At Autodesk we design incredibly complex systems, for infinitely more complex systems themselves. From cities, to buildings, to chairs, shoes, cars, and spacecraft. We have incredibly smart people working on delivering solutions to even smarter, more talented designers and thinkers.
On any given day I work with multiple PHD holders, a cacophony of Master’s holders, and designers that can leap the chasm of ambiguity like it is a mere crack in the pavement.
Yet in this environment, where we design for designers we struggle still to see the real value of design as a practice within our day-to-day product lifecycle. This has stuck with me, simmering in my head for a long time, and I want to know why.
[Note: Autodesk is not unique in it’s awkward transition to be a customer-centric company. Changing the mindset of a 30+ year old organisation is challenging no matter what the organisation or its culture.]
I saw this at AusPost, and I see it on a daily basis amongst my peers. There are countless articles talking about the value of design, and ways to
Although design as a business function is certainly not new, it appears that the divide between design and business is growing as opposed to shrinking.
I’ll also make it clear from the start that I don’t think there is some silver bullet to address the issue. It is systemic, and with systemic issues they require multiple interventions to be remedied.
Designers are consistently self-justifying, self-promoting, and gathering in groups to discuss how to increase their relevance in the business. Design as strategy is a growing practice, as demonstrated by the growth in design fields like Service Design, and Design Thinking over the past decade.
Still, there’s a noticeable disconnect between design practitioners and business owners (product managers, product owners, etc) that is preventing design from reaching its full potential.
In this article I posit that designers are their own worst enemy when it comes to complete adoption, and that designers can use their known toolset to design in design within organisations.
Future skills for leaders are resiliency, relationships, stakeholder management.
The reason for this is broken into three critical factors for designers:
* Designers feel that they are stuck in traffic, not traffic * Designers find it challenging to accept the context for which they work * Design is not a requirement
* Designers make many assumptions about their stakeholders * Designers fail to empathise with their stakeholders * Designers fail to acknowledge the threat they pose
* The nomenclature of design means something different
All is not lost, however. As designers we have the tools to be able to create a world where design is valued at the strategic front-end of business, and carried through all the way to delivery.
There are three ways in which we can address this:
Design a new organisation by designing a new language
Acknowledge and empathise with the system you’re designing with
* Levels of design investment
* Ask yourself: How much of the problem space do I need to understand to make meaningful progress?
In his forward of Whorf’s publication, Stuart Chase supposes that Whorf proposes two cardinal hypotheses, namely that all higher levels of thinking are dependent on language, and, that the structure of the language one habitually uses influences the manager in which one understands their environment. The picture of the universe shifts from tongue to tongue. Pp.vi
“Unprotected by claws, teeth, thick hide, fleetness of foot, or sheer strength, Homo sapiens has had to think his way out of tight places. It has been his chief weapon for survival”. Chase, pp.vi
“We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated” pp.v
“One of the necessary criteria of a connection is that it be intelligible to others, and therefore the individuality of the subject cannot enter to the extent that it does in free association, while a correspondingly greater part is played by the stock of conceptions to common people” pp.36
“Association is not connection” pp.36
Language, thought, and reality; selected writings by Whorf, Benjamin Lee, 1897-1941One
Note: at the time of writing I was Design Manager, Automotive and Conceptual, Autodesk.
A leader in design and strategy with a passion for human–centred design systems.