His hobbies: playing blues on his guitar, hiking mountains, playing lego games & basketball are helping him be more creative in his work.
“I’m sure there are fine artists out there who keep the audience in mind when they work. But it’s not the accepted trajectory of the profession. Conversely, it’s very clear in design that what we do needs to be seen and understood by an audience.” (Stefan Sagmeister)
…but how many of us pause from our daily rhythm and try to discover what understanding means in terms of the design world?
Personally, I would consider myself a creative shifter, simply because of the choices I made while starting my professional journey, shifting gears between my 2 main passions: design and psychology. They are complementary and do not function on separate scales. So, if I were to answer to the question above I would say that understanding refers to the cognitive and emotional conceptualization of a problem solving situation, as a direct contact with people, situations and messages, through visual communication. In short, for me, this is the way the design world responds, adapts and fuels the universal human dialogue.
Leaving aside the psychological mechanisms, I also stopped at the archaic meaning of understanding: having insight.
As you know, in the advertising industry we work a lot with insights as important milestones of the creative process. Could they be the omnipotent beacons that trigger a designer’s problem solving strategy while working on the client’s needs/product/business?
Some might say that this is a strategic planner’s job, but then why is it that strategy is always associated with creativity? I think that they are as complementary in the industry as design and psychology mentioned earlier.
Today’s designer is not the 70s mad man era designer. He/She is a complex experimentalist, realizing more and more that his creative service will never be perfect, nor good, nor bad, but understandable or not. And it will always be rewarded in the same parameters. But the rewards will not always be material. At some point, as any human living and interacting, we need validations that our problem-solving strategies are worthy of continuance, acceptance, even inspirational. Either way, we have the ability of designing new means for ourselves, too.
Now, why is the degree of understanding of a design product crucial to the industry’s continuity? I’ve been asking myself this for a while. I guess I do it everyday, unconsciously. It’s Time. The increasing lack of it.
Look how everything around us is developing, galloping for expansion, searching for the increased pulse of a 24/7 reinventing and reemerging market. The life span of a design work is shortening (except the grand examples), but the demand of understandable design is more and more aggressive…and digital. Graphic design has its “built to last” reputation, but the online medium exceeds warp speeds. That’s why it’s a beautiful medium. This is the cardio we’ve been looking for. And the design world is so up to the task, because today we are keeping a continuous north oriented path to minding our surroundings, use the tools that technology provides to not be tempted to abandon.
This context always reminds me of one great Spike Lee musical, called Passing Strange, where Colman Domingo’s character, Mr. Franklin, has an inspiring yet radical honesty moment: “Slaves got options! Cowards only got consequences!” and Stew (The Narrator) closes with “Hey, man, don’t let him know you’re freaked out!”. Under different forms of manifestation, we gradually become enslaved by something that constantly challenges us to experiment, but also provides us additional means of exploration. Yet, our reactions end up expressed in the way we work. And that’s how we got closer to our users and vice versa.
I would be fascinated to talk to all my fellow designer colleagues only about their modus operandi, simply because of the fascinating collaborative nature the designer-user duality imposes nowadays. We seek understanding from our users, but I believe we need to understand our own means of keeping the torch lit. Maybe this is what we need to keep time on our side.
Other perspectives on the current designer statuses mention that we stopped dreaming, due to the fast paced tech growth in the online medium. I agree with a decreased rate of dreaming. But, I will add that, our dreaming state is now partnered with curiosity, more than ever. From my perspective, the general evolution of everything surrounding us, is not that biasing as it appears. It’s the only matter that fuels curiosity.
The more curious we are, the more understandable our design works become.
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