The designer of 2016. Understanding problem-setting and problem-solving.

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More than just visuals

Designers used to be associated with traditional fields such as graphic design and visual communication. If you ask your grandparents what words spring to mind, they will probably say “posters, colors, symmetry, magazines, fonts etc”.

Today the term is much broader — you can be the designer of interaction, of usability, of experience and of thought. Some will oppose this notion. A designer of thought? Really? But why not. The processes of designing are relevant to many fields and can help improve work processes and products that positively impact people’s lifes. “To design” is prominent in almost every profession, and we can benefit from understanding the processes at work.

Let’s examine why pretty much everyone designs. And why it matters.

The power of conceiving

Take a second to think about what defines the process of “designing”. It’s the act of conceiving ‘something’ — it used to be products, but can today encompass more than just the media. Instead it includes the interaction between humans and technology and the systems that arise from this, binding people together. Designing is conceiving products in its broadest sense.

You shouldn’t just be solving

To design is not just to solve a problem. It is just as important to set the problem. Going back and forth between understanding the context to which you’re designing, and your intended solution, is a reciprocal action where you diverge and converge, synthesise and open up.

There is no “correct” solution to a designproblem, only an array of possible solutions.

It’s a hunt to formulate something new that adresses the problem at hand and change the problem accordingly when new information is revealed. This means that as a designer you should be able to question the underlying notion of the task you’re given (and actively doing so), and not carry it out uncritically. You should never be solely the executing part. Solution and problem is intertwined and evolve as you’re designing.

Leaders, give power to everyone around you to question the premise of the design task at hand. Pivoting should always be an option.

If you’re designing your MVP for your startup idea, listen to your users and do not be afraid to pivot if they point to the problem being a different one than what you originally thought it was. If you’re on a film production, animating the main character according to the director’s instructions, don’t hold back your feedback — you have gone through the designing process and hold information the director does not.

Designing for change

In this understanding, “designing” is an extremely broad term. It is no longer revolving around a commercial core, but instead of “change” — changing cities to the better, ways of eating breakfast, experiences in a theme park, communicating ideological differences or creating the next online platform; all by going back and forth between problem-setting and problem-solving.

Understanding this premise of design shouldn’t just be for graphic designers or web designers, but everyone involved in designing for change — which, after all, is what most of us are pursuing in our everyday jobs.