matters. Your bent out of shape because the article had flaws, get used to it buddy we are in a time when any locoyahoo with a blog can influance people no matter how out there the idea or claim is. Your a designer, goodie, now design and BUILD good stuff that provides real value to the buyer, a profit margin for the manufacture and the reatailer can make a buck or so too…then take a shot and call me in the morning.

Thanks, buddy. Sounds like dad and/or the military gave you some tough love. Thanks for passing it along.

Your “art” reference is lost on me - I’m not an artist.

Design is a matter of opinion? But just as in medicine, engineering and finance, aren’t some opinions considered better than others? Don’t we value those opinions that come from experienced, qualified specialists? Don’t we regulate who is allowed to make decisions in certain industries, and who is to be avoided or followed with a disclaimer?

I’m not necessarily a proponent of regulation, just seems like everyone gets a free ride on design opinions, commentary and decisions that we/society would never tolerate in many other areas. Should/could anything be done about this?

I understand an emotional argument could be made - designers feeling offended, belittled, “bent out of shape” by this state of affairs - but I was trying to approach this logically and make objective comparisons.

engineering, medicine, even finance are science where experiments can be performed and reproduced giving the same results…design is not (ask anybody who has done focus groups). Design IS a matter of opinon, hell ask some folks at a monster truck rally what they think of a aeron chair and you will get a very differnt answer than from a group at a opera. The abilites and knowlage we accrue gives us a leg up, hell we (or should) know how to build the stuff we design, as well as being “open” enough to use our skills to design for lots of different folk. The key thing is design is NOT a science, its a craft a ability that some possess and have nurterd where others have decided not to but persue other endevors. The ability is there in all of us and so rightly each and every person has a right to say “ya, no, don’t know” when it comes to design…its like beauty…eye of the beholder.

The art refrence is simple, coco a chimp did a collection of paintings, they were shown to a group of art critics who did not know who the artist was (or what species) and they fell all over themselfs with praise. The cave art in france is with out a doubt fine art in anybodys book, done by homosapian or neaderthal its still being debated.

So, sport, simple as this we do it better than some, get paid for it, but we are not the end all be all just becuase we do, the market each and every breathing one of them decide if we did it “right”.

Thanks, sport.

Comments on some of your points:

QUOTE • “engineering, medicine, even finance are science where experiments can be performed and reproduced giving the same results…design is not (ask anybody who has done focus groups)”
I’m trying to understand the logical equivalence you are proposing…in the case of design, you are saying it is not a science because if you present the same product (aeron chair) to different potential consumers (monster truck fans, opera fans), you may get different reactions/preferences/purchase behaviour. (am I understanding you correctly?)
The equivalent in finance might be to present the same financial portfolio strategy (time horizon, domestic vs. international alllocation, stocks vs. bonds, risk level, etc.) to the monster truck fans and opera fans - do you think they will have the same reaction, purchase likelihood, or easily reach agreement on the strategy? Certainly not.
Or was your point that two qualified teams of engineers, if given the same task and constraints, would arrive at one optimal solution to a given engineering challenge - while two design teams sharing tasks and constraints in a design challenge would arrive at different solutions? I’m not understanding this illustration either - from bridges to space probes, engineers (and “scientists”) routinely arrive at different solutions to the same problem, with some solutions working well and others failing with disastrous results. And I would also argue that if the task and constraints of a design challenge were clear enough, two design teams will often arrive at similar solutions. Did you read the threads about the racing bike here a couple months ago? Or the design student pointing out the similarity of his auto proposal and a recent (Nissan?) show car? Isn’t it also interesting that a client like P&G will seemingly use major consultancies like IDEO and Continuum almost interchangeably on various projects? Ever notice the many similarities in most design houses so-called “proprietary” or “trade-marked” design processes?
Or, were you meaning that if you cut out 100 people’s hearts, you will get the same result every time in medicine, while if you choose aluminum instead of lead in your design, aluminum will make the product heavy once in a while and light at other times? Of course that doesn’t make sense. Designers often repeat their choices in various projects because they know, with experience, what the results will be.
From these examples, I’m not yet seeing the chasm between design and other areas (“sciences”) that you see.

QUOTE • “The key thing is design is NOT a science, its a craft a ability that some possess and have nurterd where others have decided not to but persue other endevors. The ability is there in all of us and so rightly each and every person has a right to say “ya, no, don’t know” when it comes to design…”
Hmmm, most of us built things out of blocks when we were children, dissected frogs or enjoyed “the human reproductive system” video in biology class, and were able to count and save our money for candy at an early age, right? So, isn’t some ability for engineering, medicine, and finance there in all of us - we just didn’t nurture it or we decided to pursue other endeavors?
Still not getting the big “science” vs. design separation from your argument here.

• My “art” comment was “simple” too - I do not equate “art” with “design” as you seem to. (although references to “coco the chimp” are always welcome!)

Design is art; good engineers will all come up with a same optimal solution given the same set of initial parameters. Building with blocks as a kid is a spatial and eye hand thing, hardly engineering but given that, our species is a tool use it might be encoded in our DNA too. Counting money (and saving) is a taught thing as to a biology movie that has more to do with kids being interested in sex. The kids bitch about the bike designs looking a lot a like has more to do with the safety bike being evolved over a period of 100 plus years than any “optimum design solution” hell you are working on an ENGINEERED PRODUCT after all. The big outfits also have a brand identiy, something the big shops have to stay with in to keep the gig so its not a big streach to see a smilar approch but hardly “double blind tested and validated to six sigma”. Check out the recent 1 hour challenges here, from soup to nuts and back again. Look, you do not like my view, its cool just a reflection on doing product design engineering for over 30 years…and bunky design is an art, and engineering is a science.

Not sure I buy what you’re saying here, Zip. While I agree with your earlier argument that design (as in product styling) is a subjective debate, Engineering is not an exact science. The research behind the Engineering gives you hard numbers, but after that the human element chimes in. If “good enginneers all came up with a same optimal solution” we wouldn’t need Patents, or more than one major automobile company.

I think part of the problem is that Design (with a capital D) is too busy being siloed. The corporate world is rife with ID working on one floor, Mech working on another, Marketing another, etc. Everyone pissing on their territory. Everyone overstepping their boundaries in an attempt to get more territory.

Tixe, I can only assume you’re talking about the idea that someone (my guess is someone in Marketing) is pissing on your territory. You will never eliminate the subjective debate. So your job is to guide the person/team into focusing their energy towards helping you design the criteria for debate. Whether it be through mood boards, market definition, trend studies, educating the team on color theory, etc.

What I think Zip is saying is that you need to make the design discussion as empirical as possible. Think like a manager. Manage your management. Get them to sign off on decisions. Get them to take responsibility for the directions they are (wrongly?) taking. After some programming, you will find that they are more likely to listen to you b/c they no longer have to take responsibility for their actions :wink:

It’s always painful to see someone butcher a topic they know too little about.

But take a step back and view this as a blessing. Business people are beginning to recognize design, and they’re talking about it. If they’re successful, they’ll take the next step towards design literacy. This is a good thing for all of us.

When I was recruited to my present company, you wouldn’t believe how badly the job was pitched to me. They used all the wrong language. But I saw through that, recognizing that they were hoping to internalize what they were getting from their consultants. Now it’s my job to teach the organization how to be design literate.

Can you blame them for being confused over what “design” even means? I had the head of Engineering ask me what I mean’t when I said “design” because they’ve been using it in the engineering context for 30 years! A lot of people were insulted that I had the gall to suggest that “design” was a new capability for the company! I had a marketing Product manager ask for Industrial Design. One of my ID’ers came back to me bewildered because they wanted him to design a PC software application. I had to explain that the “other ID” is Interaction Design.

IPPY, and the rest of the crew, my last response in this thread was writtend at way too damn early (arthritis kicking in) with out sleep so my thinking was even more fuzzy than normal (did wash it through spell check so it shows you i was in a alterd mental state). Engineering is not a exact science, but its more exact than design, in design we can and do pretty much what we want because its at the core matter of opinion or emotional reation by the decesion makers if the thing flys.
At its core, and we all know this is true, everybody thinks they can design (and are good at it) just as everybody thinks that they are great at sex, their kids are cute, and know how to play poker. The truth is different as we know.

Patents Ippy is as we know reactive to new technology and its application and there are core patents where the engineering is so tight they are hard to get around. That said the best patents dont allways win, that old deamon money and corp size has a heck of a influance. In engineering terms do we have more than one car company? The core tech is pretty much the same, manufactuing is consistant, what changes is price/perfomance/apperance again a mater of opinion by the customer.

What got me about Tixy’s original post is his/her jumping up and down screaming “how dare you comment on my proffession show more respect where is your IDSA badge and secret decoder ring?” As pro’s we trained to do something and do it well enough to get paid to do it for others, but there are lots of other “pro’s” that fit that bill for example the local bar band grinding it out on a friday to london philharmonic, both pro musicans, both educated, both passionate and of wildly different abilites. I am still making a hash of this, but in the end we are a “soft science” we are becoming much more scientific and have so over the last 30 years but will allways remain soft as at the core what we do is juged in the court of public opinon not the lab with double blind six sigma testing.

Agree here, it can be painful to watch some people try to re-present design ideas, but I’m happy that they are trying to understand, and taking pieces from our design story and pitching them instead of making up a new story unrelated to the product. Design is getting some sunshine, and everyone wants to jump in on it. It can seem painful and glory hogging, but in the end, I think it will be a good thing. It is also an opportunity for us a s designers to step in and get more involved with business and sales decisions…

I think the key is to not allow other functions to lecture us on design, we need to remain the experts in our own field and continue to show our increasing value in the marketplace…

Do you have a link to the article in question? Would be interesting to see what’s got you all riled up.

While perhaps with some flaws, i’d indeed say the article covering design is a step in the right direction that at the very least (as evidenced here) get the discussion going.

That being said, i dont think even if it were written by a designer, there’d be any guarantees that it would be so great. If anything, by your same logic, what gives a designer “the right” to write an article if they dont have an education in journalism? its a fine line that you are putting down.

So long as the article covers the design issues from an outside perspective and from an inherently biased (ie. one person’s view) perspective, there are bound to be points of view that you may not agree with.