Amen to our last “guest” here, although this unfortunately apt description of the state of ID today only plays to the worst fears of all lurking on this thread and is really a bad omen for designers starting out.
I very much agree with what was said before about FastCo’s design “special” really being no more than a thinly veiled lookdown on the design profession from a business world treating us with the same derision as always. The prevalent notion in most business circles really is - at the dawn of the 21st century - that anyone can “do” design, design is easy and therefore low cost. One month the buzz creators are out sucking ID for all it’s worth in their unquenchable thirst for more gimmicks and profitable quick-fixes, next month it’s something else. Their predicaments are forgotten by all as soon as the magazines cool off the presses. It’s the same old stare-down design periodically receives from the business and general news press under the tired guise of a revolution in the making. But real revolutions in our risk-averse corporate America are nowhere to be found.
How to extract ourselves from this deepening hole is heavy material for long debates and thick books but in the end it comes down to action and mass mobilization on the part of designers, really the main culprits for the situation at hand. The relative lack of entry-level jobs, the execrable quality of many, the lack of professional development opportunities, the age bias, the primitive and reactive approach to design problems instead of courageous initiatives, the willingness to follow instead of risking, and so on. Welcome to a world of product development where all everyone wants is being second or even third since if you are the first with anything all you have done, thank you so much, is the costly R&D for your competition, well-versed in legally circumventing any patents, adapting your innovations and doing a cheapo (read intern) new skin job to jump in.
IDSA is not the way to implement change, it is just too much part of the old decrepit and self-congratulating structures that got us where we are today. Its definitions of design and humans’ relation to our material environment in general are staid, unimaginative and trivial for the age of galloping complexity we live in. My vote goes to no less than mercilessly dynamiting all current spineless intellectual foundations of ID today - education first - and starting on new ground. New definitions of ID work, practice, responsibility and pay scales and a new strong and vocal licensing body that filters out the wannabes and hangers-on from professionals passionate and dedicated to making a lifelong living from the positive change brought on society.
I have worked in industries where products were heavily regulated by various government and private certification bodies, whether for performance, safety or durability criteria. Some of these standards organizations were relative newcomers to the game and charged enormous amounts for product tests on top of product tests and my employers were in a certification race with the competition. Ultimately, more different certifications on the box inevitably affected quality, consistency and the cherished bottom line as customers gravitated towards the most reassuring products despite their higher cost. Widely known, respected and understood standards conformity pull up a product’s value, perceived as well as tangible.
Business functions on metrics and measurable risk, it always did. But what it gets now in hiring product designers has liability written all over it, unpredictable “artists” that we are, so it is naturally inclined to minimize its potential losses in this hiring transaction. We come from a rather chaotic and contradictory educational background on which no two schools can agree, with no “guarantee” whatsoever of profitable field performance, so why expect high wages, professional respect or job security? Do you buy products with no guarantees whatsoever? That don’t conform to any norms?
The design profession desperately needs a new set of solid standards for its practitioners and at least one new credible 21st century organization to carefully assign its accreditation to worthwhile members. Far more than pretty plastic objects is at stake here. Designers are themselves the first competing products that need to perform to measurable expectations and minimum standards if we want salaries and business respect to follow and careers in this field to last beyond five years. It will take time for a new accreditation system to establish itself but in the end employers will come to actively seek that sort of quality practitioners because these will have left a consistent imprint elsewhere. Value today is in the consistency of quality, just ask GM. Or Toyota. This is called turning the tables, from the wandering job beggars we are perceived as now to becoming sought-after experts with negotiating leverage because in short market supply.