design suspicion

on measure & caution in how we bring design into business — first few thoughts toward a series

media & business
engagement strategy, graphic design, user experience
Thoughts? Questions? Contact me.

An element of what I do is graphic design, of course. I’ve been interested in the general subject — can’t help wanting to capitalize it, Design — for a long time; have had some limited occasion to study it formally. But with time, too, oddly maybe, I’ve come to a suspiciousness about design in our commercial and organizational cultures.

I’m opening by way of quick sketch, here, what should be an occasional series of notes considering where design may and may not ultimately be of value in the various channels of public occupation and exchange, with communications and media the operational spheres mainly in mind, though not meaning necessarily to be restricted to them. My practical orientation is likely to be toward problems of small organizations and business.

It’s certainly true that in a basic sense, there is no communication or mediated engagement with people in business (&c.) without design. To present a document or implement a user interface, say, in some condition of ‘un-design’ is in reality to have made a design choice.

But if that’s so — if to think (on forgoing or limiting the input of someone occupying a design-professional role somewhere, usually) that you’ve opted not to bother with design is to make a sort of category mistake — doesn’t there in a sense only remain, logically, one reasonable expectation for design process everywhere in organizational cycles of operation: that design belongs at the center, the idea of clarifying authority associated with it elevated as far as means allow — somehow on the model of, say, Apple under an icon of details-obsessiveness like Steve Jobs?

I’d answer that with a No. But to say no here, to my mind, implies that letting things go ‘un-designed’ is something to be taken seriously as a paradoxical kind of design choice — as a choice to rely on certain sources rather than others, to adopt this strategy or mode of thinking rather than that. It isn’t reductively to say, for instance, that ‘how things look’ really doesn’t matter for some range of problem-solution cases or processes in the spectrum of organizational activity.